Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home or Castle?

The concept that a man's home is his castle has always been hypothetical, at best, for me. Of course, understandably you feel that when you are in your own home, you should be safe. Generally, this concept is not tested--for most of us.

There is a sense that property crime is on the rise--at least in our area. Our local news reports more and more on robbery, armed robbery, home invasions, and thefts. We live near a modest sized city, and there has been a rash of incidents where people have been accosted by a small group of young men, sometimes with handguns, who rob the victim. Occasionally, someone is caught and charged, but not always.

To tell the truth, while such small time crime troubles me, since we live in the suburbs I did not feel too personally threatened. We also frequently travel into this city--although there are folks in the area who simply NEVER go there--because generally we do feel safe.
But two nights ago, we had a small incident in our neighborhood that brought the city problem to the suburbs. A neighbor of our, three doors away from our house, heard a knock at the front door. The teenage son answered the door, and there stood a young man, clad in jacket and cap and something across his face, with a gun in hand. He demanded cash. The teen's mother took a small amount of cash from a wallet, gave it to the armed man who fled.

As it happened, I walked Ziva--for her last time out before bed walk--around 10:45. This incident had occurred not 30 minutes before--so police cars were still in front of our neighbor's house. When one of the neighbors happened to emerge, I just said--what happened? And quickly learned the news.

Not much to tell, really. But such an incident sends little shock waves through a neighborhood. The next morning, our immediate next door neighbor came over to see us. She is a policewoman in the city, and she wanted to make sure we had heard the news, and would be properly cautious. She then asked what we do to protect ourselves when we walk the dog. Well, the answer is--nothing.

So, she went back to her house and came back with a can of pepper spray, police size and strength, and gave it to us. First, she gave my husband a brief tutorial on how to use it. And--she admonished us to carry it when we walk the dog.

Now, I have never conducted my life with fear as my main companion. I do not say I am foolhardy--of course, I try to use whatever street smarts I might have. I stay aware of my surroundings, and don't take unnecessary risks. But, an armed robber coming into our neighborhood gives me pause.

Then I examine what my real reaction is. Of course, I won't just open the front door after dark without knowing who is outside. But, I plan to keep walking the dog. This is MY neighborhood--no petty robber will drive me inside, clutching a can of pepper spray.

I must not be the only one to feel this way. Two nights before the incident at our neighbor's house, a would-be armed robber (this time with a knife) tried to rob a local mini-mart. This mini-mart is about 10 blocks from our house. The clerk in the store did NOT turn over cash, but instead tried to grab the shirt of the would-be robber, who then fled the store. Deep down, I harbor a suspicion that it's the same robber--who graduated from knife to gun. Yes, such a person as the would-be robber is dangerous. But he doesn't own the neighborhood.

I don't plan to hole up in the house. I will keep on walking the dog. I will look out for my neighbors, as they look out for me. And, since our neighbor gave it to us, I will keep the can of pepper spray at the door


Anvilcloud said...

It would be a good idea to walk with someone until these incidents seem to be over.

Ruth said...

I hope they catch the culprit soon. I feel safe in our neighbourhood even though we have a few minor incidents from time to time. I don't think I would be venturing out away from the house at 10:45 PM though. A good number of people take walks on our streets during the day and early evening and there is safety in numbers. I agree with AC's comment.

KGMom said...

AC & Ruth--I AM walking with someone--my dog. My big black scary looking dog. Seriously, it's a small block that is extremely well-lit and I know MOST of the people in the houses I pass. As for venturing out at 10:45, it's really just a stroll up and down the sidewalk until the dog does her "business."

Jayne said...

That's scary Donna. Please be careful. I know I'd probably feel indignant too, but indignation can only go so far in protecting you from being a victim too.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there ARE any crime-free neighborhoods, gated or otherwise. Like you, it makes me angry.

We live right in the city. I used to walk our Akita at night, but now we have Miss Piggy, who is afraid of shadows, I don't try to walk her.

Perhaps Ziva will be as fearless as her namesake.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I too refuse to live in fear. We cannot let the inmates run the institution. I grew up in a home that never locked the door. We even went away for two week vacations, leaving the door unlucked. After all some tradesmen had to get in (eg the iceman, and at times the milkman and breadman and eggman) so we could come home to a stocked larder. I still do not lock my doors.

I lived for 10 years in US inner city black communities, without fear. Both my wife and myself thought nothing of walking somewhere at night. I did finally learned to lock my doors as my house was robbed 6 times. It is very unsettling to be so violated. We knew it was probably local kids or a junky who needed our stereo to sell for cash for drugs. Never did we ever feel personally threatened.

Every year women here celebrate "take back the night" parades to assert women's rights to be safe on the street. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our communities. Being fearful, living behind walls is not the way to do this. We need to be willing to be present on our streets. Move around as if you belong and know where you are going. Know your neighbours whose homes you could approach if you feel threatened.