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A Visit From the Police This Morning

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

So here’s one to make you scratch your head. The wife and I are getting ready to leave the house for work this morning when the doorbell rings. Being about 9:30 am on a Thursday morning, it is kind of strange for anyone to come to the door. So I look to the door to see two HPD sergeants in uniform standing at the door and a marked patrol car parked on the street. Of course you can’t ignore the po-po, so I answer the door to see what they want.

They had received the angry letter I sent to the mayor’s office (with cc’s to the chief of police and my city councilman) to talk about the horrible service we received from Houston Police when our home was broken into last month, and stopped by to discuss with me and address concerns that we had. Not a whole lot useful came from the discussion of 45 minutes, but here were the key points:

  • A simple alarm call is not considered to be a priority and is regarded as a burglary that had already occurred. Either the alarm company did not indicate it was an active alarm with motion, or police dispatch failed to note that so the call was not given priority, although based on the circumstances it should have. When asked if we had called personally and told them it was an active alarm with motion would it have been given higher priority, they indicated it would have. They indicated the delay was due to dispatch and not the responding officer.
  • When asked why we pay an alarm permit fee if alarm calls are given low priority, they could not give a straight answer. They gave us a line about that just allows you to have an alarm legally, but could never articulate any benefit we actually receive for our money.
  • They could not speak to the officer’s conduct in taking a civilian into the home with him the first time through and answering “well, I hope you can scream loud” when questioned about the possibility of a perpetrator still being inside. They indicated because of the delay it would be highly unusual for someone to still be inside, but just said they would talk to the officer about the incident.
  • Supposedly there would be no benefit to contacting the pawn shop detail, as the officer stated their role is making sure the pawn shops are following the laws regulating that line of business, not finding reporting stolen property. The officer stated that this would be performed by the burglary and theft division, who should have contacted us to follow up on the case (which they never did).
  • The patrol officer would not do any real investigative work or evidence gathering. They would simply make a report and an assessment if fingerprint or other evidence could be gathered. The patrol officer also would not talk to neighbors or potential witnesses. It would be the responsibility of the detectives in burglary and theft to do investigative work, which of course is pretty difficult if they never follow up on the case.
  • They also cited a manpower shortage in hampering response times and patrol hours.

My wife made a really good point that they complain about manpower shortages, yet they send TWO sergeants out to our home to discuss a letter to the mayor. Yup, that’s an effective allocation of resources! Also kind of odd that they would show up around 9:30am, when most people would have already been gone for work. Oh well, I guess we should be thankful that someone actually read the letter instead of just throwing it in the trash.

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August 23, 2007 Posted by | Crime | Leave a comment

UPDATE: I WAS ROBBED! plus some property recovery tips

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I posted last week about some rat bastard(s) breaking into my home and stealing some of my stuff. A few developments since my previous post:

  • We figured out that the burglar(s) also took a framed family picture that was in our entertainment center along with the electronics. The only thing we can figure is that they wanted the frame.
  • My brother-in-law and I successfully installed a new door and frame. Total cost of the repair is going to end up being about $200.
  • I called the incident into our neighborhood’s security patrol line. Not that there is really an active security patrol, but you can leave voicemail messages which are reviewed by an officer specifically assigned to the neighborhood for follow-up.

My other brother-in-law also did a Craig’s List posting offering a reward for the recovery of his stolen guitar, which got an interesting and informative response from a former HPD officer. The former officer provided some tips on trying to recover property stolen in a burglarly. The information is specific to the city of Houston, but would likely be similar in other areas.

  • Make sure that a copy of the police report with the information on the stolen items makes it to the pawn shop detail. This group is specifically assigned to enter and review pawn tickets submitted by local pawn shops for stolen goods. These tickets must be completed whenever a pawn shop accepts an item for pawn and turned into the police. There are very few officers that work this detail, so persistence is key.
  • Items pawned in Houston must be held for 30 days. In theory, items pawned are collateral for loans made by the pawnbroker and if and when the person who brought the item in does not pay back the loan the item can be sold by the pawnbroker to recover what he is owed. The transaction is not an outright sale of the property to the pawn shop.
  • If the items were pawned, they are most likely to show up in a shop across town after the 30 day waiting period is over.
  • Expect to do a lot of legwork to find your items in a pawn shop.
  • If you do find an item that is your in a pawn shop, DO NOT declare that it is yours! Act interested in the item and ask the shop to hold it for you, leave, and call police. Make sure to have a copy of your police report detailing the item(s) to provide to the responding officer. As our friend noted “The pawnshop is interested in making money, NOT in helping you get your property returned. They have already paid money out.” As we are reminded here, the pawn shop has no incentive to return your property, as they have already paid money for it and lose completely if you reclaim the item as stolen goods.

Perhaps these tips will help someone else out there. We certainly never realized that we shouldn’t confront the pawn shop ourselves if we find our property or that it would take 30 days to show up on the shelves.

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Crime, Home Ownership | 3 Comments

I WAS ROBBED! (literally)

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Another wrinkle in my home saga – some bastard broke into my friggin’ house! Broad daylight just before noon on July 4th somebody apparently pulled a vehicle up the driveway, kicked in the backdoor, and grabbed whatever they could. They took all the electronics from my entertainment center except the old Super Nintendo and the detachable speakers for the LCD TV (which means that whoever has my TV can’t hear the programming), as well as my brother-in-law’s custom made guitar that was a souvenir from a two-year church mission in The Philippines. The alarm seems to have scared them off before they stole too much.

Kudos to Houston PD for a response time of just under 45 minutes (no, that’s not a typo) from the time my alarm company called in the alarm. To give you an idea, I had time to call my brother-in-law (not the one who lost a guitar, another one) who lives about 20 minutes away, have him drive to my house to meet the police, have him go around the house to see the back door had been kicked in, have him call me with a report and then call Houston PD dispatch to inquire about the location of the responding officer, and then wait another 20 minutes outside for the police to finally show up. Glad they thought it was worth showing up after we called in and confirmed that, yes Virginia, there had indeed been a break-in! If my brother-in-law hadn’t called back and confirmed the break in they probably would have had time to go out and rent a U-Haul to come get all the furniture they left the first time. Our tax dollars at work, folks!

Now the question is what next? Upgrade the security system? Get a dog? Buy a gun? All of the above? Do we bother replacing the stuff that was stolen?

I guess a lesson you can take from this is don’t get too wrapped up in material things. Not only could they detract from other aspects of your life or prevent you from saving for some worthy goal, but you may eventually be left with nothing of them except their detachable speakers.

July 5, 2007 Posted by | Crime, Home Ownership | 1 Comment