I was having a good day last Friday. I transplanted blueberries, sowed a cover crop of buckwheat, and weeded all the raised beds. I was happy. I was going to cook a new curry for dinner, but instead decided to treat our family with a dinner out at our favorite pizza restaurant followed by frozen yogurt. The kids smiled and laughed through dinner. We were feeling pretty good about life and then we came home. I don’t think I can bear to re-hash the story one more time, but I thought that you might want all the details so instead of re-telling again and again it I will post below the letter I sent to Pasadena’s police chief tonight:
I am a fourteen year resident of Pasadena and eight year homeowner in Bungalow Heaven. On the evening of Friday January 28, 2011 my husband, children, and I arrived home at approximately 8:30 pm. Upon entering the house we smelled a strong scent of men’s cologne and saw items out of place in our living room. I was holding my 22 month old son in my arms and my four year old son by the hand. I immediately realized that someone has been in our home, fled to a neighbor’s house, and called the Pasadena police department. I reported to dispatcher that I did not know if the perpetrator(s) were still in the house and I feared for our safety, particularly my husband’s as he had entered the house while I left with the children. The police dispatcher told me that officers would be out as soon as possible. While I was on the phone my husband briefly walked through the house, saw that it was ransacked, and joined us at the neighbor’s. I have called the Pasadena PD on multiple occasions in the past for issues ranging from kids drinking/smoking at the park to a prowler at our house. I have always been impressed by the speed and professionalism of the Pasadena police department. On the evening of the 28th I was surprised as the minutes passed from my initial call and there was no police response. After approximately 10 minutes I called the Pasadena PD again only to be told that it was a “busy” night and they would arrive at our house as soon as possible. I reiterated to the dispatcher that I did not know if the perpetrators were still in our home or in the general vicinity. The dispatcher was unconcerned and told me that the perpetrators were almost certainly gone by now. I responded by saying that clearly the only possible way to catch the perpetrators was for the police to actually show up and look for them. After another 10 – 15 minutes passed (now over 20 minutes since my initial call) I again called the police department only to be given the same statement about it being a busy night. Then again, 40 – 45 minutes, after my initial emergency call I called the Pasadena PD and asked to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor told me that the officers assigned to our call were finishing up a domestic disturbance and would be on their way shortly. She attempted to reassure me by stating that the perpetrators were almost certainly gone by now. I was not at all reassured, rather very disturbed that the Pasadena PD had not attempted to catch these criminals during the critical period during or shortly after a burglary. More than 45 minutes after my initial call two officers arrived on our street. My husband and I spoke with them briefly at the neighbor’s house and then the officers went to investigate our home. After clearing the house the officers asked my husband and I to return to show them where items had been taken from. The house was ransacked and after pointing out several missing items I asked about the state of our garage (detached). The officers stated that they had not yet looked in the garage. I was shocked and immediately felt unsafe – that the officers had not even bothered to fully investigate our backyard or looked in the garage whatsoever. The officers, my husband, and I exited into the back yard where we saw one of our ladders had been propped up against a cinderblock wall fence we share with our neighbors. Almost certainly, that had been the perpetrators escape route. I asked whether or not the officers were going to check on the neighbor’s house and/or interview them about suspicious activity and they said that they had no intention of doing so.
In addition to the obvious trauma of having my property stolen, my home invaded and ransacked, and my older son terrified I am shocked and dismayed by the slow and perfunctory response of the Pasadena police department and the officers who handled our case on the evening of January 28th. If the police do not respond in a timely fashion that clearly sends a message to the perpetrators that they can commit these crimes with impunity. I am also very concerned that a slow response emboldens criminals to commit more serious and violent crimes. A 45 minute response time is completely unacceptable. Furthermore, the officers handled a potentially dangerous situation for both themselves and for us with inappropriate casualness. I would think that for their own safety the officers would want to fully clear a property (including the backyard and the garage) before conversing with the homeowners. I also expect the officers to investigate all possible leads by interviewing neighbors (such as the neighbor whose yard was likely used as an escape route).
I realize that burglary is, unfortunately, a relatively common and increasing crime. However, I expect the police department to realize that for the homeowner such an event is never routine – it is terrifying. Rather than being reassured by the police response, I was further dismayed by it. I expect the Pasadena police department to make reasonable efforts to apprehend burglary suspects and prevent future crime. I look forward to your response.
The letter, doesn’t convey everything that has transpired over the past few days. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I briskly walked across the street to our neighbor’s house after immediately realizing that things were WRONG inside our house. The panic in Thomas’ question as he asked, while we waited for the police, if they had taken his beloved Sally. The utter relief of having such wonderful neighbors who let us into their home until 12:30 am and gave us DVDs, diapers, snacks, water, and reassurance for the boys. The absolute certainty that I could not spend the night in our house so we fled down south to our in-laws who happily put us up despite being exhausted and sick. The almost crazed feeling of needing to make our house a fortress. The realization that every single piece of jewelry that I own save what I was wearing and a pearl necklace were all gone. The black pearl Jeff surprised me with. The first ring he ever gave me. The earrings made from my grandmother’s pearls. The jewelry I wore at our wedding. The finding of dirty fingerprints outside Thomas’ window and the horrifying realization that the perpetrator(s) came in and out through that window and must have walked on Thomas’ bed. The hours of phone calls with the bank, the insurance company, the phone company, security companies, and door and window companies. The knowing that the stolen camcorder contained a tape of Theo’s first steps. The endless questions from Thomas about “The bad guys in our house”, “The police are going to send them to jail right?”, and “Why did they take all the money out of my jars?” The wondering if I will ever be able to be at peace in this house again.
This isn’t one of my usual posts wherein I discuss a problem and then talk about how we can fix it. I don’t have any answers. I only have questions and fear and sadness. And I don’t know if I will ever get over this.