After moving 'cross country to San Diego and settling in, I felt myself finally exhale. It was a long time coming. Our idyllic neighborhood in Fletcher Hills, juxtaposed just in the middle of El Cajon, Santee and La Mesa, calmed me.

Until we got robbed.

One sunny morning, I returned from a walk at Balboa Park. I went upstairs to change and noticed the chest at the end of our bed was open. I didn't think anything of it. After all, I have a husband who does irrational things like open a chest and leave it open. Then I went in the closet and saw my jewelry box open. And empty. My heart thudding, I called the aforementioned husband to ask if he'd opened things for no reason.

My body knew what my mind refused to accept, and it walked me downstairs to the back door, to get out of potential harm's way. Just as he told me he hadn't opened anything in our bedroom, I saw it. A hole punched in the glass on the back door, the door itself gaping open.

Panic set in. "Oh God, we've been robbed. What'll I do? Oh, uh, oh God!" I'm not the best in dire situations. He directed me to get out of the house and call the police.

The landscaper who works in our neighborhood happened by. I tried to explain in broken Spanish what had happened. Freddie, as I found out he was called, went into the house with me and made sure there was no lunatic hiding in my bathtub. Bless him, that was a nice thing to do.

An hour later I had the neighbors (many of whom had seen the lovely ladies who robbed my house) were swarming around me, protecting me. The El Cajon police officer came and did his due diligence (after a 45 minute wait; glad there was no one in the house to cut me up in bits).

The women stole my brand new, expensive Nikon camera. The one I had told myself I couldn't buy for years, because there were more important things to buy. The one I'd finally saved up for and bought two months before. The one that leaves a hole in my heart where it used to be. They took a small video camera I use for work. And the point and shoot I'd bequeathed to my five-year-old, whose interest in photography made me feel we shared something special.

They also took worthless costume jewelry (ha ha! spit in your eye on that one) and an empty purse.

I've watched enough cop shows to know I'll never see those things again, though I do fantasize that the officer will knock on my door with the items in hand and the women in tow by the ear, forcing them to apologize to us.

Being robbed sucks. It's a violation to know someone has rifled through your things, cast aside what she doesn't want and taken the things that matter to you.

As for the neighbors who saw the women (they were blonde, driving a white Ford F150 with gold Eddie Bauer trim, so if you know them, punch them in the face and send them to the police), I know they feel bad for not doing anything. We tend to want to mind our own business, keep our heads down, until something like this happens. I can only hope it's made a greater awareness that we have to help each other out. Write down the license plate number of that suspicious car in your neighborhood. Call a neighbor to ask if they have company. Take action. Because afterward, when there's shattered glass on the ground, it's too late.

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nan shartel April 24, 2010 @ 2 p.m.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh...i'm so sorry...what a way to make a transition ...i guess Neighborhood Watch was working well in ur new neighborhood

i hope it doesn't turn u off to our area completely


CuddleFish April 24, 2010 @ 3:23 p.m.

I'm sorry about what happened to you. It does feel terrible when your home is burglarized. We had the same thing happen some years ago, but luckily, the ex-Brute had gone home to fetch something and the burglars fled, with only a Game Boy. By the door the Brute found pillowcases full of electronic equipment, my boxes of jewelry, and other valuables. We literally would have been cleaned out in another few minutes. My son was a baby in my arms at the time, and I remember just sinking into the sofa and holding him as we talked to the police; I was grateful they did not succeed, but even the attempt felt horrible.


chrysegle April 25, 2010 @ 10:18 a.m.

I'm thinking mainly of your most expensive camera but this may apply to the other equipment. Find your warranty docs and make sure you register the serial numbers with some of the main stolen camera/stolen property sites. Many photographers, before investing significantly in second-hand equipment will check serial numbers online because in many countries the purchaser would eventually lose out if it turns out to be stolen property. Also, make sure that your product's serial numbers are registered with the manufacturer even after the event. Official service centres routinely check serial numbers too when servicing and may question owners if the registered details are different or they have notification of stolen property.

The thieves will likely quickly pawn off the equipment at a fraction of the value - someone down the line should suspect that it is stolen goods and so if you get those serial numbers up in the common registries ASAP, a camera dealer that purchases the goods will have much less of a defence of, 'I never realised it was stolen'. As I say, the sooner the better as rather than specifically search stolen property/camera registries, a dealer/purchaser may simply Google the serial number and it takes time for Google to catalogue updated web content.

I just invested in a Nikon D3 body at a surprisingly low price. Before handing over my money I took a test photo, got the serial number from the file and checked it online to verify that it hadn't been registered as stolen somewhere in the world. Had I found the serial on any site, I would have contacted the actual owner and probably tipped off the local police. I would have checked for any digital SLR or significant lens investment.

Here are some sites that may be useful, but I recommend you spend a wee while checking for others:


chrysegle April 25, 2010 @ 10:34 a.m.

If it was a DSLR, also make sure you list any lens' serial numbers (including kit lens) as well as the body serial number. Because DSLR's and their lens are significant investments, as well as the equipment being more of a hobbyist procurement and that a body is likely to at some point be serviced at official service centres, I would imagine there's an increased likelihood over many consumer goods of it being noticed as stolen, even a few years down the line and will still have significant value.


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