To Catch a Thief

In case we weren't being tried enough as it was this week, Dave and I faced another case of thieves reaching into our pockets...or more literally, our cars. *We* had left one of the trucks and my Journey unlocked Monday night, and someone broke into them that night. Dave lost a cell phone charger and a can of bear spray. I lost a wad of cash, my "in case I leave my wallet at home when I go to buy groceries" money. I'm not sure how much it was, though I'm guessing it was on the order of $60-$100. The thief was clearly not very bright. Dave's things were strewn across the floor and the glovebox left open, alerting him to the theft right away, which otherwise might have gone undetected. The thief also missed the several places that Dave had stashed money. My car was less obviously disturbed, and I didn't realize it had been hit until Wednesday. I was relieved to see that the idiot did not take my garage door opener, which would have granted him access to much more loot. Considering that our cars had not been locked, we chalked it up to a lesson learned and moved on. Still, it was hard to shake the feeling of being violated.

Dave has long suspected our neighbors of being thieves. He has not liked the large clan since they moved in last summer. The head of the house is a "street tough" youth pastor with eight children (some grown), an ex husband, a grandchild, and various other odds and ends somehow crammed under one roof. I'm being generous in saying I don't care for them either. Their barking dogs drive me up the wall, they've trashed the once-respectable yard, there are always cars coming and going, and they occasionally have loud and odoriferous (i.e., pot-smoking) gatherings at odd hours. But, they are generally friendly and I don't have any reason to think them dishonest. Dave had his eye on one teenage boy in particular. We both hoped it wasn't any of them.

Saturday night came, and we had just returned from our day trip to the mountains. I had the boys in the house, and Dave was unpacking things in the driveway. He looked up to see a Hispanic teenage boy in a black hoodie, eying the open doors of the vehicles. The boy saw Dave and looked away, walking on. Dave nonchalantly walked around the back of the bed of his truck, grabbed his binoculars, and took his post in the shadows. The boy crossed the street to the opposite side, then crossed back to our side. Two doors down, he found an unlocked car and rummaged through it. Dave watched as the boy shut the door, waited for the light to turn off, and took off at a run.

It was at this point that I walked outside, Finn on my hip, to see a very excited Dave running out from behind his truck, binoculars in hand. He grabbed a gun, hopped in his pickup, and shouted over his shoulder, "I'll be right back!" My mouth hung open as I watched his taillights disappear at the end of the street. There was nothing to do but wait inside. I couldn't imagine what had prompted his odd departure.

A few minutes later, Dave returned triumphantly. "I busted him!" He announced proudly. He related his tale of sleuthing, how he'd called the cops as he patrolled our street, circling down and back until the police had arrived. The boy had been found huddled behind a parked car at the end of the street, seemingly high. Adderall, the police posited. Dave took his first ride in the back of a patrol car, just to the end of our street to identify the boy. He confessed, saying he owed some people some money. There was no way to prove that he was the culprit of the earlier crimes, though we are certain he was. There will be no warrant to search for what else he might have stolen, and he did not in fact take anything from the car Dave saw him enter. The charges will likely be minor, though hopefully enough to make him reconsider the direction he is going. He's only 13 or 14 years old.

Our youth pastor neighbor came out of her house, poked her head in the back of the patrol car, and gave that boy a call to come to Jesus. He had been seen trying to take a bike out of her yard earlier in the day. He was in tears by the time she finished her diatribe on how he was ruining his life. For our part, we're just very glad he doesn't live under her roof. And I am very glad that Dave is not the next George Zimmerman. And that he didn't mention to the police that he had a gun on his vigilante patrol.

Oddly, Dave talked to the boy a few weeks ago. We were all in the backyard when the boy knocked on our gate. He had seen a small piece of luggage sitting in front of our house, and wondered if he might have it. We agreed, as it was only waiting to be taken to Goodwill. What we didn't learn until last night was that the boy had in fact tried to take the luggage, and our neighbors had intercepted him and insisted that he ask. Sadly, he then came back to steal from us. But we find it rather encouraging that our neighbors, numerous as they are, have been keeping an eye out for us. It's an ironic silver lining to the ordeal.

I couldn't help but recall the sign across the street. That fella suddenly looked very familiar. Wouldn't you agree?