Monday, September 7, 2009

I Refuse To Hold Myself & My Family Hostage

[This is a response to an email that was sent out to everyone in my community over the last few days. That email is below. Take a minute to read for a little more context.]

I received an email from a friend [a few days before the email below] that said: FYI there has been attempted daytime break-ins in the Dos Vientos area. There has been no violence, but property like electronics have been taken and one girl was surprised to find 2 men in her house when she got home from school. She screamed and they fled.

I read that particular email and passed it on to my husband and discussed with him making sure to lock the doors when we leave the house. I also made a mental note to be more aware when I'm walking my daughter to school or running so I can note anything suspicious.

This email that I am responding to is on a whole other level. It is emotional and destructive in its insidiousness.

I understand that Heather, the woman who wrote the email below, was feeling victimized. A teenager walked right into her house with the intent to steal. I have had various property crimes happen to my residence and it does shake your perceived security up quite a bit. I totally get that. In fact, I was key in getting my last neighborhood notified and aware when we had a string of vehicle thefts. I helped spin back up Neighborhood Watch. I sent out emails and made phone calls that encouraged everyone to keep their eyes and ears open and to call the non-emergency line even if they just suspect there is something wrong. Most importantly I wanted my neighborhood to ban together be aware and not be afraid.

In that neighborhood we had a lot of older homeowners. They taught me what it means to know your street. They looked out windows, they sat on the front porch, they talked with neighbors, rolled in other's trashcans, took care to offer help if someone needed it on the block. One day my 5 year old spent 6 or 7 hours teaching herself how to ride her bike up and down the street. Later that evening we had 3 neighbors come to the door to congratulate her. They were watching and were very impressed with her determination. But the point was - they were watching. As they went about their day they had an eye out on the neighborhood.

For this woman to even imply that the only recourse to these home invasions we have is to keep our children under constant supervision, lock our houses down with us inside and check the Megan's Law site grates against everything I stand for and everything I am trying to teach my children. It angers me that our community is inundated with knee jerk reactions like this that do nothing to help us secure our safety or our children's well being.

I refuse to teach my children that the only safe place is to be locked up inside of your house. I refuse to teach my children to assume every person they meet is a pedophile or a criminal. I will and continue to teach my children that most people are kind; that I have taught them well and they are capable of making good choices and taking care of themselves. That the community they live in is looking out for them as much as they are learning to look out for it.
Add to this the ludicrous statement that many of my neighbors are toting guns, ready and willing to kill any teenager or invader that dares to cross their threshold without consent. What about the kid hopping a fence to get a ball? Am I supposed to tell my kids that the neighbors might shoot you so don't ever step foot on private property? I refuse.

It is my hope that this woman sees the damage she has done by sending these messages out to the community but in the event that she doesn't I offer my own note of community awareness that can be used anytime, in any community no matter if the crime or violence is at your doorstep or down the street. Please feel free to copy it at will.

Dear Community,

From time to time, we all need a reminder to stay alert. To keep your windows and doors open, work in your garage, look with your eyes and listen with your ears. Know your neighbors; know the kids walking down your street. If you don't know them, walk up to them and introduce yourself. Have a chat with the older gentleman that walks by every other day. Stop and say 'Hi' to the kids next door. Know your mail person and your garbage collector; they patrol your streets regularly.

These actions are the first huge steps in keeping our community safe. If we are participating in our communities our children will follow suit. Our children will play football in the street, walk up to their friend's house, ride their bike to the park, knowing that as they are watching out for their community, that same community is helping to keep an eye on them and what is happening around them.

These times are no more dangerous than the past, in fact, in California's violent crimes have dropped significantly since their highs in the late 80's early 90's ( Also, visit Free Range Kids for more information and statistics. We are safe and we can work together to maintain that safety. Know your non-emergency police/sheriff number. Use it, it is just another resource that we have. Use your senses and keep watch, as your neighbors will for you.

Working together, making smart choices and being aware will allow us to enjoy our neighbors and our community and all that there is to offer. I look forward to working alongside you.

Thank you,
Amy @

Email sent 9/3/09
I am writing this letter as a mother, a homeowner and a concerned citizen of Newbury Park. This is not a joke and this is not a chain letter. This is a true story,
Yesterday my house was broken into around 12:30pm. My husband was
home. His truck was parked outside in the driveway. Thankfully my mother-in-law had taken my daughter out for the day. My husband was working on the computer and he heard the back French door swing open with a slow creak from our sunroom into our family room. He got up from his chair, took two steps to look into the direction of the French door and saw the teen-ager who had broken into our house. The boy saw John and he took off running. John ran after him, but he got away. John called the police and gave the officer a perfect description of the boy. This was easy to do as he was wearing a large and bright neon green cast on his arm. (Clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed.) The police patrolled the area, as did my husband. Within about an hour, John was notified that they caught a suspect matching the description. John identified him and filed a police report. (Just a note, the officer that arrived on our scene was just up the street at a reported alarm trip.)
In the meantime, since we have two older nephews and contacts in the schools, John put the word out to see if anyone knew this kid. Quickly people sent word back to us. We know who this boy is, where he lives, who he hangs out with, his MySpace page, his Facebook page, etc… Luckily Newbury Park is a small town. Apparently this boy is known at school for ditching class during the day and breaking into homes and then bragging about it to his friends, a group that is known to do the same thing. Also common knowledge is that this boy has a laundry list of unlawful activity which is somehow “cleaned up” by his parents who do not exercise any form of discipline with this child.
Today around the same time, noonish, there were three officers patrolling our neighborhood because they said that they received three more calls of “suspicious behavior” today of people going into and out of homes.
I have two messages that I want to get out right now to our community.
First, as a parent, lock your doors and be watchful in your neighborhood. My husband grew up in Newbury Park in the days when the gangs of kids rode their dirt bikes through the fields, and the moms could just whistle at dusk and the kids would all come home for dinner. Obviously we are not delusional that it’s the same society anymore; we don’t let our kids go outside without adult supervision and we’ve checked the Meghan’s Law website for the location of sex offenders in our area. But we love Newbury Park and we love living in a town that is still small and nice where our children can feel safe and happy and grow up as good citizens. We commonly left our windows open to get the nice breezes from the ocean. We commonly leave our doors open, with the screens to let the air flow through the house when we’re home. This daring and stupid boy broke into a house in the middle of the day with a car in the driveway! Typically that means someone is home! Three of our neighbors, next door on each side and across the street had their garage doors open! I shudder to think about the possibility that my mother-in-law and child might have been home instead of my husband. I shudder even more to think if this boy, who is pretty stupid, is daring enough to do this, hoping to possibly lift something cool like an iPod or whatever to show off to his friends, what about someone more dangerous, someone willing to hurt or take my kids. I can’t even bare to imagine that. Now we’re just a little more aware of the fact that there are brazen delinquents out there and we need to take steps to secure our homes and our property and our families. This is not paranoia, just proactive behavior.
Second, as a citizen of our community… I hope that this message gets sent out to other community parents and homeowners. We all know each other within six degrees of separation especially in this small town. I hope that this message makes its way to the parents of the unintelligent boy who broke into my house, or someone else who knows him or any of the boys he runs around with. Listen up! You are lucky that this kid broke into my house and met up against my husband who is a good man. I cannot say what my husband would have done to someone who breaks into my house and actually gets caught. I can say that my husband would defend our home with honor and strength and courage. I can say that anyone caught by my husband would not be very happy to be in my husband’s hands…. But hear this, Parents-of-that-Boy, I also cannot say what might happen if your young, immature, misguided child breaks into the house of someone who is not as wonderful as my husband. There are people in our neighborhoods who will protect their property and family with guns and violence without stopping to ask who/what/where/when/how. And I would say to those people “hell yeah!” There is no excuse for a child who has not learned about the values of right and wrong from his parents. And there is no excuse for parents who do not see their child veering off onto the wrong path or kick some ass to get their kids back onto the straight and narrow. If you do not take action with your child now, someone else will take action with him later. And that will most certainly bring a more sorrowful result. Be a parent! Take control of your child. This is your community too!
Please forward to other people in our neighborhood.
Thank you.


Katie said...

It is sad that people approach all "strangers" with the assumption they are inherently evil or bad. Kudos to you for being the voice of reason. I stand alongside you in trying to evoke a sense of community in my neighborhood. I tend to find people want to belong, it just takes one or two souls to start a community...

The Dental Maven said...

That Heather would construct such a lengthy email, immediately tells you something about her.
I think the girl needs to go back on her meds.

Wendy said...

I go so back-and-forth on this. I don't want to raise terrified kids who never did anything fun.

My sister was raped by a teenaged neighbor playing within 25 feet of the house where our mother was. She was five years old. That was in 1984 in a town with 2,000 people in it. In the next little town over a girl my age (10) was kidnapped, assaulted, murdered and then not found for over a year. I don't believe the world is getting "more evil" - the evil is just reported on TV more often now.

I'm probably more protective than most parents, but that's my problem and not cause for a novel-length community alert!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I'm with the Maven. Heather needs help. Your email, by the way, was perfect.

The Mother said...

I have been burgled twice now, once as a child and again as an adult. I was held at gunpoint once in a break in at my in-laws' house.

I WILL NOT allow these experiences to color my view of the world, or hold my family hostage.

I have a security system. I try to remember to look around as I get into and out of my car.

Beyond that?

I send my kids out in the neighborhood alone. Been doing it since they were old enough to find their way home. I do not worry about them.

I won't worry about them.

Yours was an excellent response to the paranoia that is gripping this country. It needs to stop.

Beach Vintage said...

I think if we are scared of them then they win. We need to stand up and feel that our home is a safe place and we will not let anything make that different. Thanks so much dropping by Beach Vintage again.

Michele said...

Heather is a Drama Queen. She's not upset about this--she's excited that something has happened to her family and now she gets to generate attention under the guise of just being helpful. If you point out her transparency (and overreaction) then she gets to have fun bashing you as an irresponsible person, thereby again (in her own mind, of course) elevating her to the status of better person.

Well, how fun for her.

And the rest of us rational people will go on living our lives instead of creating drama and trauma in the neighborhood.

Wendy said...

Michele's comments are a hoot. She's so right. I know so many people like that, too.

TO Resident said...

I found nothing about Heather's email to be "destructive", but rather a message of caution. Yes, she was "emotional", but who wouldn't be in that situation? I think she MAY be human and not a robot, but what do I know?

Here are just few things that caught my eye:

1. I find it interesting that Amy has an issue with checking the Megan's Law site. If you have children, I would think that that would be of interest for a parent. Not to teach your child to be afraid, but for the PARENT to know who your child should or should not be associating with. Knowledge is power.

2. Amy brings up the point that she refuses to believe that any of her neighbors are toting guns and are ready, willing, and able to shoot any teenager/intruder of any age that breaks into their home. Let me say, I am a gun owner. I have these guns with the intent of protecting myself and my family. I am in NO WAY excited at the prospect of shooting an intruder. Her statement is irresponsible. To compare someone actually being "inside your home without your consent" (let's call this what it really is...breaking and entering) versus a kid jumping a fence to get a ball is ridiculous. There is a HUGE difference. Compare apples to apples.

3. No where in Heather's email did she make a statement to "lock up your kids" and "live your lives in fear" and yet, Amy and a few of the comments, clearly, seem to think she did. She's a mother. She has NO CLUE what the intent of the teenager was. How do any of us know what the intent of anyone who breaks into our homes would be? I think we can all agree that IF our homes were to be broken into, we would, if given the choice, choose to not be home. Because her experience was in the middle of the day, with a car in the driveway, with the likely hood that her child would be in the house, you cannot fault her for the concern and the gratitude that her child wasn't home.

4. I find it mildly disturbing that some of the comments called Heather a "Drama Queen", needs to go back on her meds, etc. Is that your argument? I think it's funny when people can't have an open discussion without personally attacking someone. Shows a lack of intelligence.

5. I completely agree that we should NEVER teach our children to live their lives in fear! I wholeheartedly agree that MOST people are GOOD. And THAT is what we should be teaching our children. We should be able to send our kids out into the neighborhood, go play their brains out, until we whistle for them to come home because it's dinnertime. It's how I spent my childhood and I was never victimized.

In conclusion, I found both Amy and Heather to have made some excellent points. Too bad about the "mob" mentality in the comments section.

AmyAnne said...

TO Resident:
Thank you for commenting. I was looking forward to hearing from more local people, although this topic touches everyone, everywhere.

In my response to the letter I covered everything you mentioned. The fear is palpable when something happens to you personally. But what needs to be reiterated is that fear, no matter how real, does not change fact or statistics. That even if you look up your street on Megan's Law and see 5 registered sex offenders, the statistics are still the same. You simply use that information to live your life more informed, not more afraid.

I really want this discussion to continue over coffee, at playgroups, at pickup, at soccer practice. Because there are a lot of strong feelings, just having people talk to each other about their fears and working out the logic together will help to combat the knee jerk reactions that even imply we aren't as safe as we were as children or even imply the only recourse we have is to keep our houses locked up with our families inside them. We need to take our communities back so we can feel safe emotionally and see that logically we certainly are and can be.