Things I Have learned From Being Robbed

IMG_6311Sometime last week while we were out of town our house was burgled. Broken into and we were robbed.

The police think there is a group of young people who, for the past couple of Summers, approach houses through the backyard. They try to look suspicious and pound on the doors to get anyone who is home to react. If someone is home, they run away. If not, they break into the home stealing TVs, DVD players, video game systems, and jewelry. They think these people hit our house while we were away.

After a long day of driving we arrived home, walked in and immediately saw broken glass and missing electronics. We left the house and called the cops. The criminals apparently figured out we were not home, grabbed a paver stone and threw it through the kitchen window with enough force to sail across the room and dent my refrigerator door. They opened that window, and left a ton of fingerprints as they climbed in. They stole 2 TVs, a video game system and some jewelry.

The next day I discovered that they had dropped my 50″ TV when they were trying to get away. It was broken and leaning against the back of our fence. We think they may have been spooked, because they also dropped some jewelry in the living room. And they left a lot of valuable things behind.

I’ve never had a house broken into before. Cars: twice before, but never any place I lived. It’s a new experience, and I’m learning some new things. I’m sure I will learn more as time goes on.

Target: I never imagined a 40 year old home in an aging middle class neighborhood would be the target of a break in. We are not rich. We don’t have a lot of expensive stuff. If I was going to take the chance of spending several years in jail, I would pick a better house. The officer told me that all kinds of houses are targets. He thought our house was pretty nice (we worked hard to make it that way), and was not surprised that we were targeted. And I guess, if criminal were smart they wouldn’t break into houses anyway.

Alarm: We didn’t have one. The first thing the officer said was that we should have an alarm. The house has the remnants of a system, but it’s not functional. We chose not to spend the money to get a new one. Living next to a walking trail with a private backyard- features we like, but features which contributed to the break in of our home- that may not have been the best decision. Especially now that alarms systems can purchased for cheap, installed wirelessly. Incidentally, my insurance policy offers very little discount for having an alarm.

Insurance: The second call I made was to my insurance company. You know, when they talk about deductibles for your homeowners they normally talk about catastrophic losses. Having a deductible that is 1% of your homes value (inflated value, don’t get me started on insurance companies’ habit of overvaluing homes replacement cost in order to charge higher premiums.) doesn’t seem like a big deal if you lose your entire home. But the deductible still applies to even small thefts. We don’t have several thousand dollars laying around, and that’s what it would take to cover the deductible. But the amount stolen is barely going to be higher than the deductible. And when I asked if a claim would affect my rates, the answer was “it depends.” That, of course, is a qualified yes. I spoke to my agent and adjusted my policy. But that doesn’t help us for this robbery.

Pictures: Take pictures of anything that is sentimental to you. Anything you might want the police or a pawn shop to identify. Without a picture, most pawn shop or gold/silver places can’t help you find your lost jewelry. Take pictures or write down the serial numbers on your electronics. Pictures might also help with the claims process for insurance, etc.

Safety: I never felt unsafe in my home before. I never worried about home invasion, or break ins. That happened to other people, not us. Even when my cars were broken into (long time ago, different state), I wasn’t worried about my family’s safety. My house was my castle.

This evoked a different emotional response. I don’t like laying in bed and wondering if the noise I just heard is normal, or someone up to no good. I don’t own a gun. I grew up with guns, and feel that it is every citizen’s right to own one and protect themselves, if need be. For the first time in my adult life, I’m serious considering getting one. This crew apparently targets homes that are empty, but what if someone else picks our home? I’ve heard all the arguments for and against gun ownership. But this is a decision we have to make for ourselves. And if we do get one, we will train our entire household in safety.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for low cost ways to make our home less inviting for criminals. Lights are one way. Crooks don’t like to hang out in illuminated places. I did not leave the outside lights on the back of our house on while we were out of town. I do now. I changed out the bulbs to fluorescents so we would save some money over incandescent bulbs, and will be adding dusk to dawn sensors as we can afford them. I thought about motions sensing lights, but that brings some installation costs. Also seriously considering adding some wildlife cameras, like what people use for deer scouting. They are not expensive and take pictures when they sense movement. Or just actual video cameras as a part of a security system.

Forgiveness: It’s hard. I’ve had people hurt me or my family before, but this is a bit different. It’s a very personal invasion, it robs us of our security. We’ve already been having conversations with our kids about forgiveness, and what makes us different from the criminals(answer- only Jesus. We are all sinners.) We have been praying for them… not that God would bring his wrath upon them, although that is tempting. Instead we have been praying that something would impact their life in such a way that they turn around and stop making these choices. If that means they get caught and that starts a change in their life, then I’m good with that. But sometimes I just want some kind of vengeance. I confess I took a bit of joy in the fact that by damaging my TV, they pretty much broke the only thing worth any real money. They might have scored a couple hundred dollars from this theft.

Yeah, forgiveness is hard. I’m working on it. My wife shared something on Facebook about this. I will quote part of it here:

A couple weeks ago, Jeffrey had put a sticky-note bible verse on the mirror of the kids bathroom (when they had all been fighting a lot) and it was still there, but with renewed meaning: I Peter 3:9 – Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 

We read this together and then Gracie went to her room and came out with Romans 12:17 (similar verse) and stuck it on the mirror next to Jeffrey’s. Then Jenny reminded us of the story of Joseph and how, after his dad Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers were afraid Joseph would seek revenge for the whole selling him into slavery thing. Joseph’s response: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

The experience has given us all a real-life personal example of God’s sovereignty: in a fallen world, He is always in control, taking what’s intended for harm and turning it to good. 
It’s also given us all a real-life personal example of sanctification-in-process: God uses each day, each experience (even the hard ones) to bring about change, transforming us daily because (again), in his sovereignty, He reigns over all, and takes captive what is ugly and makes it beautiful. And finally, while it’s sad to lose some stuff and have your feeling of security shaken, it’s also sad to be separated from God, so we prayed (and will continue to pray) for the ones who came into our house.