These are trying times for the residents of my small lakeside community.
There has been a rash of what the Montreal Gazette described in a report today of “brazen burglaries” in the past month — at least eight that we know of, and probably more.
This is cottage country, and many of the properties are weekend getaways and vacation spots for owners. Only a minority of us live here year round. So there may very well be other cottages that have been hit and the owners have yet to find out about it.
The thieves have been cleaning out some homes, taking almost everything: appliances, electronic equipment, beds, tables and chairs, tools, kitchen cutlery, even toilet paper. And food and booze.
In one house, they took showers and cooked themselves a meal before emptying it.
One house even had an alarm system, presumably not monitored by an alarm company. The thieves ripped its control panel from the wall, and continued to pillage the home.
Last week was the tipping point for residents: A homeowner stepped out to do some grocery shopping and returned a couple of hours later to discover she had been robbed.
The lake residents, already on edge, were rattled by it. It clearly showed thieves are watching homes and the movements of owners and aren’t afraid to strike in broad daylight at a time of year when many people are vacationing at their cottages. So, an emergency meeting was held on the weekend, and a neighbourhood watch program was implemented. Security measures were also discussed, and you can bet that many of these homes will soon have video surveillance, if they don’t already have it.
Of course, video surveillance is only effective if thieves don’t cover their faces and don’t blur their licence plate numbers. Residents know that. So do organized thieves who can manage to move trucks in and out without anybody seeing them, apparently. Residents and thieves also know that it could take police an hour to respond to a monitored burglar alarm — or more, and that even if the thieves did get caught in the act or later on, they probably wouldn’t be sentenced to much jail time, if any at all.
A bank robber would get more prison time than someone who robs a home.
Yet, victims of home robberies are more affected by the crimes than faceless ATMs and such owned by corporate banks.
One might think bank robbers are more ethical, because they might feel that they are not actually hurting anyone when they steal money from an ATM or a vault.
House burglars, on the other hand, probably rationalize it by saying things about their victims like “Ah, their insurance will cover their losses.” As well as, “They’re rich. They can afford it.”
They are probably not aware of the psychological trauma they are inflicting upon their victims, as well as on the immediate community.
I think the legal system needs to impress those facts upon such burglars — when we catch them. They need to hear victim impact statements. And I think thieves should get more than light sentences. They should be forced to do hundreds of hours of community work with crime victims — so that they will truly understand how much such crimes terrorize people.
As for thieves hitting my community, there is a good chance they will be caught because they have, apparently, left some telltale clues. Police have been taking the investigation seriously, even searching for fingerprints in at least one home. And now with the newspaper report and, no doubt, more to come by other media outlets, the pressure will be on the police to solve the case. Even the mayor of the town has weighed in on the matter, and has promised to help.
And, yes, I’m on the case, too — just call me Nancy Drew.
A real, live summer mystery story . . . how exciting!
Photo credit: Jillian Page