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Texting Trespasser

I work second shift and typically get home around 11:30 pm. I own a single-family home with a tiny front yard, no back yard, and a patio like area where I have a lawn chair and a plastic table. Today I pulled into my driveway after work and saw a guy sitting on my lawn chair texting.

As soon as he saw me, he got up, said, “I thought the house was abandoned. Last time I was here it was abandoned. I’m sorry.”

Lawn furniture in front of house. New roof. Tended boulevard with wildflowers. I’d lived here for sixteen years. Abandoned. Why does he need my patio to sit and text? “Last time I was here”? He’s done this before?

I gaped at him. He apologized and couldn’t get away from me fast enough. He was embarrassed, but I think it’s because he got caught by the homeowner inconveniently returning home.

Incidentally, there have been neighbors, usually with a small child, who notice one of my cats sunning in the window and stop and say hi. This is fine, and I will tell them the cat’s name and that the cat loves the attention. This guy didn’t have that excuse. 1003-12

{ 52 comments… add one }
  • Lady L October 4, 2012, 5:03 am

    BE CAREFUL! He was more than likely casing your house to break in. I would call the police and report it. That wasn’t poor etiquette, that was criminal intentions.

  • josie October 4, 2012, 5:42 am

    Cell phones do make life interesting, don’t they?

  • Green123 October 4, 2012, 5:51 am

    He’s a trespasser. If he does this again, call the police. In the meantime, this is another good opportunity to whip out the modern wonder that is the camera phone and take a piccy or two as proof of his trespass, being certain to ensure your personal safety first.

  • Agania October 4, 2012, 5:52 am

    What the??? Maybe leave the front light on or something.

  • StephM October 4, 2012, 6:03 am

    Bwahhhh, I’d be so creeped out! But it sounds like it was innocent, though stupid. I can’t imagine someone with bad intent texting on the porch.

  • The Elf October 4, 2012, 6:24 am

    Wha….??? Who does this? Sit on the curb and text if you need a place to plunk your butt!

  • ladyclaire October 4, 2012, 6:39 am

    I had something similar happen last year. I was at home one evening when I heard what sounded like voices in my driveway. I peeked through the window blind, and there were two teenaged girls out there. One had parked her bike in the driveway and was still sitting on it, and the other had let her bike fall onto the lawn and was sitting in my grass.

    I opened my front door and the two girls were up like a shot. One of them said “Oh, we thought no one lived here!” as they hurried away.

    I had pots of flowers on the front porch, lawn ornaments, a well tended garden, and other obvious things that should have indicated the house was occupied. Plus, we had been living there for just over a year by that point, and I’ve seen those girls before while I was outside tending the garden or doing other yardwork.

  • Ripple October 4, 2012, 6:49 am

    He probably thought he was on Street A when he was on Street B. Sometimes communities are so similar that strangers can get mixed up.

    Depending on your neighborhood covenants (if any) and the time you get home, you might want to invest in a motion-detection activated light for the front. Even if it’s not generally allowed, you might be able to get an exception based on this story and the time you get home. Just be sure it isn’t shining in your neighbor’s bedroom.

  • barb October 4, 2012, 6:53 am

    I would call the police. He may have been casing the house for a burglary.

  • coralreef October 4, 2012, 7:18 am

    Our parking spaces are in the back of the building, so I go in through the back door. There is no street or parking lighting and behind the hedge, it’s agricultural land, so very dark and unattended when I get home late. I had the landscaper install remote controled lighting. One click and my back yard is lighted and I can see where I’m walking and if anybody is there. Very good investement, not that expensive, so it may be a solution for the OP is motion lights are not allowed or would inconvenience the neighbours.

  • PolitePolice October 4, 2012, 7:19 am

    It’s not uncommon for unoccupied homes to be made to look as if someone is living there, to deter break-ins, etc. The home next to me has been abandoned for quite some time, and although it is not for sale someone (the bank?) is paying to have regular lawn care. I know of other homes that are for sale where cars are actually kept in the garage so as to make it look lived-in.

    Teens/young people can often be so self-absorbed they don’t care too much about anything else. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that young man saw a place to plop down and text undisturbed, where the owner was obviously not at home. Same for the other story above regarding the girls with bikes who were sitting on the owners property. A quick lie (I thought no one lived here) serves as an excuse when discovered.

    Of course there is always the possibility the young man had criminal motives. A call to the police station may be helpful, if for nothing else but a little peace of mind. 🙂

  • B October 4, 2012, 7:22 am

    Call the police and report it anyway, even if there is a time delay. Document, document, document!
    The “excuse” he gave sounds like total cowfloppy to me. If you are on good terms with your neighbors, also let them know. Just because he was caught “casing” your place, doesn’t mean he’ll stop there. And remember, lock all windows and doors. Also, it might be a good idea to ask the local PD/Sheriff to do extra patrols through the neighborhood and give a description (approx height/weight, clothing, hair color/style, hat, etc. of the man you saw. See if you can follow him (in your car with the door locked and windows up) and see if he gets into a vehicle. Get make, model, color, tag#…ANYTHING to help ID this guy. Also, he was trespassing on private property…”Abandoned” or not, he had no right to be there. Just my two cents!

  • Erin October 4, 2012, 7:23 am

    Yeah, I’d be investing in an alarm system about now…it was probably innocent but better safe than sorry!

  • Helen October 4, 2012, 7:47 am

    I agree with Barb. There is absolutely no reason to be sitting in someone else’s patio. He may well have been seeing when you get home so he could rob you.

    You might want to call the police to see if there have been any burglaries in the area.

  • Vicky October 4, 2012, 7:54 am

    I would definitely report this to the police. They may have other reports of this on file. I also agree with the recommendation to install motion sensitive lights. Smart safety investment.

  • Andi October 4, 2012, 7:58 am

    Motion light are awesome things. I’d still fe a trespassing report – that would creep me out.

  • DGS October 4, 2012, 8:46 am

    Creepy…I would definitely call the police, as it is entirely possible he was trying to “case the joint” for a burglary. Motion-activated lights, asking the police for an extra patrole and making sure that you lock all windows and doors and possibly, installing a home alarm system (pricey, but worth it, IMO), are all important steps to take, and I would certainly file a report for trespassing with the police.

    I do think that PolitePolice’s comment about self-absorbed young people was unnecessary. Certainly, there are plenty self-absorbed youngsters out there, but there are plenty of self-absorbed and not self-absorbed people of all ages out there. A single age group is not representative of a particular behavior.

  • inNM October 4, 2012, 9:07 am

    The safety recommendations of the other poster’s here may be a good idea, but I have a real life story that shows that sometimes people are just dense without criminal reasons behind it.
    My mom comes home one evening about 2-3 years ago to find two older men sitting on our patio drinking. She doesn’t know these men, and are confused as to who they are and why they’re there. One of the men volunteers the information that they’re friends of Mr. X, the previous owner of the house, and they’re waiting for him to come home.
    (Filler infomation: We’ve lived in that house since before I was born and I’m 27 years old currently.)
    My mother, having just come back from a family friend’s funeral, was upset and, told them that A. she’s owned this house for more than 30 years; and B. How can you just walk on to a piece of property after 30 years without confirming if Mr. X still lived there?
    According to her, they were reluctant to leave, insisting they had a right to be there drinking, and only got up to left when she threatened to call the police.

  • Raven October 4, 2012, 10:17 am

    As others have said, be cautious. It may feel like over-reacting to invest in lights and/or file a report, but better an over-reactor than a body in the morgue.

    It’s a good idea, frequently, to walk around your property entirely and look at it from a stranger’s point of view. Are the curtains/blinds always the exact same? Do the timer lights come on at the exact same time every day? (It’s a good idea to have them in more than one room, and at different times in the day and evening, to give the appearance of being home.) Does your postal worker leave your mail half hanging out of the box, giving the impression your mail is piling up?

    These are just some of the things to think about. You could also go to the pet store and buy a “Beware of Dog” sign (even if you don’t have a dog), to give people the impression that even if you’re not home, Mr. Bitey is.

  • Shalamar October 4, 2012, 10:17 am

    About ten years ago, my husband and I bought a house. On the day we moved in, we were sitting on lawnchairs in our garage having a break when a woman parked her car outside, got out, and walked purposefully up to our front door. She somehow didn’t see us until we said “Hello – can we help you?” She turned, gaped at us, and asked accusingly “What are YOU doing here?” We said “We live here. This is our house.” “What do you mean, it’s your house? I’m supposed to show it to a client this afternoon!” “Er … don’t know what to tell you. Sorry. This is our house.”

    She glared at us and stomped away, muttering angrily.

  • Cat October 4, 2012, 10:24 am

    I have no idea as to what he was doing but it was way too late for him to be there for you to feel safe. I’d get security light, a camera, and maybe a dog.
    If it were mid-day, there might be an innocent explanation. Dave Barry wrote of taking his three year old daughter for a walk. There was a house with a concrete goose on the front porch and they’d dress the goose in different outfits, according to the season.
    The child was entranced by this goose and insisted on kissing it. She wanted Daddy to kiss the nice goose too. Daddy was very concerned that neighbors who did not know him would look out of the window, see him in the act of kissing their goose, and he’d have to explain to the police what he was doing on their porch.

  • Harley Granny October 4, 2012, 11:41 am

    As a recent victim of a home burglery….please at least the the local police know what happened.

    He might be telling the truth but you have now way of knowing that. He could have been doing what others have already stated, staking the place.
    If you’ve told the police, they will have a record of it.

    I’d also mix up you arrival time a little and see what happens.

  • Calli Arcale October 4, 2012, 11:59 am

    I have an awesome nosy neighbor. (Nosy in all the right ways; she respects people’s privacy, but keeps very aware of what’s going on around her and cares about all the people in her environs.) If this guy had been lounging on my patio chair at 11:30PM, you can bet the police would’ve gotten there before me. 😀

  • barbarian October 4, 2012, 12:11 pm

    This is a safety issue and safety trumps etiquette! Do what B says-call the police with a description of this incident and ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your house. This person might be doing the same thing to your other neighbors.

    We have a driveway that holds 2 cars. When I came home from work in the afternoon last year, there was this suburban middle-class mom type who had parked her minivan in the middle of it so nobody else could park. I asked her what she was doing and she said she had stopped to read her mail. I told her to get off my property in 30 seconds or I was calling 911! She promptly departed.

  • Rug Pilot October 4, 2012, 12:52 pm

    Oh, so now your home is abandoned and I’m free to do whatever I want with whatever personal effects I find easily accessible? Well, you’re not there so it’s abandoned.

    I get the same thing from the nieghborhood kids and I have lived in my home for almost 40 years. I just don’t go out in the front but I can hear them out there. Their excuse: I didn’t know anybody was in there. The police have told me I don’t even have to confront them, just call and they will drive by and hassle the kids.

    All property belongs to somebody else unless it belongs to you. Please treat it with the same care and concern you would want from sombody else dealing with your own.

  • LovleAnjel October 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Someone mentioned timers being in different rooms – they now make timers that will turn a light on or off sometime within a half-hour window. You set it at 7pm, and it will turn on sometime between 6:45 and 7:15. That’s enough of a randomness to make it look more like someone is home every day.

  • Original Poster October 4, 2012, 1:11 pm

    Original poster checking in. Thanks for all of your advice, suggestions, etc. I submitted it five minutes after the guy was gone. Here’s an update.

    1) While I was gaping at him, I made darn sure I made it plainly obvious I was getting a good look at his face. He was middle-aged, no beard, kind of skinny, not particularly tall. (I include this for the people assuming teenager – he’s well past that stage of his life). I escorted him off my property and steered him toward light, which made him very afraid of me. He did NOT want to encounter police and as soon as he was on the sidewalk, he walked very fast away.

    2) I did have a chat with the police the very next day. I was told: without a name, they can’t make a report this late after the fact, but if this happens again, I should call them immediately or if I feel unsafe, call from elsewhere, the cops will meet me there. 911 is also a good option, as everything is recorded. My neighborhood precinct is staffed with professional and friendly cops who are helpful with advice. The ones I talked to liked that I made it obvious I was getting a good look at the guy. I should also mention that the precinct is located less than three blocks from my home. The suggestions I’m seeing here were suggested by many of you (except for the suggestion to adopt a dog. If I had a yard, I probably would already have one. I love dogs.)

    3) My initial assumption about the guy was that his judgment was suboptimal. He made me suspicious by getting increasingly nervous when I made it plain I was seeking to memorize what he looked like. Also his remark about thinking the house was abandoned tweaked my Red Alert siren. I always pay attention to the Red Alert siren in my head. This was closer to a Yellow Alert than a ful-on Red, but I always trust my instincts.

    4) I do have a wireless DSL, but it’s locked down. I worked in IT setting up networks for many years, so I’m tech savvy. There’s a free municipal wireless access point a block and a half away and a sheltered bus stop for his convenience. Incidentally, that’s in the direction of the police station.

  • egl October 4, 2012, 2:32 pm

    While I suspect the guy was probably just clueless, I agree reporting it and beefing up home security can’t hurt.

    Don’t know where you’d find it, but I’ve run across motion activated devices that produce the sound of a barking dog. (Please don’t set up any motion activated device so someone just walking by on the sidewalk will trigger it.)

  • Lisa October 4, 2012, 3:13 pm

    I don’t know if I’m being paranoid beacause my house was just robbed two days ago (in broad daylight!!!) but I would be extra careful — make sure all your windows and doors are locked at all times on the chance that this guy was casing your house.

  • Shalamar October 4, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Cat, that Dave Barry story is hysterical! And you just know that his little girl would have somehow disappeared by the time the cops arrived. “Honest, officer, my daughter wanted me to kiss the goose!” “Riiiiight.”

  • Lisa October 4, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Oh, and definitely call the police to report this! They may be able to keep an extra close eye on your neighborhood for the next few weeks.

  • MsMashNWUK October 4, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Cheeky Devil!
    However, I think I can beat you on this one OP!
    I live in ground floor flat with lots of pots/baskets of flowers, fruit and veggies outside, but no gates.
    One sunny afternoon, whilst I’m washing up, I could not help noticing a ‘gentleman’ urinating against my garden wall!
    Ran out in my barefeet (not a good idea as am diabetic), and in a very high pitched posh voice asked “What on earth do you think you are doing” – it must have been the shock as usually I speak with a low pitched Lancashire accent (like Thomas and O’Brien from Downton Abbey – please note readers I am a nice girl like Anna).
    The ‘gentleman’ replied “Didn’t think anyone lived here” to which I replied “Well, what do you think the plants, curtains, ornaments in the windows (shall stop here as in my amazement I must’ve given a full window and garden inventory). He then apologised and said that next time he wait till he got home unless he couldn’t hold it and then if need be, would use one of the back alleys…
    What a true gentleman – I should’ve got his number for he could be the man of my dreams… In a parallel universe of course!
    NB: My lovely landlord has now put up ginormous solid wooden security gates up.

  • Mlerin October 4, 2012, 4:35 pm

    I agree with what others have said: this is a safety concern, and maybe add a bit more security. It’s good that you were able to give a description of the guy to the police; too bad they weren’t able to do much without his name.

    Before my parents got air conditioning, we would have the doors and windows open during the day. We also had a screen door, and this was kept locked. One day my mom was home by herself, when she heard the screen door rattling. She went to investigate, and a man trying to get into our house. She asked him what he wanted, and he asked if ‘Mike’ was home. My mom told him that no one lived there by that name. Still, he kept asking if ‘Mike’ was home, and he was still trying to open the door. My mom was insistent that this man didn’t live at our house. About a minute later, the guy got the hint that ‘Mike’ didn’t live there and left. This had happened in broad daylight, and I’m thankful the screen door was locked.

  • Cat Whisperer October 4, 2012, 8:21 pm

    Oh boy. Instances of this sort of thing we’ve had happen.

    One day I was in my kitchen doing the dishes. Kitchen looks out on a strip of our yard that goes from the front to the back yard (we have a very deep yard, it goes WAAAAAY back). Suddenly I see two kids walking their dog into the back!!!! I ran to the side door and yelled out, “What are you guys doing in my yard?”

    They stopped dead, then one of them said “We didn’t think anyone was living here,” and they went running away. They were about 12, and this was not long after we bought the house, when the yard was in bad shape.

    We also had a lady who went around the neighborhood picking up aluminum cans and returnable bottles. We collect our own cans and bottles and take them to the recycling center once a month. We put them in the backyard, far in the back, behind our garage. And more than once, we caught this lady red-handed sneaking into our yard to take our recyclables!!!! Caught her on the way out with our bags in her hot little hand, making her stealthy way out!!! When she was us, she’d drop the bags and walk out as if nothing happened. English wasn’t her first language, so I don’t know whether we ever got through to her.

    And of course we’ve had the yearly raids on our persimmon trees. The schoolkids walking down the block are one thing, but we’ve had adult people pull up to the curb in their car, get out and start picking persimmons, brazen as broad daylight! When we’ve confronted these people, they’re usually unrepentant: they make remarks about “Well, you seemed to have so many, we didn’t think you’d mind,” or “We were only taking a few,” or (after the fact!) “Do you mind if we take a few?”

    Man, I was taught as a kid: you don’t go onto someone else’s property without their permission. And that holds true even if the property is apparently unoccupied. It doesn’t belong to you, so you don’t trespass onto it. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

  • BeingCareful October 5, 2012, 1:23 am

    I am glad, OP that you reported it. I would’ve also taken a picture with my phone if possible.

    I’d say it was a case-your-place and do add some security… glad that you went to police about it.

    A side warning, with Halloween approaching, this is PRIME casing time and even breakin time.

    I used to live in a good neighborhood in a BIG city and. Our house was a split level, and the front door was at a landing where you went out front door, into garage, or up or down the stairs. I would hang sheets, make decorations and put them right there on the landing, put lighting (electrified pumpkins, etc) right on the stairs going up and block it off otherwise, and BLACK OUT the house and lock the perimeter. My better half would retreat to a back room and keep the door closed.

    Porch light blazing, other light outside if needed so kids could get there and leave the front door safely, but inside the house rather dim right at the door and non existent just past it. Bright light looking into dark, messes up night vision…

    He would ask why I did such, so that whoever that came to the door could not see in… and I have many that I would catch that would be LOOKING (we are talking the roving eyeballs on steroids) as the kids did the candy bit. I would get about 100-150 kids and at least three ‘too interested in my place’ escorters every year. That’s why. You can’t see in, you can’t see what’s there.

    Friend with big dog that’d loan me one of his old waterbowls and a few chewed on toys too to have in view, for that session, was nice too.

    The other thing was that night after the kids quit coming, to take down everything and drag it in (garage dump for the night) AND stay up for a few more hours showing lights and body in the house just in case. It also cut down on my next morning trashouts and vandalism to clean up.

  • Niamh84 October 5, 2012, 4:03 am

    While I agree that you’re better off safe than sorry, it’s always worth taking a look over your home security measures and improving them wherever possible, but it seems odd to me that someone would wait on your porch where you’ll clearly see them if they were casing your house. Surely they could just as easily remain somewhere hidden/unseen to do the same job without you knowing.

    Like I said though, you’re better safe than sorry and speaking to the police about it was the right thing to do.

    (To the person who said to maybe get a dog, I really don’t think security is good enough as a primary reason to get a dog. Actually wanting a dog and the ability to commit to loving and looking after it would be a better reason, and extra security would be a bonus).

  • michellep October 5, 2012, 11:17 am

    Lord have mercy. I have to admit I have been giggling over these stories, except for the break-ins of course. I once lived in a home right on a corner of my neighborhood. I worked hard to make the yard look nice. One day I looked outside and saw teenage girls walking right through my yard, just trampling right through the pansies. They lived on the street behind me, so they were taking a shortcut. I walked out and just stared. Blushes and stammering, “Didn’t know anyone lived here!!” Uh, the two cars in the driveway and the garden didn’t give you a clue??

  • B October 5, 2012, 1:04 pm

    In Response to Cat Whisperer: We have the same “fruit thefts” in my part of Florida. People have taken to putting up signs that specifically say to not trespass and not touch the trees as they are both private property and the owner will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Seems to work during the high season when the trees are full of fruit. Once, season is over, the signs go in their garage until next season. Just a thought. Sorry to hear they are taking your delicious persimmons. 🙁

  • Enna October 5, 2012, 3:18 pm

    The only reason good enough would be if the person was feeling faint or ill and HAD to sit down or fall down.

    That is werid, defiantly document it – maybe put a camera up?

  • White Lotus October 5, 2012, 4:58 pm

    From the other side, there are some etiquette issues from my neighborhood:
    Don’t go on other people’s property without permission. Don’t sit on their lawns, pick their roses (smelling is OK) or park in their drives.
    Stand off other’s property to text or call even if you are lost. Stay on the sidewalk, path or planting strip. Even if you are waiting for a bus. And it is late.
    Don’t climb the trees, pick the fruit, or collect the nuts, unless there is a sign saying it is OK, or you get permission. You may go to the door to ask. Take no for an answer graciously.
    You may go to the door if you work for the postal service or a courier/delivery company, or are someone else with a legitimate reason to go to the door, like a visitor.
    If there is a “No Solicitors” sign, it means you, little kid with stale chocolates, person(s) wanting me to attend her/his/their religious services or the like, political pollster/canvasser, sales person of any stripe, or person seeking charitable contributions or selling coupon books for charity. It means YOU. Truly. Just go away, please.
    If you must open a gate to get to the door, close it behind you, and also when you leave.
    If you are lost, you may go up to the door and knock to find out where you are, but if nobody’s home, don’t sit on the porch trying to make your mobile phone give you an area map. Back to the street.
    If you have stopped to see a friend, and nobody’s home, call and verify the address before sitting down to wait. Hearing the phone ring inside is a good clue you are in the right place. It is better to wait in your car, and best to call before driving by. If you were expected and nobody’s home, chances are you are in the wrong place. Especially of you can’t hear the phone ring inside, assuming you are calling a landline. If the person has a mobile, call them on it!

    These are some guidelines for the clueless, lost, general pedestrians, or workers inhabiting my neighborhood. I am sure there are many more. Most of the people mentioned as suspicious by prior posters were probably actually clueless, intoxicated, and perhaps not too bright. Occam’s razor. Given how suspicious amd cautious the people responding seem, I suggest we all need to follow these kinds of guidelines to avoid having the cops called on us.

  • Sugaryfun October 5, 2012, 6:01 pm

    I agree with Lady L., be careful and make sure to lock up!

    Reminds me of when we had just moved in to our current home and found a guy in our front yard at 11pm pulling a plant. When confronted he said he was looking for the previous owner. My husband told him to clear off or we’d call the police (which we did anyway).

  • Cat Whisperer October 5, 2012, 8:00 pm

    B, I don’t mind giving people persimmons if they knock on the door and ask permission. I’m happy to share. But the people who come onto my yard without permission and pull persimmons off the tree don’t seem to care if they damage the tree. I’ve seen trespassers pull whole branches off the tree, just break them, and that really makes me mad. They’re damaging they trees!

    I was taught that taking things out of other people’s yards was stealing. Flowers, fruit, whatever, if it’s in some else’s yard, you don’t touch it without permission. Why is that so hard for people to understand? Why is that so hard for people to teach their kids?

    We even had a period years ago where someone was stealing the newspaper out of our front yard. I finally caught the guy, who muttered something about thinking it was an extra and our house was empty. I told him that if I caught him at it again, I’d call the police. Our paper was safe after that.

  • Beat.Your.Heart.Out October 5, 2012, 10:08 pm

    @ Lady L & barb:

    I didn’t know that criminals casing a house they plan to rob take breaks to lounge on garden furniture and send texts in full view of the road.

  • sv October 6, 2012, 11:16 am

    OP – this guy sounds shady in the extreme. I think you handled it very well and am glad you called the police, even if they can’t make a formal report. But here’s a funny story : My husband and I were looking at buying a house, and one that we were interested in was having an Open House. On impulse we decided to stop in. I have been to many Open Houses before and generally you walk in, the realtor greets you & gives you the specs, and then you look around. I opened the door and went inside only to find someone vacuuming. It was just barely the start time ( I think it was 2:10 pm, and the Open House was supposed to start at 2) so I immediately assumed they were running a little late. Trying to fix any awkwardness I said lightly, ” Oh, are we early for the Open House? Should we come back? ” And then I had a real look around. No realtor, kids playing in the other room, dog in the kitchen. I had the day wrong and literally just walked into this stranger’s living room as if I owned it. To say I was mortified and stumbling over myself to apologise doesn’t even come close – I was far to embarassed to ever go back 🙂

  • Jaxsue October 7, 2012, 10:42 am

    I’d be creeped out, too. We have our “spaces” that, when violated, raise red flags. This is a huge red flag!

    I used to own a lakefront home in Central Florida. This was a lake that was 100% privately owned (no public beaches) . I once arrived at the house only to find that someone had used my private beach; I found cig butts in the sand, as well as other trash, and my neighbors’ beach chairs had been pulled over to my property. Needless to say, I felt violated.

    I doubt it was the neighbors who did this, as it was the only time it happened (and they were not smokers). And they had a sandy beach, whereas I only had grass. I think it was someone who saw that no one was home and made themselves comfortable. I was not happy!

  • Cat Whisperer October 7, 2012, 11:51 pm

    Beat.Your.Heart.Out, our house was burglarized in January 1990. At the time, we didn’t know our neighbors well, and they didn’t know us.

    We got home from work around 6:00 PM, and our house had been gutted. And I mean everything that had a street value of even a few dollars was stolen: stereo equipment, CD’s, jewelry, my husband’s Lionel trains, clothing, radios, more stuff than I care to remember.

    When we called the police, and the police went around talking to the neighbors, we found out that the burglars had been in our house for more than 4 hours; they had parked their truck in the driveway, in plain view of the entire block; they had been seen carrying out black trash bags that were filled with our stuff, and they had made no attempt to hide themselves. They were seen by at least six neighbors while they were here.

    Our neighbors told the police that they had assumed that the two burglars had a right to be there because they made no attempt to be stealthy or to conceal what they were doing. They thought the men might have been gardeners, since they came around from the back of the house with some of the bags, or they might have been contractors of some kind. Every single one of the neighbors who saw them got a good enough look to identify them from mug shots they were shown later on. One of the neighbors said he’d thought about writing down the license plate of the truck, but he just decided that the burglars must have a valid reason for being there, or they wouldn’t have been in plain sight and wouldn’t have stayed so long. (The burglars made four long distance phone calls to Mexico from our phone, but that’s another story.)

    We learned more than we ever wanted to about burglars and residential burglaries. And one of the things we learned: burglars do not go sneaking around, they don’t usually try to hide themselves, they behave like they have every right to be there because they don’t want to excite suspicion by the way they behave. Our burglary was unusual only in how long they were here.

    I think it’s at least possible that the guy OP saw might have been keeping watch while a partner or partners either cased a different house that was visible from OP’s front porch, or actually broke into a house that was visible from OP’s front porch. It would be interesting to know if any of the houses within sight of OP’s front porch had a break-in that day.

    What the guy may have been doing was letting his partner(s) know if there was any activity that the partner(s) needed to be aware of. OP shows up, Porch Guy makes his excuses and walks away fast, probably texting his partner(s) to finish what they were doing and get out of the neighborhood.

  • VR518 October 8, 2012, 12:44 pm

    That’s awful, Cat. Did the police make any arrests, and did you get anything back? I think it’s strange that none one of the neighbors was suspicious enough to watch these people closely and take note of the license plate number. Gardeners would have gardening equipment out, like a tractor, hedge clippers, water hose, etc. They would be seen taking them out, using them, and/or leaving them on the driveway. They would have left the truck door open if they stored their equipment there and were going in and out to retrieve things, which is what I have seen construction workers and landscapers do.

  • Original Poster October 8, 2012, 3:27 pm

    That’s terrible, Cat! Your neighbors weren’t very observant or they were overly cautious or possibly afraid of making a mistake.

    I don’t think there were any break-ins in my neighborhood. No one else but Porch Guy was around, and my patio area isn’t that good of a look-out area. My home is what would be the fourth leg of a four-way intersection. I can see down that street, but not the houses very well. I have a TINY front yard with a huge shade tree, my house on one side, my neighbor’s fence on the other side. The patio is nice place to just sit, read a book, relax, but not to do much people-watching. That was a very good question.

    Funny story about the kind of neighbors you DO want. Many years ago (I was about 13 at the time), my sister had my brother over to help her with something (I forgot what, not important). He got there, but she had to dash to the store for something they needed, and he had to wait. While he was waiting, he opened the garage door (not locked) and one of the neighbors called the police.

    I found out about this because I picked up the phone and found a cop on the other end asking me if Brother was my brother and if Sister lived there. I said yes, and I didn’t keep the “Who are you and what’s this about” out of my voice. Then the cop told me the story. My brother would have been arrested if I hadn’t confirmed his identity. Brother told me later that while he was waiting for the end of the phone call, he was hoping I wasn’t mad at him for something and say no. (I’d never do that.)

  • Beat.Your.Heart.Out October 8, 2012, 9:33 pm

    @ Cat,
    That’s awful. Were the guys ever caught?

  • Cat Whisperer October 9, 2012, 1:30 am

    Yes, the burglars were caught. It was kind of a funny story.

    When we had the police come out after out burglary, they were discouraging, to say the least, about the possibility of anyone ever being arrested and charged with the crime. If I remember correctly, the figure the detective who was assigned our case gave was that less than 10 percent of all residential burglaries were ever resolved by a conviction of a suspect.

    The police came out and did fingerprinting, and we found that it isn’t at all like on CSI shows: most surfaces don’t hold fingerprints very well at all, and it’s very rare for useful fingerprints to be collected. The police also took descriptions of the burglars from the neighbors who saw them. Two Latino males in their 20’s, average height, weight, average everything, wearing bluejeans and tee shirts. Average average average average.

    After about three weeks, we’d pretty much resigned ourselves to never having the case solved. Then we got home from work one day, and we had our first phone bill since the burglary.

    My husband is a stickler for bills and he goes over every item. Lucky for us. He was reviewing the phone bill and I saw his eyes get big and his hands started to shake. “Look at this. LOOK AT THIS!!!!” he told me, and showed me the bill.

    Lo and behold, there were four phone calls to Mexico, all placed on the date of the burglary and at the time the burglars were reported by neighbors to have been here.

    We literally ran to the car and drove to the sheriff’s station, which is just a few blocks away, to show the bill to the detective who was working our case. We showed him the bill, pointed out the calls to Mexico, and asked him if that would help.

    He broke out into a huge grin, called one of the other detectives over, and said one word: “Unbelievable!” He asked us to leave the bill with him, which we did.

    The next day, our neighbors told us that the detectives had been to see them and had shown them a photo line-up. They told us that they had recognized two people in the line-up.

    The day after that, we got a call from the detective: both the burglars were in custody.

    Long story short, here’s what had happened after we left the detective with the phone bill. He’d had a Spanish-speaking officer call the numbers on the bills, and this officer had been able to get the name of the person who had made the calls and the other guy who had been with him when they were in our house. Once they had names, they ran the names, and the guys each had several prior arrests and had mug shots on file. The sheriffs then took the mug shots, made a photo line-up, and went to go see the neighbors.

    Incredibly, the people the Spanish-speaking detective had talked to had told him where to find one of the guys. The sheriffs went to that location and picked that guy up.

    The other guy, ironically, was already in custody of the LAPD for a burglary unrelated to our burglary.

    They charged the guy they’d just picked up with our burglary. The other guy had 26 counts of residential burglary pending against him, and a decision was made by the DA or someone to not charge him with our burglary. But the detective who worked our case went to see him in jail, and the guy admitted to the burglary. (“Yeah, I was there, [expletive]. What the [expletive] are you going to do about it?” as transalated from Spanish, is what the detective told us the guy actually said.) Since adding our case wouldn’t have added anything to the charges the guy was already facing and the proof in the other cases was more compelling, they omitted charging him with our case.

    The guy who was charged with our burglary pleaded out to one count of residential burglary. That’s when we learned that in an uncomplicated case of residential burglary, the maximum penalty at the time was 8 years; with time served prior to pleading out, good behavior, etc., the detective estimated that the guy would probably serve between three and four years. The other guy, because of the multiple charges against him, would probably draw a sentence of 12-20 years, and would probably serve a bit less than half of what he was sentenced to.

    My husband spoke at the guy’s sentencing hearing, and the judge was apologetic about being unable to impose a longer sentence. My husband pointed out that it had taken us longer to earn the money to buy the things that were stolen than the burglar would serve in prison for stealing them. Didn’t matter, the judge said. He could only impose a sentence of 8 years.

    Since both burglars were in the USA illegally, they were supposed to be deported to Mexico, where they had come from, upon completion of their sentence. (The detective was very cynical about that. He told us they’d both be back here within 6 months after being deported, if not sooner.)

    Both of the burglars had prior drug convictions, and the detective told us that they had been burglarizing a house every three or four days in order to pay for their drug habits.

    I asked the detective why in the name of little green apples the one guy had made phone calls from our phone, knowing that the numbers would appear on our phone bill. The detective told me that the guy was the younger of the two (he had just turned 20), and had come from a very poor area of rural Mexico, where it was unlikely he’d ever seen a phone bill. So he probably didn’t realize that we’d get a print-out with the number on it.

    We didn’t get any of our stolen property back. The detective told us that the burglars went directly from our house to an intermediary, who probably gave them a nickel on the dollar for what the stuff was worth. So within hours of the burglary, our belongings were already scattered to the four winds. People who need money for drugs turn stolen property over really fast.

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