It was a shock, of course. Having one’s house broken into is never a pleasant thing; there are feelings of vulnerability and invasion added to the fire of anger. For some, especially single women, a break in can have a very chilling effect on security when home is supposed to be a place of safety and comfort. When she saw the mess, glass from the broken window and the living room in tatters she knew she’d been violated. Throughout the house things were in disarray: kitched drawers and cabinets open and their contents spilled to the floor. In the bedroom, the bedsheets were torn and the bed was in pieces. Her dresser drawers open and void. Her closets were emptied and all had been done with no gentleness at all. The scope of the damage took her breath away.
Ever since the budget cuts of 2011, no one had been able to call the police about crimes against property. Even before that, it had become less and less often the police would respond to a burglary call, at that, usually only if the perpetrator was still on the premisis. People all over the city and the suburbs had had to resort to personal security for any protection against the element taking broad advantage of police disinterest. A school teacher, she only made about $40,000 a year, and with the house payments and other costs as a single parent of two young children made her budget uncomfortably tight. She simply couldn’t afford the thousand dollar a month packages for a serious alarm system and armed response, and surely couldn’t afford the very expensive personal monitoring and protection the more affluent could afford. Like so many others, she had purchased stickers which falsely stated the home was protected and hoped that her door locks would round out into reasonable safety from invasion. But that’s not how it went.
She felt like ice was running through her veins when she thought “What if I or the children had been home when the intruder came?” She shuddered and shook her head to clear the image forming in her mind. It was too ugly to consider. But those were the risks, and that was the problem with governing a city by budget more than common sense. It had opened a lucrative security business for many, and of them, many were not really the sort one would want handling their security. But as the expression goes, what the customer don’t know, can’t hurt them. Except it did and does. Actually, a small economic boom came from the change in police focus. Personal emergency transmitters, security enhanced cell phones, and a dazzling array of home security devices appeared on the shelves from the pawn shops to Best Buy, WalMart and other major retailers. ID cards and RFID embedded keyfobs flourished as the digital age fully overtook the lock business. Just this one single change in what was and wasn’t enforced by the police turned out to create a small economic heyday, at least for a while. Looking back over the five years since that first change in police direction had led to other areas of the law to go unprotected as well, as budgets continued to tighten. In another five years, at the rate things had gone, the idea of police would be obsolete for the average citizen. Their lot would be cast to private security or no security at all. The only good news there would be a reduction in the less affluent members of the economic classes.
Of course, people wondered how it came to be this way in the first place. Taxes were supposed to be paying for community first response services, yet now people were having ro pick up the tab whenever an ambulance, fire fighters or personal security was needed. Some asserted that it was the city funding things it had no business funding, and involving itself in investment strategies which not only failed to produce revenues, but placed the city in considerable ongoing debt. Inflation and national and international financial woes further drained the coffers to the point that many felt that the only thing their taxes were paying for was the salaries of the council. mayor’s office, and a few cherished department managers. Lord knows, no one was benefitting from the taxes they paid.
In the end, all she could do was tidy up the house. She called a glass smith and had her broken window fixed, she mopped up the spoiled foods and fluids the intruder had smeared everywhere. She laundered cloth items and washed everything else as best she could. Torn and ruined items were stuffed in trash bags and placed for pickup, garbage another of the many things she had to account for in her meager budget.. It took hours, but finally she was done. So many things were lost to her and her children. The television and computer were gone, along with the game console and even the family microwave. Her camera and video were gone and so were the girl’s bicycles. Fortunately, they had missed the hiding spot where she kept her important jewelry. But she’d managed to clean up before her daughters came home, trying to minimize the emotional damage this incident would have on them.
She was feeling a little better, having had the time go by and her mind focused on the tasks at hand. But as she rested in bed that night, exhausted by the day, she realized the she had not seen the spare house key hanging on its hook in the front hallway. She rose quickly and pulled on slippers before moving quickly down the stairs. Sure enough, the hook was empty. That was when she heard the noise behind her and then felt the hand slip over her mouth.