Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ring The Alarm

I don't want to scare you, but I'm alarmed. Alarmed enough to share a few real life true crime horror stories with you. Don't worry, there's still a musical connection to today's Mistress of the Mix. In fact, this playlist is a progressive story all on its own (that unfortunately seems to end too many times with "Catch & Release").

A few weeks ago I went to a friend's afternoon wedding. It was lovely. Two best friends who met over their mutual addiction affection for World of Warcraft, who now get to spend the rest of their lives together. If you'd seen the look on the groom's face when he finally got to hold his bride's hand after she walked up the aisle. The most adorable, infectious, ear to ear smile, like he'd just won the lottery. I wonder what kind of look he had on his face when he carried his wife across the threshold that evening, only to realize that while they were exchanging vows, someone had smashed through their front door and burglarized their home? Stolen were the bride's clarinet, a library book (WTF?) several wedding gifts and the X-Box that ignited their love.

Another couple who attended that same wedding returned to their house to discover they had also been robbed. You may have heard about this burglary, because the victims had invested in a video surveillance system which caught two women in the act. The video shows them entering the yard, getting into an altercation with the dog, putting on rubber gloves, pulling off window screens, and climbing into the home, somehow not noticing the cameras trained directly on their faces. The victims posted the video on Facebook, got it on the tv news, and the next day at least one of the thieves was apprehended while trying to pawn some of the stolen jewelry. Meanwhile, the bride told me that she wasn't the only person in the area who had her home broken into while saying her vows on the very same day. Brides are being targeted. Maybe through newspaper notices, maybe through bridal registries, maybe through Facebook.  We don't know. What we do know is that people are getting so desperate that nothing's off limits. You're getting married? We know where you'll be for a few hours! A loved one has passed and you attend the funeral to say your last goodbyes? Thanks for leaving the house, don't come back too soon! You're a tax paying, contributing member of society who goes to work every day and leaves your house completely unattended? SUCKA!

So what are ya gonna do? Not go to work? Not attend functions? Not let anyone know that you're getting married? Not have a life?

I'll tell you what I did after I discovered someone casing my house earlier this year - a woman who's had her photo on Shasta Mugshots 14 times in the past year and a half for crimes like burglary, posession of burglary tools and lurking - I got the neighborhood together, and we started talking. We've got cameras. We're picking up each other's newspapers. We're communicating and looking out for one another.

A couple of days ago I sat down with a couple of Redding cops, and asked them what's the best thing we all can do to minimize our chances of being victimized, and it wasn't hard at all for them to come up with a quick answer. They said the best deterrent, hands down, is an audible alarm system. If an intruder breaks a window or enters the home while an alarm system is hooked up, the police say the criminal will most likely spend less than a minute in the home looking for drugs, jewelry and cash or checks before taking off, instead of taking their time. Let me tell you what happens when they take their time.

Simpson University's Cathy Giacomelli went shopping one Sunday afternoon, while the rest of the family was out doing family stuff. While they were out, a guy who'd already been arrested and released twice in the 48 hours prior entered their backyard, swam in their pool, fought with their dog, then went into the house where he snacked on some fruit, drank a beer, took a shower, dressed in Mr. Giacomelli's clothing, grabbed his fishing license, and the keys to his company car, and took off. With the car. He took a few high speed laps around the neighborhood before the police apprehended him. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after 3 months and returned to Redding.

None of this was a surprise to Dan Londen, sales manager for Precision Alarm. He agreed with everything the cops said, and added one item to the shopping list most thieves seem to have these days - weapons. He says besides having a working alarm system, keeping your valuables in a safe that's bolted to the floor is the best way to keep your guns and valuables, well, safe. (Full disclosure: I've been a client of Precision Alarm for more than 10 years, and I like 'em).

I called Dan because I wanted to know what kind of investment you might be looking at to follow the advice of our city's best experts in crime and punishment. He told me that there's a few different ways to approach having an alarm. "Starter systems can be had for the low hundreds," if you want to buy your own, says Londen. Monitoring the system will cost less than a dollar a day, about $25/month. You can also lease a system through an alarm company, which basically spreads the cost of the system across the monthly monitoring fee, starting at about $40/month.

The good news is that if you invest in some type of alarm system, you can save on your monthly home insurance premium. I called my friend and Farmer's Insurance agent Sal Azevedo to ask him how much it would save. He said between 5-10%, more if the alarm is directly monitored by not only an alarm company, but the fire department as well. Sal also had a few more great tips for homeowners to protect themselves against burglary. "Most burglars aren't smart enough to drive to Chico, but they're not selling your tv at the flea market, they'll take it down to the pawn shop. So keep an inventory. Take digital pictures of your valuables, and store them online or on a cd. And write down serial numbers." Sal says if you do this, there's a good chance you'll get your stuff back. "And get to know your neighbors. Make sure you all have each other's cell phone numbers so you can watch out for each other and get in touch."

Which reminds me of another story. Some very good friends of mine in Seattle went to work one day, and came back home to find that their house had been completely emptied out. I'm not exaggerating. Somebody backed a moving van into their driveway, and removed everything from their home. TVs, stereos, furniture, clothing. Everything. The neighbors saw the whole thing go down, and just assumed the family was moving. Nobody called the police.

Well, today I'm ringing the alarm. I just hate to see my friends violated, and I hate the thought that there are people out there making it their mission to try to destroy what's supposed to be the happiest day of a couple's life together, although getting your home broken into is a violation that would ruin anybody's day. And I hope it never happens to you. This playlist is for you Kandis & Steven, Abby & Robby, Mike & Delynda and the Giacomelli's.

  1. Ring The Alarm - Beyonce
  2. Crime & Punishment - Jon Levine
  3. Criminal - Britney Spears
  4. She's A Burglar - Freddie King
  5. Carjack - Gary Myrick
  6. Bank Robber - Clash
  7. Misdemeanor - Whitney Houston
  8. Thief's Theme - Nas
  9. Bad Boys - Inner Circle
  10. Cops - Slightly Stoopid
  11. To Catch A Thief - Lovage
  12. Watching The Detectives - Elvis Costello
  13. Get Myself Arrested - Gomez
  14. Police Truck - Dead Kennedys
  15. Jail - Beyonce
  16. Jail House Rock - Elvis Presley
  17. Jail House Blues - Ella Fitzgerald
  18. Jail - Richard Pryor
  19. Jail - Fat Boys
  20. Catch & Release - Silversun Pickups
  21. Out of Jail - Waylon Jennings
  22. I Fought The Law - The Clash
  23. Innocent, Not Guilty - Garlnd Jeffreys
  24. I've Changed My Plea to Guilty - Morrissey
  25. The Jury - Morphine
  26. The Verdict - Joe Jackson
  27. Guilty - UB40
  28. Prison - Eek-A-Mouse
  29. Life In Prison - Merle Haggard
  30. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
  31. Prison Bound - Social Distortion
  32. Penitentiary - Citizen Cope
  33. Penitentiary - Bessie Tucker
  34. Riot In Cell Block #9 - Blues Brothers
  35. Death Row - David Allen Coe
  36. Oh Warden - David Allen Coe
  37. The Slammer - Wailing Souls
  38. Behind Bars - The Jayhawks
  39. Chain Gang - Sam Cooke
  40. Chain Gang - The Pretenders
  41. Probation - Buju Banton
  42. On Parole - Motorhead
  43. I've Changed - Chuck Berry

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