home security

risky business

Posted on Updated on

The G.O. has changed his nickname for our Sydney apartment from “the kennel” to “San Quentin“. After 11 years of city-fringe/Inner West residency the fine balance between good sense and good fortune tipped…

We make reasonable efforts to keep ourselves and our possessions safe without espousing fear and paranoia. Neither in the city or at Taylors Arm are were we slaves to locked doors. The external climb onto our balcony would take deliberate agile effort and timing; encountering the G.O. in particular (although I’m no wooss either) would be inadvisable.

And yep, we’re idiots but we’re idiots who know the risks and live according to what we believe. We got off lightly and learned a few lessons. As I recently commented to ChgoJohn about stayin’ alive “The Fates are kind but I think they expect us to learn from our experiences too”.

Halloween Friday night in Sydney was hot. Not that it makes much difference, when we’re home our balcony door is usually open. Always has been in this apartment and the previous. When living space is small and lacking any other windows, unless the weather is freezing or boiling you want to embrace the outdoors.

After a long working week we went to bed early, around 9.30 pm, the balcony door adjacent to the bedroom wide open. Saturday morning as usual I woke an hour before the G.O. who’d given himself the day off work, and spent it pleasantly reading & responding to blog posts. When the G.O. offered to make me coffee in bed I happily accepted. Just before 9 am I reciprocated by going to make second coffees.

It was only then the glaring absence of my distinctive bright blue handbag from its customary place on the kitchen chair was apparent. “Where’s my bag?” I uselessly asked the G.O. We looked at each other suspecting in our hearts the answer but not wanting to admit it yet.

In case I’d sleep walked and moved it, or we’d been visited by mischievous gremlins, we twice searched every nook of the apartment, which given its snugness didn’t take long. I logged on and checked bank accounts. No transactions. But, no bag either.

We swigged cooled coffees and each set off in different directions scouring neighbourhood gutters, parks, bins, front yards and railway lines. It’s not a small bag and I suspected it would be dumped sooner rather than later. No luck.

I checked the bank transactions again. Nothing. Good. I called Newtown Police; a bright blue non-leather hand bag hadn’t been handed in but they made a note, and advised me to call the Police Assistance Line. Before I did, I called the bank and cancelled my debit & credit cards.

That process was familiar as I’d cancelled the credit card a month ago after an attempt to use its details in London, where the wise ol’ bank knew I wasn’t! While on hold I began a list of handbag contents… dear me, I carry around a lot of stuff… I continued the list while I was on hold for the Police Assistance Line, where I talked to Bronwyn, a real and helpful person, who logged details and said local police would be around as soon as they were free.

We waited. I added a few more items to the list, cancelled my office access pass and Opal prepaid travel card. It was too hot to go outside anyway, although the G.O. did to walk, smoke and fume. I could see he was angry. He’d been up, as is his custom, twice during the night and hadn’t had the luck to run into the opportunist who’d helped themself to my bag… walking within a few metres of us. Having faith in the world is a risky business, but the risk goes both ways.

Before the police could arrive, at about 2 pm the G.O.’s phone rang from a private number, and a woman’s voice asked if he knew someone who’d lost a handbag. My hunch it would be handed in was realised. Christine found it in a laneway garden 3 blocks further on than I’d searched, with the G.O.’s emergency contact details in my wallet. Comparing notes we ascertained all main contents were intact except for $150 cash. She’d notified Newtown Police who were sending a car to collect it.

When the police arrived just before 4 pm, they didn’t have my handbag… ah, but they were from Redfern, the L.A.C. area where the crime occurred, the bag had been found in Newtown area. They called Newtown Police and anyway the bag was being held for forensic testing. The two policemen were friendly, efficient and didn’t make us feel stupid. They said known local offenders were monkey-like in their climbing and leaping agility, and our experience was the same as another recent stealing… although they took my handbag, the thief didn’t take our mobile phones, the G.O.’s wallet or the Ultrabook computer all of which were nearby, or the credit cards from my wallet.

Nothing else to do but our original plan to go into the city for dinner (the G.O. paid…) where with lucky timing we saw the fireworks display over Darling Harbour. Life goes on.

BlueOn Sunday right on 9 am my phone rang, the forensics officer 10 minutes away. He too was personable, and he did call us foolish but kindly as he too has been the victim of theft… while he coated the balcony railing with finger print dust. No finger prints but shoe prints across a neighbour’s balcony railing the acrobatic thief accessed via scaling an external wall led onto ours. He advised my handbag would be released, being found in a public place and rummaged through, any evidence was compromised.

Liberated from Newtown Police Station the contents of my handbag painted a curious picture. As well as the cash, also missing were: an unopened box of mints; nail clippers & file; earphones; tin of cat food; and Opal prepaid travel card. Of note, intact were: designer sunglasses (although with prescription lenses any wearer of normal vision would have gone whoa, bad drugs man…); Mont Blanc pen; 2 sets spare car keys; 4 x memory sticks of photos and personal info; umbrella; writing notebook; eco satchel-pouch; office pass; “drug bag” of headache, hay fever & cold tablets, etc; 3 x tinted lip balms (which I regularly lose, replace, find); all cards, drivers license and sundry wallet contents including my lucky shopping trolley dollar.

All cancelled cards have now been reinstated and we’ve reluctantly, sensibly embraced a locked door regime.

What we learned:
lock up;
bright colour inexpensive non-leather handbags have the dual benefit of being visible but less desirable to others;
local police (despite graffiti and paste-ups alleging the contrary) are good guys;
contact details on valuables are useful;
cull non-necessary handbag contents;
sense of humour and positive perspective will get you through almost anything;
there’s always someone worse off;
we hate being prisoners in our own home.

San Quentin, what good do you think you do?
Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through?
You bent my heart and mind and you may my soul,
And your stone walls turn my blood a little cold.”

San Quentin, Johnny Cash