BY ANASTASIA CHOO
The Police informed me that the maximum amount of time you spent ransacking my home would have been ten minutes. Yet the carnage you left in my bedroom alone took the best part of three days – with very little sleep – to clear up. You turned every drawer upside down and pulled everything down from my wardrobes in your frenzied search for items of value that you could exchange for cash.
Initially I thought you were just opportunistic, especially as I had left the bedroom window open – not unusual in our neighbourhood where crime and burglaries are rare. Silly me, no amount of locking the windows or deadlocking the door would have prevented you from violating my home.
You brazenly entered through the front door mid-morning. I had no idea until I saw the ever so slightly distorted metal on the door frame when the forensic officer arrived. Perhaps I should thank you for your professionalism – limited damage to property and no prints left anywhere apart from the bottle of Cognac which you abandoned with the laptop. I wonder what made you change your mind, perhaps you were disturbed or got a warning from your accomplice waiting in the car around the corner – a neighbour saw you dash into this car and speed off.
How long had you been prowling our peaceful cul-de-sac and observing my movements to know that your window of opportunity on a Monday is when I leave for the gym and return at lunch time?
You would have seen my kids’ smiling faces in the photos sitting on top of the chest of drawers that you emptied. Did you not feel any shame or guilt when you emptied the box containing their christening and birthday jewellery? It would have been less painful if you just took the whole box but instead you taunt me by leaving the empty gift boxes strewn across the bedroom floor.
You’ve taken away items that were a tangible timeline from a rich and textured family history. The pouch of gold coins and rings that my husband’s Grandmother left him, took many years of scrimping and saving to collect. She became a single parent after World War II and worked two jobs to send his Father to private school. Forever haunted by the hardships of war, she invested whatever money she had in gold coins.
You have no idea how much distress you have caused and I’d find it easier to forgive you if you were just an opportunistic thief and saw the open window or that you’re a desperate addict in need of the next drug fix. But I know from the forensic officer that three of you worked on three areas of my home. The choice of the items taken and the audacious entry through the front door, whereby you gave the impression to another neighbour that you were workmen, indicates this was carefully planned.
No doubt you have moved on to the next victim on your “To Do Over List” not thinking for one second about the consequences of your despicable actions. You have left me riding a roller coaster of emotions from sadness at the loss of the stolen items, anger with myself for not placing these valuables in a safe, then fear that my home and sanctuary has been invaded. Your breach of my line of defence has caused me much distress and anxiety – however, I hope writing this letter finally allows me to put closure on the matter and I can overcome this fear. I will no longer allow your shameless actions to affect me or take up any more space in my mind. This has brought me and my family closer together, created a much stronger neighbourhood bond and has taught me to be even more thankful for what I have.
I wrote this letter nearly two months ago at my most emotional point yet did not feel ready to have it published. The Police investigating my case have been very supportive and sympathetic, but they confirmed the chances of catching these thieves is very slim when resources are so stretched.
The rise in crime in England and Wales has accelerated according to police figures, which show a 14% year-on-year increase in offences recorded by forces across England and Wales. I appreciate a domestic burglary is not as serious an offence as knife crime which has risen by 21% in past 12 months and gun crime which has risen by 20% based on figures released in January 2018. However, there has been a 32% rise in domestic burglary to 261,965 reported offences and an 18% rise in vehicle-related crimes alongside the sharp rises in violent crime; this surely marks a turning point after more than 20 years of sustained falls in these categories.
Our new Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signalled a departure from the Conservative’s past approach to the police, claiming he will secure more funding to reflect the increased demands on them. They are dealing with more complex crime, more safeguarding and protecting vulnerable people and an unprecedented terror threat as well as an increase in the above-mentioned crimes.
Whilst burglaries wouldn’t be considered a high priority crime, my worry is that when police forces are so stretched and it’s common for burglary incidents to go unresolved, professional thieves feel empowered and see this as an easy crime that can go unpunished. We need to move away from the thinking that insurance policies will cover the losses as this never compensates the sentimental loss. Furthermore, pawn shops and cash for gold establishments need scrutinising as they are providing these thieves with a channel for their stolen goods. Ultimately the issue here is lack of funding for an overstretched police force to investigate burglaries – Sajid Javid I hope you keep your promise.