Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

August 27, 2010 -- 12:20 p.m.

Since I did my week's book review on Weds (yes, now that my vacations are over, I'm going to try and be better about the blog schedule), I figured today would be a whatever today.

This whatever is that there are burglars prowling my neighborhood. They've hit two houses in the area in the past two weeks or so. As far as gossip can be trusted, they are a man and a woman team in a truck and trailer who apparently watch houses for a while before breaking in. They're smokers--unusual enough to stand out, in my neighborhood--and are dumb enough to leave cigarette butts inside the houses they rob, so with luck, the police will be able to use DNA to identify them.

However, these aren't your ordinary smash and grab thieves. They apparently have some kind of device that can grab the access code off automatic garage door openers. So they watch a house to determine when nobody's home, use their device to trigger the code to open the garage door, bring their trailer inside and then load up on electronic stuff and drive away. No having to carry expensive electronics out in plain sight, or anything like that. Relatively low risk, unfortunately.

A couple of my friends from Oregon were robbed a few years ago. Even though they got most of their stuff back, they're still traumatized. Homes are a place of safety for most people. Even though we logically understand that this safety is an illusion, when that illusion is stripped away, it hurts people deeply. There was a show a few years ago on Discovery, I think called "To Catch a Thief" that showed people how thieves would break into their houses so they'd get better security stuff. I found the show morally questionable because I worried it taught more people how to burglarize than how to defend themselves, and also because it focused on suburbanites who lived in areas where burglaries were usually as frequent as a rain of mashed potatoes. Fear-mongering, pure and simple.

But getting back to the point: Anyway, the people I live with expressed worry, but I told them I thought we were reasonably safe given the burglars' modus operendi (no house is completely safe, but in this case it's one of those, I-don't-have-run-faster-than-the-bear, just-faster-than-you situations, so we just have to look less appealing than the house next door). There are a lot of reasons our house is a bad place to hit. Our movements are not very predictable and my car's almost always in the driveway, so it makes an efficient decoy. We're also located at the top of a hill, making it both visible from below but and hard to see down at the same time. If you have a lookout stationed at the top of the hill, you're only get a few seconds of warning, and you aren't going to do much better if you station watchers at the junctions of the nearby streets because there are so many of them. There's just not a good way to watch all the methods of approaching the house, while remaining out of sight yourself at the same time.

Anyway, I found it strange that my subconscious had already started planning how to rob my own house, enough that I could explain why it was a bad idea. I wonder if it's just writers who do that, or everyone. I love reading about heists (low tech and high tech) and complicated assassination plans (Day of the Jackal was awesome), not because I plan to rob or kill anyone, but because they're interesting puzzles. When I went to a campaign stop by a Presidential candidate once, I thought, "How would I bypass security? How would I kill this candidate? Could I get away with it?"

That's why I've watched the news stories around dead spy Gareth Williams with such interest. Because there's a part of me that thinks what if I were a counter-spy and wanted not just to kill him, but to completely impugn his good name, how would I do it? After all, if you give police a lurid answer that nobody wants to look into that closely, it would be a good way to chase people off the scent, right?

Well, just because occam's razor usually works in real life doesn't mean it works in fiction.

Maybe I think about this stuff because I have a naturally criminal mind, but also because it's interesting, pitting my intelligence against theirs. In everyday life, I will try to plan terrorist missions and put limits my budget and my means, trying to figure out what will cause the maximum effect with the minimum commitment of resources. Some times, I frighten myself with how easy some of the things I think of could be. Good thing I'm on the right side. And I guess I'll be an invaluable asset to the resistance movement when the Canadians invade.

Does everyone do this, or am I just crazy?

PS: Yes, of course I've figured out the best way to rob my own house. No, of course I'm not dumb enough to post it on the internet.


  1. Lee Ann Setzer said...

    The world is just fortunate you chose a life of fiction, not crime.

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