In which your humble author foils a robbery in his own home in daylight

It was the end of another late summer day. My wife was in the kitchen. I was working on my computer. And I heard somebody call.

No knock. Just a call.

Couldn’t locate the sound. I went into the hallway to discover a large gentleman with his head through the back door, apparently on his way into the house. We’d been going in and out earlier, it wasn’t locked.

I confronted him at the door. At 182 cm I’m not short – but he was at least 10-12 cm taller than me, complete with shaved head and massive build to go with his height – 120 kg at least. Not someone to mess with. And I’d caught him trying to enter my house.

He looked at me.

‘Do you use that car?’ he said without preamble, pointing to my car. ‘Do you use it?’

‘I don’t know who you are,’ I replied.

‘I buy cars for others.’ No name, of course.

My car’s 23 years old and obscured from the street by a high gate, which this guy had opened, whereas my wife’s vehicle was in full view in the drive. And I’d stopped him coming in.

I knew what he was really up to. He knew I knew, too.

From http://public-domain.zorger.comPeople get hurt in these moments – the intruder doesn’t care. I’ve had training in hand-to-hand combat – which told me the chances of stopping someone this big if he attacked me were low. But my wife was in the house. So I stood my ground and applied Lesson No. 1 – talk politely and play the game.

‘Car’s not for sale,’ I said. And asked him to leave, politely. I wasn’t sure it would work, but after some tense words, he turned and left, abusing me as he departed.

By the time I got to the street the light truck he’d parked part-obstructing our drive was half way down the road. I couldn’t get the number.

The police arrived within 90 seconds of my call. It was then I discovered I wasn’t able to give a detail description of the interloper’s clothes. I realised I’d been too busy looking at his face – the eyes betray intent.

All this happened in full daylight, around 5.30 pm, in a quiet residential street.

I could ask, rhetorically, what society is coming to – but I already know. And it’s sad.

Your thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

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42 comments on “In which your humble author foils a robbery in his own home in daylight

  1. Wow. Way to go, first off. Today you’re officially my hero. Second, I’m very relieved for you and She Who Must Be Obeyed and all your stuff. It IS very sad. Sad enough enough if you were here in a US city. Very sad to me in my little bursting bubble that this happens in New Zealand.

    • Thank you. Yes, sadly, NZ has not escaped the global trend towards a less caring society – there is far too much of ‘what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine’ going on. I was less worried about our stuff, or my own safety, than i was about my wife’s safety, and all I could really do was stand the guy down and call his bluff.

  2. Every response needs to be thought out… but we are human and the protective instinct arises. Thank you for sharing.
    Susan

  3. Omigosh, Matthew, that’s incredible! Talk about BOLD…! When I lived in NZ, my Kiwi friends used to always say how you never needed to lock your doors (unlike the US), but I always did anyway. Even so…broad daylight is pretty brazen!

    • Yes, absolutely bold – though this is the way crimes have tended to go here of late. The no-door-lock notion was quite true, even into the 1980s and 1990s. The change, I think, is generational, and probably influenced by the ‘globalisation’ of our culture. There is a much more cynical attitude towards property and general care. I put it down to the impact of the two World Wars, which drew in around half the young men of two generations and create a sense of ‘brothership in arms’ that lasted through into the 1970s – until they became old. There was a sense of all being in it together, and people could trust others not to be criminals. But no longer, alas.

  4. stuartart says:

    Society is coming to what WE make it Matthew. Incidence like this are actually rare – count how many times something like this has happened to you for instance? The shock of this intrusion can make the mind plunge into defense, but it doesn’t have to. I was burgled twice in 6 weeks many years ago – never since. I was lucky, at the time I was broke, so all they got was a very old TV and my hoover! Ha! :)

    • It is, mercifully, indeed rare – though this was the second incident in three months. But still, over a lifetime, not so common. I haven’t let it get to me – it’s far from the worst thing that’s happened to me over the years. Nonetheless, it’s an indictment on the way that society is changing; these incidents simply didn’t happen at all when I was a kid, not like this.

      • stuartart says:

        The thing with incidents like these is that we only ‘really’ notice them when they happen to US. When it’s other people it seems distant – that’s why the News inoculates us from empathy. My Dad harps on about there being more ‘sicko’s’ in the world than when he was a kid. But are there really? Surely if we have double the population we’ll have double the sicko’s. With our ubiquitous News feeds these days we’re also subjected to more of it than before. If we look back without the rose tinted glasses I think we’ll find pro rata the same amount of crime happening as before.

        • Yes, absolutely – there are issues of perception and also ‘recency’ which distort our view of how these things are seen. However, I did a statistical study a few years back on crime rates; the 1990s rates in New Zealand, even corrected for population growth, were five times those of the 1930s. So I think that, on the basis of those number, there has certainly been a degradation of conduct over a generation or two. I am convinced the world wars had something to do with it, and the conscious ‘comradeship in arms’ that permeated mid-twentieth century society, now lost.

          • stuartart says:

            You could be on to something with that. Without a defined enemy we tend (as a society) to turn on each other. Certainly in some areas where population growth puts extreme pressure on locale and resources we might see abnormal spikes in crime rates. Maybe it’s delusional of me but I like to see the positive. :)

  5. Janice Spina says:

    Scary! I guess you have to keep your doors locked at all times. What is this world coming to? I remember when I was a little girl my mother never locked our doors. We would come and go all the time. We could trust our neighbors too. Salesmen came all the time but they were safe and even sat and talked over coffee. I wouldn’t do any of that today.

    • As a kid in Hawke’s Bay, I recall my parents could safely leave the doors unlocked. Not now. NZ is far from alone, of course, and it’s sad to think that people around the world have to bolt themselves into their own homes in order to stay safe.

  6. I’m not going to even enter the fray to try to pick apart problems with society/culture/education here! But well done for standing your ground… what a shit thing to have to deal with.

    • Thanks – and yes, it was. Not the worst thing I’ve had to deal with, and I guess we just cope as required with whatever happens; but it’s still disconcerting to have it right in your own home.

  7. Congratulations on keeping your head. I’m glad you and your wife are both unharmed. I do wonder why he called out. Most of his sort just enter, do their thing and leave. Have a pint on me.

    • Thank you – and I will. The call out is a standard tactic, at least here in NZ – if somebody’s home, they can pretend they were selling or buying something. And indeed, they usually come and go – my wife and I have heard stories of people discovering the back of their house had been entered without knowing. But not if they’re interrupted, and there are other unpleasant stories about that. It’s kind of sad in so many ways to think societies have come to this – for a long time, NZ thought it had escaped and was somehow friendlier, but that’s not so today.

  8. Eagle Tech says:

    It’s good you stood your ground. He was probably hoping to intimidate you with his size. He doesn’t want to get hurt any more than you do; he just wants to steal stuff. So when you didn’t let it go, his best choice was to leave.

    Theft in daylight isn’t all that new. He’s probably been casing your place for some time, realizing that at this particular time you’re usually away. Intent hasn’t changed for thousands of years. Only the method is new. Classic crooks steal at night because they are hard to be seen. But if operating when you aren’t expected to be stealing means no one interprets foul play, then the criminal is “still” not seen.

    • Yes, you’re right – and the fact that he hadn’t (quite) got into the house provided deniability of a sort. But another two seconds and he’d have been in. Daylight robbery is unfortunately a reality these days – and it’s the second one I’ve interrupted in three months. The earlier one involved me, barefoot and unarmed, chasing the miscreant over the back fence. I never got near him – he turned and ran too fast. He hadn’t got into the house, just stolen some stuff from the back yard, which he dropped. But I was kind of reluctant to try that tactic here, given the guy’s size. The worst of it is, my wife and I live in a thoroughly respectable and law-abiding neighbourhood – there are areas around the place that are known for their crime levels, but this is not one of them.

      • Eagle Tech says:

        Yeah, we’re seeing this here too. It kinda makes sense, though. A criminal can operate more easily where people aren’t expecting to be robbed. Unfortunately, this means you may have to upgrade your security a bit. A sad thing, really. You may want to keep a bat (perhaps a Cricket bat?) beside the door.

        • I would, but the chances are an intruder would use it on me, coming in… :-) Actually, I make sure there is nothing even remotely like a weapon in the house, largely because of the risk of it being used against me or my wife. Also, even sticks and bludgeons are illegal here – classed as ‘offensive weapons’, and you can be charged if you possess them, and charged if you use them even in self defence.

          I’ve thought my way through it – and it’s better to avoid all such things completely and to confront an intruder unarmed, without flinching. Means they don’t feel threatened. Also, they might be better than me at this sort of combat – and certainly more prepared – and it’s better not to find out the hard way.

  9. My thoughts? I’m going to have hubby actually teach me how to use the shotgun VERY SOON. Because at 5-foot-3-inches and not a bit overweight, I don’t stand a chance against a robber if I’m unarmed. O.O

    • My wife isn’t even 5’3″ – hence my decision to face down the interloper, as opposed to doing what we’re usually advised which is to let them do their thing and leave. Guns are not an option in New Zealand. I don’t have one (and won’t) – but in any event, even a licensed gun owner is committing an offence if they point a weapon at someone, loaded or not, for any reason (including self-defence). If they shoot an intruder, they’ll be up on charges (including murder). On the other hand, somebody coming into the house uninvited probably won’t have a firearm either.

      • See, laws like that just baffle me, but I understand different countries and different reasonings.

        America is still too much of a farming society (in a very vague sense) to get rid of guns. My husband and I don’t live in the worst part of the worst city in the US, that’s for sure, but we live in the shadier part of our town because it’s what we can afford. While I don’t want to actually shoot someone, do I want the protection of being able to THREATEN to shoot someone? Absolutely. Sometimes a pointed gun and a “Get out!” is all it takes.

        Also, I have chickens living in my backyard. If a fox or a raccoon comes in, I’d rather not be chasing them off with my bare hands.

        • Guns are used here in NZ as tools by farmers, too – essential for rabbiting or dealing with opossums, or the other things farmers have to do with livestock (not predators – we have NO dangerous animals – none!). However, NZ gun laws are very, very strict. As indeed are all laws here regarding what constiutes an ‘offensive weapon’ – sticks, knives, swords etc. You can be charged under the law just for having one on the premises – and certainly, if you use one in self-defence.

          My own policy is to make sure there is nothing whatsoever in the house that is a weapon, or could even be remotely used as one, not just to ensure I’m complying with the law but also because there’s a very high chance any intruder would find and use it..

  10. Imelda Evans says:

    Ooh! Shows the value of keeping your head. A similar thing happened to a female friend of mine who came home and found someone in her house. Luckily that time there were fewer words exchanged and he left without trouble. But it’s disconcerting, to say the least!

    • Yes, it’s a disturbingly common experience. And not nice when it happens. The worst of it is, this kind of thing is becoming far too ‘normal’ to have to go through, all round the western world – I am quite certain, and not just out of a sence of ‘recency’ or perception, that this kind of experience just didn’t happen even half a generation ago. Not to this extent.

  11. A lucky call, bit of a warning too. A man who has chosen a different career certainly.

    • Definitely. And sad that it happens in NZ – in earlier days, things were rather happier. I recall as a kid in Napier that it was possible to leave the doors unlocked when you went out – nobody would interfere. There were burglaries, but they were rare. I guess that may have been similar for you, at the southern end of HB? All changed now, generationally I guess. I’m curious: does this compare particularly with France?

      • Both the farms I grew up on in NZ, one in Port Waikato and the other in Te Akau, we left doors unlocked, cars unlocked, in fact in one we didn’t even have keys to lock every door, going away it was more likely to find a possum or some kind of rodent had occupied the place rather than an opportunist, however in later years there was a spate of burglaries from woolsheds in the area, trucks rolling up late at night and organised gangs removing bales of wool, so now most woolsheds have padlocks after shearing.

        In France, burglaries are common, but houses are built so they can be locked and shuttered and even apartment doors often have triple locks as many entrances are common and master keys are said to float around.

        A friend recently visited from Denmark and was shocked at how fortified/gated the buildings and properties are here. I guess that’s the consequence of having had such high unemployment even before the recession, now it’s much worse.

        • Not so nice – but a common problem. My sister and her family live in the Netherlands, where sounds similar to France. Possibly something to do with the collision between the human condition and the particular societies of these places? Population density might have something to do with it too. Mind you, New Zealand’s not much different now either.

  12. janeanddavid says:

    So glad you & your wife are OK! I’m impressed by the way you handled it. Calmly. Not so sure I would have done so well! I don’t necessarily see this incident (although it was horrible for you!) as indicating increased violence in our society. I’m sure this kind of thing has been happening since the beginning of time, starting with a caveman intruding in his neighbor’s space with bad intentions for his neighbor’s freshly caught mastodon!
    - Jane

    • Thanks. I didn’t have any choice really – and there is no room in these moments to show fear, it only encourages them. You’re absolutely right, it’s been the scourge of humanity for all our existence.

  13. quirkybooks says:

    You did well to stay calm, firm and collected. I try not to watch too much news as it is often scary and depressing. Unfortunately scary things happen off the news but I am trying not to live in fear of the horrendous things that can happen. Thanks for another informative blog post. I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award: http://quirkybooks.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/quirkybooks-is-an-extra-lovely-blog-one-lovely-blog-award/

    • You do what you have to. The key thing was not to be frightened – actually, it didn’t occur to me; I just had to handle it. And thank you for the award! Much appreciated! I’ll run a post responding, shortly.

  14. Karen Rought says:

    Ah, just reading this was intense. Very, very happy everything turned out okay. Glad you kept a level head and no one was hurt in the process!

    • Thank you. Yeah…all was well in the end. Funny thing is, the exact same thing happened, just a day or two ago, to some friends who live a few km away – different guy, this time caught inside their house with his “swag bag”, again in broad daylight. Seems to be the way these things go….alas. What ever happened to a caring society?

  15. arteis says:

    Good that you and your wife kept safe.

    The intruder would’ve been just as shocked as you, because he was already on an adrenalin-rush even before you turned up. His shock would cause his fight or flight reflex to kick in. If you had tried to hinder him, he’d have been more likely to go for the ‘fight’ option. So you did exactly the right thing in giving him the ‘flight’ option.

    By the way, house burglaries happening in broad daylight make (warped) sense if you think like a burglar. House burglaries mostly happen during the day, whereas break-ins to businesses and shops occur more at night. This is because houses are more likely to be unoccupied during the day, businesses at night.

    • Thanks. Yes, the key thing is to avoid provoking them. I was unarmed – and barefoot, actually – when I answered the door. I think he backed off because I’d stopped him coming in. If I’d confronted him actually inside the house it might have been different.

      You’re right about the broad daylight aspect on the burglaries. What’s worrisome is they’re getting brazen enough now to enter houses that are occupied.

  16. KM Huber says:

    Wow, Matthew! I am sorry this has happened twice in three months or even at all. While I am an American, I suspect my gun views are more in line with NZ, for what it is worth. Your point regarding the two world wars is excellent, a lot of merit in that.

    To me, it remains to be seen just how this global culture–constantly connecting with itself–will address the integrity of and the value inherent in all life. My hope is that because the connection is so immediate we might decide to improve our response, one connection at a time. I really don’t know how else to begin.

    Sorry it took me a while to respond to this post but I did check, initially, to make sure you and your wife were not harmed. Thanks for posting, Matthew. As always, you keep us thinking.

    Karen

    • Hi – yes, we’re fine, luckily. Could have been worse. Just a week ago, some friends confronted an intruder actually inside their house; the miscreant fled. And in Masterton, a town 100 km from here, some people were beaten up by another intruder. In daylight, a few days ago. It is, I think, indicative of a change in the way society behaves that this kind of thing has started happening. A sad observation, but I fear very true. I’m fairly sure New Zealand is far from alone in this. But I definitely don’t think arming ourselves is the answer; this simply escalates the problem – and the chance of a frightened householder’s own weapon being used against them is pretty high. I am a firm believer that trying to talk always defuses the problem, even if it doesn’t actually solve it.

      You’re quite right; if we want to change this – and I think the onus is on people around the world to do just that – we can start but one step at a time. Yet even one step is better than no steps.

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