This week, Lake Highlands People newspaper reported a 3% reduction in crime over 2007. Jan Easterling, deputy police chief for our area, credited volunteer neighborhood patrol groups and increased police presence for the drop. But she did say that car burglaries remain a problem, especially when cars are left unlocked, when keys are hidden in obvious places (under the wheel or in the gas cap), or when valuables are left in sight to entice thieves. This caused a friend of mine to ask "are these burglaries our fault?" Are we hurting our own property values – actually encouraging crime in our neighborhood – when we leave our garages open, our bicycles out, our doors unlocked, and our ipods on the dashboard?
I recall attending an informational meeting for parents at Forest Meadow Junior High where the volleyball coach warned that "if the girls leave their things around the locker room, it’s their own fault when they get stolen." The girls need to learn, she warned, to take care of their things. Good point. But I didn’t like the message sent to girls with an idea to steal something, that they had a right to take it if the owner wasn’t protecting it properly. I wondered if her speech should include a sentence about stealing being wrong. It seemed the penalty went only to the victim and not to the thief.
I still feel that way about cell phones and ipods left in plain sight – there is no invitation to "share" intended. But I agree with my friend that we shoot ourselves (and our property values) in the foot when we make crime easy and profitable for the bad guys. When the newspaper listing of neighborhood crimes gets shorter, the list of home buyers calling LH realtors will get longer.