After two consecutive weeks of entertaining family visitors to Ten-Acre Ranch, FD and I decided it was time to get serious about catching up with projects around the property. Mowing both the yard and pasture were top on the list. So last Sunday, I got on the zero-turn mower to start cutting grass while FD finished up a few repairs around the house. Once I had completed mowing a couple of swaths around the perimeter of the property and trimming around the trees in the pasture, FD would get on the tractor and mow the pasture with the brush hog. After finishing the pasture trim, I would start mowing the yard.
Because it is my least favorite area to mow, I started my mowing along the alley. Before mowing, I always make a run in the buggy to pick up trash, and to look out for any critters. Many times, I find turtles making their way along the fence, which I pick up and transport to the woods where they will be safe while I mow. But, while doing this perimeter check, I found someone had cut our fence with what looked like wire cutters. The cuts in the fence were clean and I knew they had been done recently, for I had just checked the fences a few days before. So, I quickly dispatched FD to the crime scene. We figured it was just kids crossing the property, which had happened in the past. There seemed to be a draw for them to walk the woods, sometimes bringing their parent’s beer along for a little sipping under a tree where they made a sort of lean-to shelter out of old timber stacked against the trunk. On other occasions, I have found evidence of small fires with snack bags and pop or beer cans scattered about. Having found the freshly cut fence this day, a made a mental note to hike back in the woods sometime to see if I could find further evidence of such shenanigans.
As FD turned his attention to patching the cut fence, I continued with my mowing chore. But, after just a half-hour, FD pulled up next to me in the electric buggy to tell me he knew why the fence had been cut and wanted to show me what he had discovered. So I left the mower parked under a shade tree and hopped on the buggy with him. Sure enough, directly across from the cut in the fence was a small cedar tree, and behind it was a small, but heavy safe, with a combination spin dial on it. It appeared the dial had been tampered with, but the safe remained locked. FD mentioned he had only gone back to pick up a potato chip bag in the trees and spotted the safe near the chip bag. With this latest discovery, I got on the phone to dispatch the police, and within just a few minutes they arrived. From the police, we learned that the night before, a burglary had taken place at the indoor pool of a nearby housing complex and a safe was among the items stolen.
The officer in charge happened to mention that if we had a game camera, we might be able to catch the thief returning to fetch the safe, or make another attempt at cracking it open. Of course the police confiscated the safe, but the thief wouldn’t know that. Not wanting to remove and relocate the existing game cameras we already had on the property, we opted to purchase another and set it up at the location where FD found the safe. So, after FD repaired the fence and mowed the pasture, he ran to Walmart for a new game camera. Unlike our other cameras, this one had a video option and also a no-glow infrared nighttime sensor. With our other chores done, FD and I worked together to set up the camera up at a location near the little cedar tree where we could capture the thief in action should he/she return. With the camera in place, we had to admit that we found this little covert operation mighty exciting!
On Monday, I checked the fence along the alley a couple of times while I was outdoors working, but everything seemed intact. FD checked again before sunset that evening. Seeing no indication of a return trip by the thief, we wondered if perhaps he/she had noticed the police activity on Sunday and knew the safe had been found. Tuesday evening, however, we noticed the fence was cut further to the east of the original break, and right next to a big elm tree. Being cut right next to a fence post, it’s quite possible I never noticed it on Monday when I checked fences. So, we pulled the game camera card, and while viewing in the house at our computer, a few more bits of information made sense. The thief had possibly returned at 4:00 in the morning on Monday, but a neighbor’s dog may have scared the perpetrator off. The video showed only a moth flying by, but the audio captured a nearby dog barking loudly at something – perhaps the perpetrator. The second video, taken at 2:00 Tuesday morning, showed the back of a dark-skinned, hoodie-wearing young male with a flashlight, stooped over as if looking for something under the cedar tree, then turning around and looking towards the camera with a very perplexed look on his face! It was obvious he had no idea he was being recorded, and no idea what had become of his stolen bounty! Feeling both amused and excited, FD and I played the video over and over. With such clear footage of the crook, we were feeling confident someone could identify the thief! With this new evidence in hand, we called the police again and an officer quickly responded. Later that evening, we learned no one at the police department had yet been able to identify the thief.
Then yesterday, FD was showing the video to a few people he worked with. One of his co-workers lives in the housing area just south of the alley. He thought he recognized the young man in the video as someone from the neighborhood. After forwarding the video to his daughter, she confirmed the identity of the thief. And, she also shared that this young man had been fired by the pool complex administration two weeks prior. With this new information, FD contacted the police one more time. We hope the video and confirmation of the identity of the safe snatcher will be enough to prosecute the thief and help to shed some trouble from the community.
A few things come to mind as I think about this odd experience on our property. First, I am very familiar with the boundaries of our property, and the comings and goings of the neighborhood within which we live. I am the silent “watch dog” for my neighbors, but I also appreciate the real canine watch dogs that reside along the alley. I cannot tell you the number of times I am alerted by their barking, potentially of someone coming down the alley with ill intent. And, whenever needed, I am thankful for the always-quick response of our city police. Not once have they ever let us down. And, I am in utter amazement of today’s technology. The game camera with which we captured footage of the thief, the Stealth G42NG 12 mega pixel, was only around $100 and the police officer said it had better clarity and lighting than most store surveillance systems. How amazing was it that we managed a clear shot of the thief in the middle of the night without him noticing the camera? Most of all, I am thankful for the neighbors who are not afraid to step forth and report what they see, and not afraid to rail against those who are up to no good. We should all strive to make our neighborhoods safe. We can start by making a simple and easy gesture to introduce ourselves to new neighbors, and to let them know we “have their backs”. By doing so, and learning to rely upon and trust in one another, we can achieve safety and security in our communities.
© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…