Suburban Crime Wave

| July 27, 2010 | Comments (7)

Handle on red door12:30 p.m., Wednesday afternoon: I have just finished explaining to my babysitter, Amanda, who will be staying home with my three year old son while I go out to a meeting, that I can’t seem to find our extra key. So, I suggest that she simply leave the back door unlocked if she decides to take J.R. to the park. Speaking of the back door, is that someone on my deck? Why yes, as a matter of fact there is someone on my deck and it’s a police officer. When I open the door to see what is the matter, he tells me that there was an attempted break-in three houses down.  They have caught one of the burglars, but the other is still on the loose. Have I seen anything unusual? No? Okay then, stay inside and lock the doors.

“Uh, Amanda? Please disregard what I said about leaving the back door unlocked. And you and J.R. should probably just stay home until I get back. Okay? Thanks.”

Yes, I live in one of those idyllic suburban towns where homeowners often leave their doors unlocked. And yes, we really should know better. In recent years, in conjunction with the economic downturn, there has been a wave of property crimes in my area, including a rash of residential burglaries, all taking place during daytime hours. These thieves are counting on homeowners being out when they break in — in fact, the burglars who broke into the house on my block fled when they realized that the owner was at home — and often try to go in through back doors or large windows.

While my town may seem like a tony hamlet, the fact is, we are very close to the west side of Chicago and border some Cook County towns that are known for their high crime rate. Indeed, one of the reasons we chose this area is because it is close to the city, which means a shorter commute to the Loop, and easy access to all the city’s cultural offerings, and because we liked the down-to-earth, urban feel here, as opposed being in an isolated, homogeneous bubble.

After the break-in on our block, my husband and I discussed how we can make our house less appealing to thieves. We replaced the locks on our back door and garage — and no more leaving the door unlocked when we are at the neighbors’ or the park. We vowed to use our burglar alarm more often. (We are one of the few families on our block who even have an alarm, but I grew up in a city and would not be able to sleep at night without one.)  But at the end of the day, there is only so much one can do to protect oneself from this kind of property crimes and frankly, that is part of the trade-off we made when we chose to live in this area.

Property crimes are one thing, a drug ring is another thing all together.

Two days after the attempted break-in on my block, I received an email update from our local weekly newspaper with news of a big arrest on behalf of  our town’s police department. Two men had been arrested not far from my house with $1500 in cash and 11 packets of heroin on them. Apparently the police department had noticed a rise in drug activity and had been monitoring the area around our town’s big shopping center. Needless to say, I almost spit out my chai tea latte when I read that the Starbucks in the shopping center — my Starbucks — and the nearby Dunkin Donuts, where I regularly take my three year old for ” a sprinkle doughnut,” were hangouts for these suspects and their customers. That kind of crime in my backyard is not something I am resigned to at all.

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Category: Chicago

About Emily: Emily is a Washington DC native now living in the near west suburbs of Chicago. A lawyer by training, she works part-time teaching at a local law school and spends most of her time taking care of her family and volunteering in her community. Emily and her husband have a daughter who is in second grade and a three-year-old son. Emily’s daughter has many food allergies, which can make birthday parties, school lunches and dining out a challenge, but she strives to keep her daughter’s life pretty normal and even fun. Emily’s son does not appear to have any allergies, just a profound aversion to the word "no." Emily’s tastes range from the serious to the frivolous. She subscribes to US Weekly and The New Yorker. She follows politics, theater, movies, television, fashion and pop culture. That doesn’t mean she actually goes to the theater or dresses fashionably, of course. Emily loves to cook more than almost anything else and she recently became an avid canner; but she doesn't garden and she barely decorates. You can read Emily’s thoughts on all these topics and whatever else comes to mind at her personal blog <West of the Loop. View author profile.

Comments (7)

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  1. Lisa says:

    Sadly, I know these feelings way too well. We live in a horrible suburb (I had no idea how bad it was when we bought our home) and have had our cars broken into several times, our shed broken into and 3 years ago our home was broken into not once but twice, in the same weekend! And one of the times was while we were home AND my husband was outside just next door!
    Unfortunately, its just become a part of life for us. But recently the suburb I grew up with was shocked when a lady was attacked in the middle of the day while jogging.

  2. Shari says:

    Our town has seen an increase in daytime break-ins as well. It’s a bit alarming considering the number of people who are home all day. On our block we started leaving our front doors open all the time to let potential troublemakers know people are home. I don’t know if it really helps, but we’re trying to make our neighborhood a less friendly place for people who don’t want to be recognized.

  3. It’s always kind of funny when the people who live somewhere where there’s lots of stuff to steal are surprised when someone shows up to steal it. 😉

    • Emily says:

      Point well taken. I think in many instances, tony suburbs are surrounded by other tony suburbs, making it harder for criminals to get there. In our case, we live a tony suburb right next to Maywood, which is a tough town (although home town to several pro basketball players) and thus we are an easy target.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I completely understand this and it’s partially why we moved out of IL (family being the other). Things with the economy have just gotten so bad that crime has increased everywhere, even the smaller town in WI that I moved to. You know it’s getting bad in your suburb when you’re moving out and the police cruise by either to see if you’re stealing or to keep people from stealing out of your moving truck. It’s just sad when even ‘good’ areas go through this. I hope things improve soon, for everyone’s sake.

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