Heeding instincts is first line of defence

Folks living in any stable neighbourhood recognize their neighbours’ cars, frequent visitors whether friends or family, and thus notice any unusual vehicle on the street so it was natural for me to wonder who was driving an older model faded blue-gray enclosed truck as it parked across the street. The vehicle’s rear end had straight lines like a 1980 Jeep Cherokee, no gently rounded corners such as late model cars.

I happened to be at my kitchen window getting a drink of water. Curious, I watched until the truck drove away.

My neighbour’s van was gone suggesting no one was home. If the truck’s occupant had intended to visit, I would expect him to leave once he realized that wasn’t likely to happen.

Instead, a lanky man wearing dark clothing including a hip length jacket, strolled about the front yard like a latecomer to a trinket garage sale already well picked over. He glanced at a white 1999 Ford Ranger that’s been stationary in the driveway for years before he ambled along the walkway toward the home’s main door farther back.

Minutes later he reappeared, circled the Ford like an insurance adjustor inspecting for minute signs of damage, got down on one knee to peer underneath its front end, and when he stood up leisurely returned to his vehicle and drove away.

Many times in life instinct has niggled me to step in on the off chance what I was observing was indeed someone up to no good. We’ve all read news reports of major property thefts happening — boats stolen, monster tractors driven off, entire rooms of electronics taken — as unconcerned citizens watched. I read such accounts and think, “Did no one suspect thievery and report it? Who moves in the middle of the night even if evicted?” This interloper arrived just before Thursday noon.

Here I quibbled. On the pretense of collecting mail should I walk to my mailbox for a closeup look at the man’s license plate obstructed from my in-house view by porch and window frames.

Should I cross the street to ask him if I could be of any help to hear his excuse and get a good look at him, then go home and jot down some notes, just in case.

Such contemporaneous notes are valuable during court testimony, if it should come to that.

I did neither. Nor did I take a single photograph. I should have done all three.

In 40 years I can recall hearing of only two thefts on this street – a welder stolen from next door and a senior’s purse snatched while she dozed leaving her doors unlocked. The welder disappeared from a yard with neither fence nor dogs, two safeguards I would be nervous without.

A week after the incident I crossed the street to chat with my neighbour. We talked of our dogs, the weather, and this and that before she asked, “Did you see a vehicle here last Thursday?”

“Yes, I did,” I said, and went on to describe the vehicle, its lone occupant, and his behaviour as he moseyed around her property.

Seems the man returned later that day without anyone noticing. My neighbour came home to find the Ford Ranger missing its distinctive driver door. A six inch black strip runs across the bottom. Mounted on the rear view mirror is a 2” circular mirror.

I regret ignoring my instincts; a license number would have helped far more than scanning traffic for a faded blue-gray truck.

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