Now that violent crime has fallen, could we focus on lesser incidents that are still quite a fright?
June 1, 2011. 2:28 a.m. I open my eyes and see a silhouetted figure standing in the doorway of the bedroom, not far from the foot of my bed.
He is a man of medium build clad in dark clothing. That's as much as I can see.
Whoever he is, I know I haven't invited this middle-of-the-night visitor. With a sudden surge of adrenaline, my sleepy brain clicks to alert -- burglar!
The next millisecond has me shrieking like a superhuman. The silhouette dissolves almost instantly.
I am midscream when I hear the front door slam, and I know the burglar has left me alone. But I keep roaring like a ferocious beast, like a wildcat protecting her young.
I want my screams to echo for blocks beyond the townhouse.
As burglars go, mine was unambitious. He escaped with a small leather purse packed with lipstick, sunglasses and $6 in cash.
He stole my iPod but, stupidly, not the connector cable lying next to it. He snatched my laptop bag but -- what? He left the actual laptop sitting inches away on the kitchen counter.
He swiped a bicycle and a pair of my favorite jeans. Notably, he did not touch the collection of wine bottles next to the garage door.
Am I crazy to think this guy wanted to hurt me?
Once I finally stop screaming, I wrap myself in blankets, gather my clothing and reach for my cellphone. I am trembling.
I cannot remember my address. I cannot tell the 911 dispatcher how to find me. It takes five minutes to pull myself together, and another five for the police to arrive.
"Could you ID him in a lineup?" asks one of the officers.
The officers will not dust for fingerprints. They will not issue an alert for a medium-build man toting an enormous brown-and-black Timbuk2 laptop bag.
They will simply open all the closets. They will assure me the burglar was a petty criminal, probably a drunkard in search of quick cash.
They will leave, fairly briskly, promising only to drive through the nearby park, located one block south of the townhouse.
I get it. Police officers are busy, with lots of crimes to attend. Mine was one of 5,103 burglaries committed in the city last year.
But it takes my jittery hands fewer than five minutes to fish my jeans from a nearby trash can, located one block north of the townhouse.
As the sun rises, the question keeps turning in my head -- are the police right about this guy, or am I? Is he a petty thug, not worth chasing? Or is he a vicious criminal, free to stage another attack?
All I know for certain is -- he went the other way!
The resounding scream was only the first involuntary reflex triggered by the burglar. For the next week or so, I cannot sleep before dawn.
Every creak in the floor, every passing car with a bad muffler warrants another pass through the house, another twilight investigation.
The trouble is, the terror comes sooner than bedtime. Every evening at dusk, my mind returns to the menacing silhouette.
I start imagining alternative outcomes in which I chase him, kick him, catch him -- in which I emerge the hero from this horror story. But the night is too long, and my endurance too short.
As the darkness stretches on, the mind becomes polluted with grimmer scenarios. Let's put it this way: It's like a slasher flick on loop in my imagination.
Reading the newspaper becomes dangerous, because I can see my nightmares playing out for other burglary victims. I read about a man who is shot within his own home near Cedar Lake by a midday intruder.
Another man is shot and killed by nighttime burglars in his Longfellow home. A young man is sentenced for his 2008 crime of entering a Burnsville townhouse (through an open garage door) at 4 a.m.
He and his accomplishes took the opportunity to torture the homeowner, nearly killing him.
And now, I read that burglary has been on the rise in Minneapolis. This doesn't help with my symptoms.
But it does inspire a thought: Now that other violent crimes like murder and rape are falling, why not take the opportunity to fight burglary of all kinds?
I suggest the Minneapolis Police Department start by pursuing every burglar, even minor characters like mine (who also entered through an open garage door, I must confess).
Because silhouettes like his can quickly emerge into the foreground, as in the case of that poor Burnsville homeowner. The police should try catching these rascals before they make headlines.
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Christy DeSmith is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.
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