Thursday, September 11, 2008

Car Jack City

Tuesday morning I could have prevented a carjacking. Well, maybe. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My bike had been in the shop for over a week and I was eager to go out for a ride. So eager I was willing to take it out in the pre-dawn hours before I had to shower for work. I have a front light, rear reflector light, and reflective vest, so I thought I was pretty well prepared. But the biggest scare of the morning was before I even started the ride.

Normally, I open the garage, set my bike in the driveway and take my water bottle in to be filled. This morning when the garage door opened I saw three people wandering up the street. This was just a little before six in the morning. The looked to be teenagers and were wearing the universal thug uniform of baggy white tee shirts. The high school bus comes around right about seven, so these kids were way early for that. I had no idea if they were local to the neighborhood since I exercise before the bus comes and leave for work long after it has come by.

Instead of putting my bike in the driveway, I closed the garage door and took the water bottle to the kitchen. When I opened the garage door again, the kids were now across the street leaning against my neighbor’s car and looking my why. Remembering that I didn’t have my phone on me, which I usually take with me on rides, I closed the garage door again and went back up to the kitchen to get it.

Since it was still pitch dark outside, I had to turn off the kitchen light to see if the kids were still there. They were. I had my phone in my hands ready to dial 9-1-1 when the wandered off to the next circle. I shook it off and went for my ride. A half hour later (still way early for the bus) one of the kids had been joined by a girl in a black shirt and they were lounging in the grass across from where the bus comes. The other two guys were up the street just loping along.

I told my wife about and told her to stay aware of anything suspicious. She asked if I had taken their picture. I kind of chuckled that off and said that it would have been too dark for that, but that sure was a good idea.

Then when we both left for work, we say sirens and police cars racing up and down the street. In the circle on the other side of the main road, we saw a guy talking to a cop. We went over to see what was happening. The guy was taking his two daughters to school when the kids came up to him and asked him for directions to the mall (which is a good seven miles away). Then they started swearing at him and told him to get out of the car. Fearing for his daughters he did that and they stole his car.

They didn’t get very far. The car was abandoned in the middle of the road one block away. Some other neighbor said they saw some kids run towards the woods. I told the cop at the stolen car that I had seen some suspicious kids early that morning. He told me to call in ANYTHING suspicious. He said he gets called by parents when their kids don’t want to go to school. It seems Howard County residents have a very low threshold for what qualifies as an emergency.

No one got hurt and the car got recovered. My wife assured the guy that this sort of crime is not common in our neighborhood. I’m convinced that had I taken my bike out of the garage with them still around, it would have been stolen or worse. Blog-buddy Claude had his bike stolen out of his garage earlier this summer. Another imaginary friend from the internet had a bicycle stolen from her car. While she was in it. They came up to her car with her and her kid in it and cut the straps of the bike rack and stole the bike.

If I had called the cops when I first saw these thugs loitering threateningly, that guy would not have been carjacked and he would still think Ellicott City was a safe place to raise a family. I try not to be paranoid but now when I see kids hanging out when or where they shouldn't be, I’m going to be far more careful and won’t hesitate to trust my gut instinct about what just isn’t right.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What would you have done?


Elizabeth said...

That poor man. How scary for him and his daughters.
I'm one of those people who call the cops a lot, probably too much. I don't know if I'd have used 911, but the Juneau Police Department is number 7 on my speed dial.

Alex said...

Every time I've spoken to a police officer to report something, I've been told (as if I were an idiot) what I should have done. In DC when I got rear-ended, the dispatcher asked why I'd bother calling it in if no one was hurt and damage was minimal. When the same thing happened in Anne Arundel County, I was asked why I'd move the car until an officer arrived. Apparently the right thing to do largely depends on where you are, but this offhand berating doesn't give me a sense of wanting to call the police.

Thumper said...

I probably would have done the same thing you did. You had no way of knowing those kids were going to anything other than hang around. Your gut told you to not put your bike out--a good thing--but that alone is nothing to call the cops over.

It sucks that someone's car was stolen, but that doesn't mean calling the police would have prevented it, simply because the police would not have been in any kind of hurry to get over there just because some kids looked out of place.

yellojkt said...

I think you have a point. Even if the cops had come by, that might not have stopped the kids from doing something after the cops left.

TBG said...

Wow.. that's weird.. I have the Juneau Police Department on my speed dial too. But they get kind of annoyed at me when I call because I live in Virginia.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I agree with Thumper. You did the best thing you could by asking your wife to keep an eye out. That's probably about the extent of what you could have and should have done.

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