May 22, 2018

Safety or privacy?

Before I get into last night’s happenings, I’d like to acknowledge that this is a fairly trivial story and there are much more pressing police issues in our current environment. Out of respect for those affected by these issues, I will not address them, and will leave those topics for those smarter than me. Onward.

Every night, my wife and I crawl into bed, start up one of the streaming services, and then I get hit with the question: “Did you lock all the doors?”

I make it a point to check the doors before we go to bed, in an effort to avoid having to pull myself from the warmth of my nest and scamper around the house checking the doors in my underwear. Those efforts are always extremely in vain because as soon as I get hit with the question, that little seed of doubt takes over and I won’t be able to sleep until I check.

Last night, my wife didn’t ask the question.

At 3:00 this morning, we were awoken from our slumber by our dog barking half assed at the sound of the garage door. Clearly he was still half asleep. I don’t own a firearm or weapon of any kind so I stupidly threw on some sweats and went to the garage unprotected, still with unadjusted eyes, to check on what was happening. I open the garage door and see the door is shut, but the motion light is on. Everything looks to be in place. No harm done. I shut the door and notice my front door is unlocked. I lock that and see a police vehicle driving down our street thru the door adjacent window.

I think to myself, if any funny business is going on, suredly that officer saw it and stopped it. So I double checked all the doors and reluctantly returned to bed.

Obviously I couldn’t sleep.

After tossing and turning for an hour, I got up and made breakfast and got ready for work. About 5:00 I opened the garage door and walked the dog. As the dog lead me back up the driveway, I see an orange door hanger flier on the handle of the door entering the house. I’d somehow missed this in my semi-conscious state earlier in the  morning.

The flier is a standard form, full of checkboxes, identifying the situation. It indicated that my residence was identified as unsafe because both my garage door was open and front door unlocked. There were other checkboxes on there, e.g. dog was barking, window broken/open, door ajar, and lights out to name a few. However it quickly occurs to me that the only way the officer would know that my front door is unlocked is to walk up and check it. Or reach in through the door to the house from the garage and check it that way. Obviously the officer also had to enter my garage to hang the flier in the first place, and to hit the garage button to close it.

I live in a smaller community (>5,000 residents). Crime in this town consists of petty theft or loitering. While I appreciate the effort of this officer to keep the community safe, I can’t escape the idea that the police were on my property in the middle of the night without permission.

What if I was legally armed? I have friends that I know damn well would have grabbed their bedside pistol to investigate the unknown intruder in their garage and at that point who knows what could happen. I didn’t have anything inappropriate in my garage, but we recently got a load of firewood which is temporarily stored in there, and city code would indicate that it’s not supposed to be stored inside.  If the officer wanted so cite me for that, could they?

It’s a weird feeling this morning. I should feel safe, right? A concerned officer was just doing the neighborly thing by shutting my garage door and leaving a note, right? In a weird way I actually feel more violated than I do any safer. That if my wife doesn’t remind me to check all the doors one night, I’m going to have police roaming my garage. That an open garage door is an open invitation.

Our neighborhood is full of driveway get togethers, backyard bonfires, and for the most part – an open door policy. The neighborhood is built around a central park where all the kids plan while the parents get together in various garages. We have a friendly Facebook group where we plan these get togethers and notify each other of strange happenings/sightings. I’ve never felt unsafe here – but now I feel violated in the name of public safety.

Just make sure your doors are shut and locked every night, right?

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