Here's how to avoid being an easy mark for theft and violence!
IT'S exasperating and discouraging to be a victim of crime. I know, I've been a crime victim twice in recent months. Even though I constantly read about increasing crime, I was still jolted and upset when I became the victim. In both cases I had been doing something that I've done many times in past years without loss or harm. But after looking back on each crime incident, I came to realize I was not as diligent as I should have been in considering rapidly changing social and crime patterns. As a result, my guard was. down, my vulnerability was high.
The first incident with crime occurred when in the company of a friend and his children visiting from another country. We went in my car to a nearby popular mountain campground. After enjoying a refreshing hike along a mountain trail and stream, we returned to the campground parking lot. But my car, an older model, wouldn't start. It was totally dead. Getting out of the car and opening the hood, I found my battery, a new one, had been ripped out and stolen. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. My car, made by a major U.S. manufacturer, hadn't even been designed with a hood lock. It had only a simple outside hood latch that anyone could open. Miles from any gas station, I had to ask another campground visitor for a ride down the mountain to a phone. There I called a friend to pick me up and take me home. Once home T fortunately had another car, purchased another battery and then drove back to my stranded guests to install it. As it turned out, the incident wasn't a highly serious matter compared to what can be involved in brushes with crime. But it could have been. What if we had been in a really isolated area? Or suddenly found ourselves in the dilemma with night and bad weather rushing upon us? The next day I read a newspaper article about how my popular mountain recreational area was becoming a rapidly growing crime area. The article cited as one of the causes the willingness of more individuals to seize opportunities to commit crimes. One beneficial thing did result from this theft. I took steps to lock the hood of my car so entry would not be easy. But I also checked my other car, a vehicle only a few years old. To my surprise I found that despite this car having a hood-unlocking lever within the car compartment (connected by cable to the hood latch) the hood was still easy to unlock from the outside. I took steps to harden that vulnerability.
My second incident with crime was more serious. It happened a few months later with the same car previously broken into. I was on an outing with my teenage son, one of his friends and a dog in a California desert and farming area. Because of rains earlier in the week I parked my car next to a paved country road instead of driving into dirt roads around the fields. I had occasionally parked along this paved road in past years without problems. After a long day walking in the countryside and being tired and hungry, we returned to the car only to find — no car. It was gone. Stolen. Of course there was that initial sinking, empty, panicky feeling. And the prospect of a long walk to find help. I knew the chances of finding my car in the maze of back country roads, high brush and old farm sheds by my own efforts, were nil. The car thieves could be miles away by now, I thought, or headed for the Mexican border. But just then a pickup truck came down the road. To my surprise the driver immediately stopped when I flagged for help. I told him that my car had been stolen and I needed to contact the police. After learning what kind of car it was, the rancher said he saw some men pulling it down another road with their car several minutes earlier. "Hop in," he said. "We'll see if we can catch them!" Without further thought the two boys, the dog and I jumped into the back of the truck and roared down to the road where the rancher had last seen my car. Then I began to think. What was I going to do if we did catch up with the car thieves? What if they were armed and violent? I didn't want us to have our lives endangered. The rancher had great persistence. He didn't see the vehicles on the road where he saw them last. So he turned and sped down another. Then another. Then he stopped to ask farm laborers in a field if they had seen a car being towed. They hadn't. "They had to go the other way!" he said. So we sped down another road and looked. We had traveled several miles by now. Finally, after I felt the effort was futile, we came to an isolated field with high brush. As we passed a narrow road cutting into it, suddenly I glimpsed my car with another car before it. Four men were starting to strip my car. I jumped out of the truck, dog at heels and dashed in there on the run. Three of the car thieves tore off into brush that to me looked impenetrable with brambles and thorns. They paid a painful penalty. The remaining car thief stood there shaken and frightened. He was astounded we found them. I did not threaten him in any way, but I did firmly order him to put my car wheels back on, put gas back into the tank and put things stripped out of the trunk back in order. Fortunately, because of the strong hood lock put on after the battery theft, the car thieves tried but couldn't open the hood to steal or damage critical engine parts. Then I ran face to face with another all-too-frequent situation experienced by victims of crime. The rancher said if I reported the incident I would have nothing but a lot of red tape, and with justice as it is, the car thieves would soon be back, possibly seeking to do me harm. Besides, he said, we needed to get out of there because the fleeing thieves could be circling back with weapons. The situation dictated we should, indeed, get out of there fast. We let the almost — successful car thief go with a strong warning. Before departing, the helpful rancher turned to me and said, "You know: It's a miracle you got your car back! I had mine stolen but I never got it back!" I agreed with him. I knew the recovery of my car intact was more than just good luck. I was providentially helped out of a potentially costly and troublesome problem.
These two experiences with crime caused me to rethink how changing social and economic problems are altering moral attitudes and crime patterns. It taught me I had to be much more careful than I had been. I had not realized crime was much of a problem away from the city. But now it is. Rural crime is growing. Again, I didn't think a car thief would be interested in a car several years old. I was wrong. Car thieves are interested in stripping anything of value they can get their hands on, even though they probably would only get a small amount of money for any item. I saw how easy it was to punch out an ordinary trunk lock. Or rip off even a locking gas cap. Or to drop a wire between the windows and door frame to pull up the ordinary knobbed door lock latch. My car had no strong wheel lock. There was no hidden ignition cutoff switch. There was no horn or alarm to announce forced entry or movement. Such devices are useful to deter forced car entry and theft. I also realize that many newer cars simply are not hardened as they should be to discourage theft.
Others Not So Fortunate
Many Plain Truth readers, I'm sure, have had similar or much worse experiences with crime and criminals, or know of others who have. The media are filled with numerous accounts of losses of prized possessions or costly equipment when homes. or businesses are broken into with relative ease, simply because the owners didn't take basic security measures. In addition, sometimes emotional trauma and suffering are caused when mates or children are criminally threatened or assaulted — even in broad daylight. In more cities in recent months, police have had to warn citizens to lock cars at all times. Car drivers are told to keep purses or valuable items hidden from view even while they are in the car. Do not leave valuable possessions on car seats, say police. Incidents are increasing of men and women, waiting in their cars at stoplights, being robbed or assaulted because brazen criminals size up a vulnerable situation. They simply open an unlocked car door or smash a window to seize what they want before the startled occupants can respond.
It Can Happen to You
We may not always be able to prevent every incident of crime or theft. But we should do what we can to avoid making ourselves or our property appear an easy target. While professional thieves are capable of breaking through any barrier if they believe a large haul is involved, most thieves or criminals look for the easiest, most vulnerable targets: They don't want attention drawn to themselves. They don't like to take a long time to do their dirty work. If too much time and noise or risks and obstacles are involved, they would rather go elsewhere. In Britain, a study of robbed households found one in four left windows open at night. Four out of five did not tell police they would be on holiday (vacation). More than half did not lock up their valuables. And one in five did not cancel newspapers and milk when they were away. Nearly 25 million American households experienced a theft or violent crime in 1982. Wealthier, urban and black households were found to be the most vulnerable, said a recent U.S. Justice Department report. One fifth of U.S. households were victimized by theft in 1982. One third of urban households were touched by some type of crime last year. What a horrible indictment against our modern societies! God sees, and for this and other serious lawbreaking, he is going to respond (Ezek. 7:23-24).
Don't Be Careless
We must not assume we will never be a victim of crime or violence. That attitude, say police, is exactly what makes a crime victim. Neither should we become unbalanced by fearing crime at every corner. The way to cope with the possibility of crime is to take positive steps to avoid being an easy target. And if we are also diligent to please and obey God we can have his extra help to prevent or deliver us from crime situations (Ps. 34:7). Prevention means taking time to think and plan how to avoid potentially dangerous crime areas or situations. It may also mean spending a little money for appropriate strong locks or security devices for doors and windows. Such expenses need not be exorbitant. Police departments often have free detailed suggestions on how to simply but effectively make your home or possessions more secure. Police say they alone cannot deter crime. Only together with an alert concerned citizenry can this be done. On the previous pages are fundamental steps you can take to help prevent yourself, loved ones and property from being an easy target for criminals. Further research on how to do so is, of course, recommended. Our free booklet Crime Can Be Stopped — Here's How offers added crime prevention measures.