I had a long telephone conversation with a police officer yesterday. I didn’t call him, he called me. No, I was not in trouble but he did want more information about a report I had submitted online.
We have had periodic problems with people who roam the streets and alleys at night looking for things to steal. They try to get through garden gates and into parked cars. They take anything that they can carry that isn’t screwed down, and they sometimes come back with a friend and a truck to take what they cannot carry.
Recently, the problem has increased. Our security camera has caught a few trespassers in our driveway, we have found the evidence of strangers in our back yard, and some of our guests have had items stolen from the bed of their pickup truck.
In the early hours of Thursday morning one of the night crawlers discovered that one of my family’s cars had accidentally been left unlocked. We were slightly out of routine because our street is being repaved, so this car had been parked in our driveway instead of the street. The driveway is adjacent to the back alley and the alley is poorly lit, not overlooked, and a magnet for thieves.
This particular thief had some chutzpah because even though he heard our security alarm sound, and even though he saw the security light come on, and even though he saw the camera, he continued in his thievery. He was astute enough to put on his hood, pull up his Covid mask, and lower his head. In this manner he continued to rummage around inside the vehicle for about six minutes without showing his face for most of the time.
I wasn’t going to report this to the police because, as far as we can tell right now, nothing has been stolen. However, I did notify my neighbours via the NextDoor app and they recommended that the police should know about all events because the more statistics they have they more likely they are to do something about these alleyway creeps. So, I filed a report using the Edmonton Police Service online reporting website.
I had to fudge it a bit because they didn’t have a category for trespassing or for attempted theft, so I chose “Theft Under $5000” using the logic that $0 is less than $5000. I also said that I didn’t have a video when, in fact, I did. The reason for this is that if you say you have a video you cannot complete the online reporting process. You have to actually talk to a police officer.
Shortly after completing the report I got an email asking if there was a video or a witness. I imagine this was because I was quite specific about the time of the event. So, I amended the description of the skullduggery to reflect that there was, in fact, a video.
After that, I got that call from the police officer. He explained that they cannot accept videos via the website but that he could accept some screenshots if I could arrange to have some man create them for me. I think he thought I was dependent on someone related to the security system to make that happen. I explained that I could do that myself and he went on to talk about how much policing has changed in his 35 years on the job.
In fact, he was very chatty. He talked about “when we were young” and reminisced about interviewing the victims of his first theft case. He mused about “broken windows” and the need to keep up a tidy front. He was frustrated by procedures that have become more complex and paperwork that has become more time consuming. When he started to complain about judges having political agendas and the prime minister being a wrongdoer, I decided the conversation should probably end.
I had previously explained that there was a brief period when the thief had removed his hood and mask so his face was visible, and so the police officer asked me to email some screenshots of that. I had explained that the image quality was poor because it was nighttime, but he said to send them anyway.
I was glad to know that my non-theft report was worthy of a phone call and even more glad to know that the person I spoke to cared as much about the community as I do. He was clearly empathetic with my frustrations and doing what he could to ensure that the right people get to understand the size of the problem. For that, I am very grateful.