Saturday, January 08, 2011

At Least They Left My Jersey Plate

Where I'm from, if you tell someone your car was broken into in Irvington*, they aren't surprised. But when I moved to this Irvington I thought the one thing I was guaranteed was the safety of my car and its contents.

I guess it makes sense that a smart car prowler would target the nice neighborhood, where people's guards are down and there are nicer things to steal.

This morning, I unlocked the passenger door first so that I could put my purse, my second purse, my lunch, and my shopping bag on the seat. I noticed that something felt funny about the lock. As I circled the car, I noticed that there were some items on my driver's seat, specifically a yellow highlighter, a tampon, and this metal pokey thing that you can use to break the window if your car somehow ends up underwater with you trapped in it. (I don't know what it's called.) These things are typically kept in my center console.

"How did those get there?" I thought. I proceeded to open the door, put my coffee in the cup holder, and sit on the items. I opened the center console and saw that it was strangely empty. Just a few sticky pennies and nickels sat at the bottom. The papers, pens, snacks, parking meter change, and other miscellaneous junk I store there were gone.

I don't remember cleaning that out, I thought.

Foggily, I started my car and reached to turn on my iPod. I grabbed air at the same moment I observed that my iPod charger was not dangling from its plug.

It's not in the center console because I just looked there for something else and saw nothing. I don't remember taking my iPod in the house last night, and why would I take the charger, too? It was taking some time to register. My eyes began to travel around the car. It looked different. It looked so...clean.

My eyes traveled to the passenger side door. I remembered how strange the key felt turning the lock.

Someone broke into my car! From where I was seated, I did a quick assessment. No more iPod. No more iPod charger. No more universal car charger. No more of anything that was plugged into that charger. My car had been broken into! But no windows were broken, and I remember locking both doors and checking both locks. I am a little OCD about that. Apparently what I should be OCD about is taking things out of the car. Apparently, it doesn't matter if you lock your car; some car prowlers have, as the nice policeman who came to my house told me today, something called a "jiggle key" that unlocks any car lock. Now I understand why cars with remote-controlled locks have an alarm set to go off if you try to open the door with a key.

I noticed a car idling outside my neighbor's house for quite some time when I got home last night. I was sitting in my car for awhile, too, waiting for a guest. We were only a few minutes apart, so it didn't make sense to go up to my apartment and back down again. I thought the idling car was odd, but I'd noticed that almost every night in our block, so even though it seemed odd, it seemed like normal routine - my block's special kind of odd. Now I think I can guess why the driver of that car was sitting there. The dispatcher said that probably a lot of cars got hit besides mine.

Oh well. It could have been a lot worse! I have insurance. Nothing irreplaceable, like my laptop with all my data on it, was stolen. I have my old Jersey plate displayed by the back windshield; I'm happy to say that the car prowler left the old license plate behind.

* From Wikipedia's entry on Irvington, New Jersey: Irvington experienced the crack epidemic of the 1980s and the city still struggles with the aftermath today. The city still has a violent crime rate six times higher than New Jersey overall and a murder rate eight times higher than statewide statistics. As of 2007, the New Jersey State Police reported that Irvington had a violent crime rate of 22.4 incidents per 1,000 population, the highest of all 15 major urban areas in the state.[9] Irvington is more dangerous than Camden, but since it has a population less than 75,000, Irvington wasn't eligible to rank as one of the most dangerous cities in the country.

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