Family life

Our home was broken into

Sandra talks about the frightening financial and emotional aftermath of a daytime robbery.

By Sandra E. Martin
Our home was broken into

Photo by Maica/iStockphoto

It started out as just another weekday. Scratch that: It started out as a slightly more hectic than normal day. Isobel's daycare was throwing a little kindergarten graduation party, so I had to leave work early. The plan was for me to take the bus to daycare, while Matt would stop at home, then pick up Bronwyn at her after-school program, and we'd all be there to witness Isobel's rite of passage.

I was a little stressed, because I knew if I didn't get out in time to make connections with a particular bus on the schedule, there would be a good chance I'd be late. (Note to those who don't know me well: I'm almost always late, or arrive right on time but out of breath. I'm missing the "early" gene, or maybe, like many moms, I try to cram too much into my day. Whatever the case, I digress.)

But I did manage to make it to the right bus — and, better still, there was a seat for me and the overstuffed Lululemon bag I bring to work every day because it fits my papers, my lunch, my overstuffed (with receipts) wallet and everything else a working mom could possibly need. Exhaling with relief, I sank down into the seat. That's when my phone rang. Pulling it out, I saw from the display that it was Matt; I assumed he was checking up to ensure I wouldn't be late.

"Hello!" I answered.

Then came the words that would shatter our plans for the day, the evening… our next who knows how long.

"We've been broken into!" sputtered my normally cool-as-a-cucumber husband, clearly rattled.

What? What??!

Never once in my life had I experienced a home break-in. Oh, sure, I'd had car break-ins — mostly annoying instances of some idiot breaking the glass to get a few CDs and the 79 cents I had stashed in the console. But never my home. The place where I sleep. The place I trust to keep my children snug and secure while they dream their innocent dreams.

"How did they get in? What did they take? IS THE LAPTOP STILL THERE? What about my guitars?!" I barraged Matt with questions faster than he could answer.

It turns out that our side door had been forced open; the door frame was completely splintered. And now there was no way — no quick way, at any rate — to secure the house.

Matt had already called the police and was waiting for an officer to arrive. He'd have to miss Isobel's kindergarten graduation, and that burned him more than the broken door.

Thankfully, I had enough time to run to Bronwyn's daycare, pick her up, and run back to Isobel's centre for the ceremony. "Where's Daddy?" Bronwyn asked. My mind raced: She's an intelligent nine-and-a-half-year-old, and she'd see as soon as we got home that something was up. So I told her.

Immediately, her brow creased. I worried about how I would handle things with Isobel. I watched her walk in the procession with timid pride, eyes lighting up when she saw me and her big sister, then immediately disturbed, scanning for her dad. Damn you, thieves, I thought (from the very beginning, I felt like there were two perpetrators involved, I don't know why). You've ruined this for her.

After the ceremony, and the little party that followed, we walked home together.

The police officer was there when we got home. "Well, you've done just about everything right," he commented, referring to the fact that when we moved into our home four years ago, we changed all the locks immediately and beefed up the deadbolts so they all extend far into the door frame. (For safety, the deadbolt should extend more than one inch into the door frame in the locked position.) Trouble was, the door was made of wood and the elements had weakened it slightly, making it possible for the crooks for force it open, probably by butting it with their shoulders. Normally, one of the retired people on our street would have noticed a ruckus, but that particularly day, there were two home renos happening on our block, a new deck build and a foundation repair. Plus there was a film shoot on the next block. So lots to distract the usual lookouts. (Here are some tips for preventing neighbourhood crime, from the Toronto Police Service website.)

In the end, not much was taken: They'd emptied Matt's backpack, presumably to fill it with loot, and took that along with the contents of the pocket change Matt keeps on the dresser — less than $20. The responding officer, and the one who followed up with us this week, figures our dog's barking cut short their "visit," and they had to leave with less than they would have liked.

Still, they left us with a door to replace, a door frame to repair and a very compromised sense of security.

So aside from the pocket change they took, we are now $600 out of pocket for a new metal door (they aren't getting in again!) and all the repairs. Every day it gets a little better — and as Officer Hannah, who visited us this week to follow up, pointed out, break-in artists aren't out to get you; they want your stuff, and hope to heck they won't see you or have any dealings with you at all. But I'm still burning about Isobel's ruined kindergarten graduation.

Has your home ever been broken into? What security tips do you have to share?

This article was originally published on Jul 13, 2012

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