June 8, 2009
Yesterday and early this morning, while talking about our impending move to a new apartment a few blocks away in a much bigger building (and no longer on the ground floor), my wife and I talked about how being in a larger complex essentially acts as a fairly effective form of security through obscurity. Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case, the conversation was prescient.
I was at home this morning in the bedroom of our tiny apartment when someone just walked right into our place. At first I thought it might be my wife and then a guy's voice said "real estate agent" to quiet my dog's barking. That explanation seemed plausible because we're about to move and our place is up for rent, so a ton of agents have been by to show the place.
Then I realized the agents don't have a key to our place. How did this motherfucker get in my house?
I pulled on some pants and came out to the living room, but the guy was already gone. I grabbed my keys and went outside after him, barefoot. "Hey, what are you doing?"
He was about 30 feet in front of me and didn't turn around, just said, "It's cool, I'm with the real estate agency." I found out later he'd even nodded at our building supervisor on his way out to say hello. I said "what agency?" (the sort of silly question that always stands out in retrospect) and he just repeated his line about how he was with a real estate agency. I shouted "STOP" and then he took off running. At that point, I had just noticed he had both my wife's and my MacBooks under his right arm. Despite being in my bare feet, I gave chase.
We sprinted down to the end of our block, and then around the corner onto 1st Ave, and I started screaming "STOP THAT THIEF! CALL THE COPS!" over and over. We covered one block downtown pretty quickly, and one friendly guy at the end of the block joined in the case as well. The three of us rounded the corner onto the next street. Halfway down the block, the thief cut in to a skate park that is next to the neighborhood high school. The samaritan saw that the thief had tossed the laptops into a plastic trash can in the park and peeled off to (as I later found out) tell the cops down the street what had happened. I had just caught up to what was going on and saw the laptops sitting undamaged in the trash can. Absurdly, he'd even taken the time to unplug the power cord and take it with him, which I had noticed at the start of the chase, and the cord was sitting on the ground next to the trash can. As it turned out, his pausing to get the power cord probably made up for the time it took me to get my pants on, and is what ended up making the difference of me getting our stuff back.
The samaritan disappeared without me being able to thank him; I did thank the little kid that tried to follow the thief through the skate park though. I came back home with our laptops under my own arm, and found nothing else missing, and realized that the kid had probably done the math -- two guys chasing him, and him carrying 10 or 12 pounds of gear, he wasn't likely to get away scott free. And I got an interesting taste of that uniquely male, testosterone-fueled rush that comes from scaring away the intruder who comes into your cave. That was an adrenaline buzz that lasted most of the morning.
Our super changed the lock on the door, and the young cops whose patrolcar had been flagged by the samaritan came by to take my report. One of the cops was just shakng her head. "That thief, " she said, "Was pretty ballsy. I'm glad you got your stuff back." It seems, upon reflection, that this was probably at least partially an inside job, with the rental office for our current building loaning keys to agents, one of whom probably tips off this kid about where to go. (The escape path the kid used to run away reveals that he knows the neighborhood well.)
So, that was today's adventure. We're moving out of here in a little over two weeks, just a few blocks away. Because this post is public and I know people might share the link, some important points: New York City is safe. Safer than ever. I've never had a single other issue of getting anything taken from me for any reason in the dozen years I've lived in this city. I'm still gonna live in the same neighborhood, and hope to do so indefinitely. Had any guns been introduced into the mix of what happened today, the situation would only have been worse. NYPD's new generation of young, multiethnic and increasingly gender-balanced recruits are professional, thoughtful and truly representative of our great city.