|Photo by Boyd Polkinghorn|
In the month before we moved in, two crimes occurred in the neighborhood. In one case, a woman returning home from work at 6:30 pm (in the dark) got out of her car to move a recycling bin and a man with a gun forced her to hand over her car keys. He drove off, picking up two accomplices down the street. In another case, two men in hoodies cut the electricity to a house and attempted to break in, but ran away when the residents raised the alarm. These two incidents worried many residents, because though no one was hurt, they were violent and potentially life-threatening.
In mid December, the neighborhood held a security meeting. Eighty-one residents and ten of the twelve association representatives attended. Police officers said they did not want to downplay the crimes, but reminded residents that the neighborhood is actually among the safest in the county. They also informed us that suspects had been arrested in both crimes.
|Security panel, under thermostat|
On the 4th night we were in the house, the alarm went off at 1:53 am. In addition to a blaring siren, a voice announced "Second floor first bedroom left window open". I groggily went to check the window, but there was no sign of any forced entry. At the same time, we received a phone call from the alarm company. I answered the phone and sleepily told the voice that it was a false alarm. He responded, "Uhh...." Then I remembered, I had to tell him the secret password, to confirm that it really was all OK, and that they did not need to send the police. The alarm company came a few days later to change the sensor on that window, because they suspected it was defective.
|Security company sign, as deterrent|
Apparently, there is a long running debate in the neighborhood about whether to seal it off to "outsiders." Some residents want to limit access to the neighborhood, to make it like a gated community, so as to make it safer. Others believe it is safer if there are more people around.
|Gate on neighboring street, blocks cars but not pedestrians|
|Neighborhood access: black means open, red requires code|
|Blocked gates and the open "secret" path|
As we get used to the neighborhood, and our house, we are feeling more secure and safe. We hang up our paintings, decorate with our things, and gradually make the house our own. The ghosts of previous owners gradually recede to the shadows, where they belong. We are only the fifth owners of our house, but we are very aware of the previous owners when we wonder why that light switch is located there, and why there is that crack in the stained glass window (what happened to crack it?). There is a common tradition in the US (I think) of hanging up old license plates, so I've hung up my old Hong Kong license plate in my garage: a small reminder of my old home in my new (old) home, and a small talisman to shoo away the ghosts of owners past, and make our new house our home, and make it safe.