His name is Jim. It is a friendly alias, but for purposes of this column will have to do. Anyway, Jim is a family man. He has a wife and two children, and he supports them as a truck driver. Jim is on the road throughout the Southeast most of the week. When he is off, he devotes his time to his family.
It is a lonely life, and Jim never gets enough sleep. When he does catnap, much of it is in the cab of his truck along some deserted stretch of highway. He eats his share of fast food, waits his turn for road checks at weigh stations and keeps up his vehicle and his paperwork. Jim earns his pay and is careful in how he spends it.
Returning recently from one of his many road trips, Jim learned he was the victim of a residential burglary. Among items taken were his air conditioning unit and his work tools.
We can only ask, what kind of person would be so sorry as to steal from a hard-working citizen trying to make ends meet? Is it someone like Billy the Kid, Baby Face Nelson or Jesse James? Or is it a local teen with nothing better to do, or some lazy bum too good for nothing who finds taking the property of others very rewarding? Theft is very common these days and every community has a share of it. Today's vandals may be tomorrow's Dillinger.
Jim's crime was burglary, unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. Use of force need not have happened. Structure includes trailers, barns, houseboats, dwellings, railroad cars, vessels, stables, etc. Every year billions of dollars are lost in burglaries of such places. Of burglary offenses, however, 72 percent are residential properties.
Jim's home is his castle. It is his sanctuary. He expects it to be safe for his family when he is out on the road earning his living.
Thieves are always seeking opportunity to steal something easily converted to cash. No doubt they knew Jim traveled. When the opportunity presented itself, the thieves broke into Jim's house looking for jewelry, guns, laptops, computers, televisions or whatever else could be easily sold on the street for cash.
Were the lawbreakers professionals or local teens with too much time on their hands or drug problems? Did they have few goals in life and little home supervision? Regardless of who they were, they were not seen in the act, they left few clues and were hard to catch.
So what can an honest, hard-working man like Jim do to protect his family and his property? He can take steps to cut down on opportunity for thieves. He can fence, place cameras, place alarms, change locks, join a neighborhood watch. He can minimize risk by marking valuables, recording serial numbers, and even get a watch dog. He needs to make his home less attractive to crooks.
What can neighbors do to improve safety in the area? They can participate in a watch, teach children to respect the law and the property of others, know where their children are and what they are doing, as well as demanding reasonable hours. Be sure to know their associates and provide them with goals that will lead to good citizenship.
Neighbors, look after one another. Be helpful, protect your own homes and those of your neighbors. Report suspicious activities to local law enforcement officials.
Good luck to all the Jims out there.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.