Car Ransacked Again? Relax. It’s a Redding Epidemic

Tuesday morning I went to my car, which was locked, as usual.  I unlocked the car, but before I got in I stopped in my tracks. My car’s entire interior had been ransacked. All the contents from the glove box, the console and all four side pockets were tossed and scattered. Papers and hairpins and grandkids’ books and crayons and water bottles and receipts and makeup and every single thing that didn’t come with the car when I bought it was strewn everywhere.

Damn! This was the second time since this summer this has happened. I live in west Redding, in an older neighborhood I adore. Truthfully, this new neighborhood feels slightly more safe than where I lived in the Garden Tract, because of my former home’s closer proximity to the canal, the library, downtown, the river, South City Park, the “un-Safeway” on Pine Street, and the Good News Rescue Mission.

Tuesday, my ransacked car was parked at the curb in front of my new/old house, which is pretty common on this street. Monday I had company parked in my driveway, which is where I usually park. And don’t ask about my garage as a parking option. At the moment it’s still in deep recovery from my move and remodeling. It looks more like a storage unit than a parking garage.

I know better than to leave valuables in the car (even registration and insurance information), but I did have a little stash of coins I kept hidden in a plastic case at the bottom of the console. It’s money I keep on hand for things like parking meters and car washes. Of course, the coins were gone.

I got off easy. My windows weren’t broken (which happened to my car the end of 2011, the day of the then-new-police chief Paoletti’s meet-and-greet). And my car wasn’t stolen, which seems nearly as prevalent lately in Redding as car break-ins.

Nevertheless, I was pissed. Furious. Disgusted. I’m not proud to admit I wanted revenge. I found myself thinking of ways to not just prevent this from happening to my car again, but to inflict some memorable consequences or damage upon the unfortunate SOB who tried it.

I fantasized about setting a bunch of rat traps in my car. I know a lot about rat traps. I once lost a thumb nail to one. But it would be my luck to be in a hurry and I’d forget about the traps and I’d set them off myself, not to mention the risk to my little grandchildren.

Then I thought about how cool it would be to somehow deliver an electric shock to the jerk who so much as touched my car in the middle of the night, but, again, it could backfire and hurt an innocent person or animal.

Besides, even if my attempts at payback/pain-infliction did work, I could possibly provoke an enraged, injured criminal: smashed windows, slashed tires, human waste smeared everywhere or seats destroyed. Worse, what if they returned to my house for vengeance?  I can’t even go there.

I cleaned out the car, including the kids’ car seats. I threw away pretty much everything, because my stuff felt violated. I knew the creep’s hands had touched everything.

This bugged me all day, which is why, throughout my errands and appointments, when someone asked how I was, I’d sometimes respond that I was rattled because my car had been ransacked for the second time. It takes me a while to get over bad stuff. I’m a slow healer.

Do you know what the response was – EVERY time, to a person? They said that either that had also happened to them, or their colleague, or their friend or relative. All within the last few days. With the exception of one barista whose mother’s car had a break-in in Anderson, all the others happened in Redding.

Apparently, I have lots and lots of company. In Redding, car break-ins are so common they’re no big deal anymore. Car ransacked? Yawn. Cry me a river.

Even so, I called the Redding Police Department to report the incident, not because I expected anything done, because what could they do? But I believe that every single crime, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, should be reported so our city has accurate crime data.

The last time my car was trashed, I tried to report it via the RPD’s website, but I became so frustrated with the tedious online form and onerous process that I quit in frustration. Forget it!

Consider that if I, someone who makes her living online, found RPD’s online crime-report process too unwieldy to see through to the bitter end, imagine how it would be for people less comfortable online. It makes me wonder how many crimes in Redding are nearly reported, but citizens give up. If that’s the case, so as far as the city’s concerned, those crimes never happened. Vehicle break-in epidemic? What epidemic?

But back to my call to RPD. I reached dispatch, and an officer returned my call within the hour. He was very nice, and asked some questions.

Anything taken?
Just coins and cheap sunglasses.

Any damage?
Not as far as I know.

Was your car unlocked?

That’s where the officer paused. I explained this was my second time that my locked car was opened and ransacked. I told him that the last time this happened I’d done some research and learned about a crime trend where some creeps use a device that can electronically unlock some vehicle models’ doors; kind of like a universal fob. The ease of force-less entry.

He chuckled.

“I don’t think our criminals are that sophisticated.”

Guess what? I do. The nice officer and I may have to agree to disagree over that point.

I went online to Nextdoor. com and posted what happened, to alert neighbors, but also to see if anyone else had the same issue.

Here are a few responses:

JM: Hi dear, can I just say this is happening to us as well here on Sequoia St. constantly. We loose all our change, shoes, jackets and backpacks. I know it’s our faults that we forget to lock the car doors some times but with four cars and teens it don’t happen 100%. But if a door is unlocked they are in and get everything. We also had them in our back yard the other day and they took all our bikes. It really makes me sad!

SJ (who lives on my street): My daughter had this happen a couple of times to her car in front of our house. She always locks it and there’s no sign of forced entry. They riffle through the glove compartment but she doesn’t leave anything at all in her car luckily. So nothing has been stolen. My husband on the other hand forgot to lock his car one night and had all of his spare change and some dollar bills stolen. They actually stole his whole ash tray!

RH: I was missing some things out of my car after parking in the lower level of the downtown parking garage last Friday night right under a light by the staircase near the Post Office restaurant. I was sure I had locked my car after seeing a group loitering down against a wall (there are no loitering signs there). My car may have even been relocked after they rifled through it but I’m not sure because I used the key fob as I approached it. I am guessing they went through it quickly because they only grabbed cards and money from the center compartment and did not appear to go through the glove box or other areas. I noticed a few other small things missing and my sweatshirt. The cards they took were just store cards that I hardly ever use anyway but this is really disconcerting that they can open a locked car. We need more information on this, like is this possible for all cars or just certain types. Mine is a 2011 Chevy Equinox.

On Facebook, Redding Crime 2.0 had a post of an incident the same day as my car ransacking, just a few blocks from my house. The cops took away the guy in handcuffs. He was probably released the next morning.

At the hardware store, a young clerk said that he was born and raised in Redding, and never thought he’d consider leaving. But he said he’s so sick of Redding’s crime that he’s thinking of moving to someplace more rural, like Palo Cedro or Igo.

At the post office, a customer was at the counter complaining that tracking showed her package had been delivered to her house, but it was gone; stolen. I wanted to raise my hand and tell her that the same thing happened to me in November. A cute dress I ordered online was delivered to my mailbox in the evening, so thieves had all night to roam the neighborhood and go shopping from our mail boxes while we slumbered.

I’d bought that dress for a special event. And when I contacted the company about the missing dress, they wouldn’t replace it, which I can sort of understand. I mean, they did their part and sent the dress. It’s not their fault my Redding postal carrier was working late, or that I live in a city where criminals are as thick as a New York City cockroach infestation, but more difficult to control. For future deliveries, I extracted a promise from my mail carrier that all packages will come to my front porch, not that the creeps aren’t brazen enough to come up that close to the house, but it’s a little more work for them, and might slow them down, like a thief’s speed bump.

What I really want is a freakin’ spike strip.

See this cute dress? It was stolen from Doni’s mailbox.

When I walked outside today to dump the garbage, I encountered a neighbor who told what happened to them during the holidays. Rather than discuss turkey dinners and eggnog and visiting family, he told how an intruder climbed onto their RV that they’d parked beside their house. The intruder then used the RV as a ladder to reach a high window that was unlocked. The creeper then entered their house through that window.

While my neighbor and his wife slept.

Just let that sink in for a moment. Just imagine you’re sleeping and unaware a criminal is walking around inside your house. So, anyway, that intruder wandered around, and left doors open, which is how my neighbors knew the next morning about their night-time visitor. My neighbor figures the person was looking for Christmas presents, but his family celebrated Christmas early, so there were no gifts lying around for the taking. As far as they know, everything’s intact.

And I thought I was creeped out by my car ransacking? Suddenly, my incident registered almost zero on my stress Richter scale. It paled greatly in comparison to my neighbors’ experience, whose house, by the way, is right around the corner from my mine.

Yes, more and more, these are the kinds of conversations neighbors have here in Redding.

What really compounds my frustration is I thought I’d taken all the right precautions when I bought this house. I got a post office box, because I didn’t trust my residential mailbox. I bought two different home security systems, as well as four dusk-to-dawn exterior lights that illuminate the perimeter of my house like a Sing-Sing exercise yard.

Some folks on Nextdoor suggested I get surveillance cameras. I’ll consider them, but I resent that our city has become the kind of place where not just businesses, but single-family modest dwellings need security cameras, alarms, motion lights, flood lights, guard dogs, steel fences and security screen doors.

I also resent that good people increasingly take the blame for everything from parking their RVs “too close” to the house, and leaving teenagers’ jackets in their cars and children’s bikes in their own backyards, to parking at the river trail or movie theater, having packages delivered to our homes and leaving change in the dashboard ashtray. Such slackers we are! We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We’re practically inviting trouble.

But most of all, I resent that every time something like this happens, it puts me – a single woman – on an even higher state of heightened alert.

Case in point, early Tuesday evening I was washing dishes and saw through the kitchen window movement in the alley behind my house, a place where somebody had recently dumped a beat-up couch. I went charging out the back door and sure enough, saw the figure of a man walking quickly down the alley. Normally, I turn into a chicken after dark, but on the day my car was ransacked, I was just so hopped up with adrenaline that I felt fearless. I had no plan, no pepper spray, no taser, no nothing.

I was just ticked off and sick of creeps destroying my city’s sense of peace, serenity and safety. I felt as if I could have kicked someone’s ass.

Doni does 100-pound deadlifts at Align.

As an aside, I routinely do 100-pound deadlifts at Align these days, you know. I think I’m strong enough that I could do some serious damage.

To my embarrassment, I found a nice neighbor walking his dog. And to think I’d almost yelled at him. Thank God I didn’t bring the pepper spray or taser. My heart was pounding. I felt like an idiot. Then I felt like crying. Damn.

This is what it’s come to. That, and the fact that some tweaker has my paisley party dress.

It’s war!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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