Victims, I feel your pain
Who knew an angry personís liquor bottle lark could cause so much damage.
12/02/2009 10:00 PM
After three years of writing about Loop-area crime for Chicago Journal, I finally became a victim of it. Wednesday night I parked my Ford Escape in the 400 block of S. Green St. in front of my condo building. Though itís a dead end, itís well trafficked due to the Giordanoís across the street and the 7-11 inside my building.
The 7-11 is one of the only spots open 24 hours in the area, so it is to third-watch cops what the pale lavender light on a bug zapper is to a fly. Almost anytime after midnight, youíll usually find three or four police cruisers parked on the corner, officers inside buying a coffee, a Slurpee or all manner of food. Though stereotyping must have stigmatized the practice because Iíve never seen a policeman actually holding a donut. Iíve often joked that the corner of Green and Van Buren was an unofficial outpost of the 12th District police station and that I lived on the safest corner in the West Loop.
And maybe I do. But Saturday afternoon, as I approached my car, I noticed my front driver and passenger seats littered with safety flares, work gloves and flashlights, items from my trunk. I started to ask my wife if sheíd taken stuff out and forgot to put it back, but then realized I wasnít staring through the driverís window, but a void in my truck door whose edges were littered with remnants of spiderwebbed glass.
I looked at my dashboard: stereo still there. Flipped open my center console and saw my IPASS, cell phone charger and packets of ketchup and Taco Bell mild sauce were all still safe. Even the loose quarters (thanks to the city parking meter sell off and establishment of the credit car payment system I actually have quarters for once) in the change compartment were still there. All the documents from my glove box were on the floor, but nothing had been taken.
But the car was trashed, covered in glass and a broken liquor bottle, likely the weapon that shattered the window, had been added.
Weíd forgotten my two-year-old sonís fairly realistic stuffed King Charles Spaniel, ďCharleyĒ was strapped in his seatbelt next to his car seat in the back. I noticed the dog in the rearview as I was checking the damage, and like to think the criminal spotted him as he got in the car, and in the dark of night, thought he was real and freaked out.
Of course Iíll never know. As a police blotter writer, Iíve written up and read through thousands of crimes just like this. My experience is that with unknown offenders and an overtaxed police department dealing with bigger priorities, such break-ins generally remain unsolved.
I admit after reading the crimes that have happened to so many others, Iíd write them up in a nice neat box and never even really considered the victim much. But when youíre on the other side, you see thereís this whole dirty aftermath.
Itís not just a broken window. Itís 10 minutes of waiting on hold with 311, and another 20 minutes talking to a bored officer whoís heard it all before and is convinced youíve done something wrong. The officer asked me twice if I left a GPS in my window. I told her I didnít, and yet just before I hung up, she still said, you gotta be careful, people are so desperate these days, theyíll break in to your car if they see the mark the suction cup left by the GPS.
Itís a half hour calling auto glass repair shops, comparing rates, and finding one whoíll repair immediately, as the old Hefty trash bag taped to the side isnít going to cut it during 32 degree November afternoons. Itís another hour and a half and $116 dollars in repairs for a used window that is slightly mismatched, if only in the brand labels on the bottom of the glass, from my stock windows.
Iím relieved that the window is fixed, but on my way home, my wife and I argue over not spending time together. It wouldnít be a big deal, but though itís not the norm, I had a lot of deadline work to do during the holiday weekend. Instead of spending the afternoon shopping together as we planned, weíve spent the afternoon separated while I got the window fixed.
As I drove home, I noticed a fleck of glass dust remaining on my dash and I flicked at it. The speck embedded in the fleshy pad of my thumb. I pulled the glass out and my thumb started bleeding like Rocky Balboa at the hand of Ivan Drago in ďRocky IV.Ē I couldnít get it to stop for twenty minutes. As I hit the spacebar with my thumb as I type this, I can feel the soreness near the scabbed-over cut.
Who knew an angry personís liquor bottle lark could cause so much damage. A few days removed from the inconvenience, itís still a bit annoying, but Iím also thankful for the perspective, and hope itíll inform the way I approach and think about the crime I cover in these pages in the future.
And if youíre one of the unlucky locals I write about just know that I feel your pain.
Nagrant writes the police blotter for Chicago Journal and Skyline newspapers. He is a West Loop based freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @michaelnagrant.