“Hi, Ed. Just wanted to let you know that my truck was broken into last night. They stole a few very expensive tools.” That text message arrived on my phone Saturday morning. It was sent by my upstairs neighbor, a self-employed plumber who parks his work vehicle overnight in our driveway.
This marked the second time he and his wife have been victimized. Last winter, in the middle of the night, three men broke into her SUV, hot-wired it, and drove off. The stolen car was found the next day a couple of miles away.
I told my neighbor that I would check to see if our security cameras had captured anything of the crime in the way the video had recorded the three guys who had stolen his wife’s vehicle. I was guessing it might have been that loathsome threesome again, or maybe even a drive-by criminal who spotted the plumber’s van and decided to make a quick hit to steal something of value.
Playing back the overnight video, starting at midnight and continuing on through first light around 4:45, was tedious. It’s usually quiet here in the wee hours, with the occasional car passing by and the quick trot-by of a neighborhood coyote, which the cameras caught the night before.
Then, at about 2:40 a.m., came the first sign of movement, in the shadows of the sidewalk next door, the sight of a man slowly walking down the street. A tall, lanky figure, he wore a flat backpack, black and white sneakers, and a T shirt with some sort of lettering. He seemed to walk with a limp, or a shuffle, and clearly was in no hurry to get where he was going.
But it soon became clear that he was up to no good, a thief in the night.
He stopped at every parked car, peering into windows and rattling door handles. He stopped at the next-door driveway for quite some time, peering into the family car parked in the driveway. And then he moved on to eyeball a pick-up truck, and then an SUV outside my front door.
Finding an unlocked door, he climbed into the passenger side, closing the door behind him. My guess is that he was rummaging through the glove box, the change purse and anything else that might hold something valuable. He was inside for three or four minutes, and then emerged to continue on his felonious mission in our driveway.
Parked there was my neighbor’s truck, filled with valuable plumbing tools and supplies. Moving just outside the range of the cameras, the man apparently spent some time jimmying the side door before returning to the sidewalk, where he can be seen opening the back door. He was inside the truck for just three or four minutes, and when he came out, his backpack and a second bag were filled, no doubt with the expensive plumbing equipment he had just taken from the truck.
The thief slowly walked into the middle of the street, and as he struggled to adjust the heavy bags on his back and shoulders, a passing car went by, bathing him in its headlights. But he went unnoticed. Gradually he righted himself, with maybe 30 or 40 pounds of weight on his back, and slowly started his walk back to wherever he came from.
All this activity was captured on the security cameras on Saturday morning, July 25, between 2:40 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. The way the criminal moved showed he had no concern about being caught; he just went on his way under the cover of darkness.
The grainy images on the security video do not show any detail of his face, nor of the lettering on his shirt. But someone who knows him might recognize him by his slow, uneven gait, his thin, lanky body, or the unusual appearance of his two-toned sneakers.
The guess here is that this isn’t the first time this overnight prowler has stolen in the neighborhood, and it won’t be the last. Knowing such activities are going on outside our homes as we sleep can be chilling. It’s a reminder to lock doors – to your home, to your cars and vans - and leave nothing of value in your vehicles.
Boston Police are investigating the incident.
Statistics compiled and made public by the Boston Police indicate that Larcenies from Motor Vehicles— one of several crime categories tracked year-to-year by authorities— are up significantly so far in 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019. Citywide, there have been 420 more incidents of car break-ins this year compared to last year. In District C-11, there this crime took place last weekend, there have been an uptick from 256 last year to 284 so far this year. In B-3, which includes parts of Dorchester and Mattapan, the number has jumped from 109 to 162, through July 26.
Overall, “Part One” crime in Boston has decreased by 3 percent compared to the same time frame last year, according to BPD. A major exception is homicides, which has increased from 23 last year (through July 26) to 32 so far in 2020.