My quiet, safe community...not so much anymore

Shorewood residents urged to lock up
By Annysa Johnson
Shorewood Police are urging residents to lock their windows and doors, even when they're home, after a rash of burglaries in which one family lost the wife's engagement ring and another's cat was killed when it escaped and was run over by a car.

The village has had 11 burglaries and one attempt since June 2 - almost all during the day and through unlocked windows and doors - a spike from the five-year monthly average of about four, the department said.

And the rash of breakins has many residents rattled.

Jim Jaynes of E. Olive St. spent Thursday helping a neighbor install security locks on his downstairs windows.

It was Jaynes who discovered the screen to another neighbor's home popped open on Wednesday and his children who found that neighbor's cat dead in the street.

"People don't realize when they break into your house what they're doing to you," said Jaynes, who helped take the cat to a local emergency center.

"A piece of jewelry, an iPod - that can all be replaced. But this is someone's pet."

Shorewood Crime Prevention Officer Kelvin Walton said residents are being urged to lock their windows and doors, make sure they have adequate lighting and remove dense shrubbery where burglars can hide.

"People need to take basic crime prevention steps," he said.

First off, people who live in some of Milwaukee's higher-crime areas may think I should count my blessings to live in a village that's experienced only 12 break-ins in the last month. Frankly, I don't give a flying fart about the "relative" safeness of Shorewood. For the better part of ten years I've taken pride in living in a place where I felt safe leaving my doors and windows unlocked when I'm home and being able to take a walk at night without worrying over who might be lurking around the next corner. That this tranquility is being chipped away at by scum who see my home as nothing more than a smorgasboard for their criminal activities doesn't leave me with a sense of longing for the better days. It pisses me off. It makes me want to put a stop to it right now.

Thursday night a friend and I were chased by a car without plates after at an intersection the occupants jumped out and started threatening us. Why? I don't know. But I do know that after witnessing them driving off at over 50mph down a residential street and driving erratically the entire time, that when I called the police to report these events and that the car would be passing the police station in a matter of seconds, I was told there wasn't much that could be done. I know that at right around this time a friend was receiving a stern lecture from a police officer for walking across a street against a flashing Don't Walk sign. And I know that two days later the police were out lecturing fathers who lit off a couple bottle rockets just to impress the kids.

Listen. I don't want to be too overly critical of our law enforcement officers. Their jobs are tougher than I could ever imagine, particularly when working in areas where there's little to no cooperation from the citizenry they're trying to protect (not that that necessarily happens in Shorewood). But even if it is within their duty (and I'm not arguing it isn't) to prevent jaywalking or shooting off fireworks, when we get to the point where the police are telling people to literally lock themselves in their homes to be safe, it looks like we've got a slight problem with priorities.

If you live in Shorewood, or any community, for that matter, that's seen a rise in crime both on the street and in the home, engage your police department. Find out what they're doing in response to these activities. Engage your neighbors. Encourage them to be vigilant when something "doesn't seem right" in your neighborhood. But most of all, protect yourself. Make criminals painfully aware of the fact that if they attempt to hurt you or your loved ones, you will respond in kind. Let them know that if they enter your property uninvited, if they violate your house and home, that in the end they will be far worse off than when they embarked on their little crime spree.

I'm not saying to carry a gun (but I'm not saying it would hurt, either). And I'm encouraging anyone to take the law into their own hands. Maybe it's just a matter of presenting a unified front to criminals. Maybe it's letting them know that you will snitch. Assure them that your neighbors will as well. Guaranty them that when they are caught you will personally see to it that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that since they violated you, you will make it your duty to see to it they never, ever do it again.

Criminals are cowards and weak. They prey on those they think are the same. But so long as we force them to believe they are the weakest among us, it won't be law-biding citizens who live in fear.

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