Last time I was robbed I made the technician from the police lab cry. That’s why I got the burglar alarm. All of my problems date from the crying police crime lab tech and the coming of the burglar alarm. If I didn’t have that burglar alarm, I’d have never come to the attention of the Baltimore City Police Department’s False Alarm Reduction Program. Now I’m on their watch list.
But let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? I’d been out of town and arrived home to the glad tidings that someone had broken in. I called the police to tell them I’d been robbed. The police informed me that, au contraire, I had not been robbed, but rather burglarized. (I didn’t expect to encounter a semanticist under such circumstances. I’d been robbed and I get William Safire when I call 911.)
The police were rather blasé about the crime, a nonchalance made more so by the realization that my wife had hidden a key outside, allowing boulevardiers to quite easily whisk away two TVs, a VCR and a couple of cameras.
When the cops took their report, they seemed stunned that I had not committed the serial numbers of all of my appliances to memory. Look, I don’t always remember to brush after every meal, either. I have to think hard about my social security number. I’m supposed to know the serial number of a 10-year-old Korean VCR? What do I look like, Rain Man?
Then the gal from the crime lab showed up and things went downhill from there. She dusted the “crime scene,” spraying the house with a mysterious black soot-like powder used to lift fingerprints. It was impossible to remove. At this point I may have become mildly agitated. (My wife and daughter said I made a low growling noise.) I’d just gotten off a plane. I was tired. And I’d been robbed (no matter what Mr. Lingua Franca said). And now, black powder on an expensive rug. That’s when the crime tech started crying. My wife and daughter got busy comforting her. I went upstairs.
The police later told me that I could petition the city to have my rug cleaned. Or I could wish upon a star, write a letter to Santa or place a tooth under my pillow. I knew then that they were never going to solve the case.
The next day I got a call from the burglar alarm shills. The pitchman sounded just like Jack Webb on the old TV show “Dragnet.” It was scary and comforting at the same time. I told him to come right down. I figured if the cops could not protect me, Sgt. Joe Friday could. (And Sgt. Joe Friday never damaged anyone’s rug.)
The cops call these incidents “crimes of opportunity.” One man’s crime of opportunity is another man’s golden opportunity. And so the carpetbaggers and carrion buzzards from ADT or Sloman Shield follow close on the heels of misfortune.
And that brings me to my latest problem. Last March came in like a lion. I know this because on the eighth day of the month at precisely 12:42:36 p.m. a powerful wind rattled the old French doors on my porch, activating my burglar alarm. Two days later I received a three-page letter from the False Alarm Reduction Program warning me that continued false alarms could result in fines as high as $2,000!
I didn’t even know we had a False Alarm Reduction Program. How’s about a Burglary Reduction Program?
The three-page mailing warned me about the wickedness of false alarms. Didn’t I know they keep the police from doing more important work? Sure, but so does hanging around the 7-Eleven in Waverly or guarding the calzone at Bella Roma in Hampden. The canard here is that the police have the Dalton Gang surrounded in Druid Hill Park and must let those bad men go to answer a false alarm. This is urban myth on a par with alligators in the sewers. Because, let’s face it, the Baltimore Police Department False Alarm Reduction Program (which does not actually appear to involve the police but merely misuses their letterhead in my estimation as part of yet another shameless shakedown) is about fund-raising.
This amazing missive arrived less than 48 hours after the event! Nothing in Baltimore happens that fast. The main streets have so many potholes, they look like they’ve been strafed. Snow removal is nonexistent on side streets. Water mains routinely collapse. You’d be more likely to see a shiny little surrey with fringe on top than a street sweeper. Property taxes are Himalayan. But someone had the time to write me a three-page letter scolding me about false alarms. And get it to me in less than 48 hours!
No one wrote the first time I was burglarized. Or the second time. Or the third.
We’ve only recently turned around the population free fall. Houses are selling again. Folks are moving back into town. What sort of demented soul would cook up the Baltimore City Police Department’s False Alarm Reduction Program?
I stewed over it. Then it came to me. It has to be the work of the same merry prankster who thought up BELIEVE.