I always thought that if I ever saw a crime, I’d just KNOW. It would be obvious, like it is on TV. Criminals would smell like meanness and slink around at night, lurking in shadows. And of course, the "Unsolved Mysteries" theme song would suddenly begin playing.
Well, as it turns out, that's not quite how it goes down. Crime happens in broad daylight. In cute, safe neighborhoods, like mine. In fact, I witnessed a crime next door and didn't realize it.
Wait, WHAT?! Let me back up for a sec, Sophia Petrillo style. Picture it:
Sicily Suburbia, 2011. Neighbors were outside doing "neighbor things" like walking dogs, watering flowers, and exercising. The weather was beautiful. When I heard my dogs maniacally barking, I assumed it was directed at the suburbanites outside.
When the barking escalated, I got curious. Dog lovers, you'll understand when I say that the barking was not the "usual" bark. I kept looking for something to explain the barking, but there was nothing there. Just a guy walking his baby in a stroller. No biggie.
Something in my gut prompted me to keep looking. Stroller Guy walked up and down my neighbor’s driveway, talking on his cell phone. I thought it was a little odd, but the baby eliminated any doubt regarding his intentions. I made excuses for him. He's probably lost, calling his wife to see where he made a wrong turn. I totally get it. Big neighborhood. Lots of streets.
I called my neighbor’s house, but got voicemail. I immediately felt like a TOTAL CREEPER. I imagined them rolling their eyes at my message "um, there is a person walking their baby near your house, and it looks kinda weird..." They'd probably think I was the weird one, right?
I just couldn’t shake the weird feeling - and neither could my dogs. For what seemed like hours, they BARKED like it was their JOB. I looked again and saw Stroller Guy + baby, this time walking on the opposite side of the street - The one that didn’t have a sidewalk. As a mama, this was a red flag: Who would walk their baby on the side of a busy street without the sidewalk?
I made excuses again, and kept watching Stroller Guy + baby walking up and down the street. I felt like a total Crazy-Pants. What sinister activity is a GUY WITH A BABY engaging in? I can barely get through Target with a baby, so crime with a baby in tow seemed quite ambitious.
IT. WAS. NOT. Stroller Guy had #StrollerGoals. It wasn't until the police showed up at my door that afternoon that I realized what my gut - and dogs - were trying to tell me. I witnessed the "watchman" for a break-in next door. The baby in a stroller (yes, a REAL LIVE BABY) was the cover for two guys committing a crime. All of a sudden, things got real.
It was unsettling to know that crime was so close. In a nice neighborhood. In the middle of the day. And that a sweet child was the tag along.
Mamas, here's the takeaway: Toss your ideas about what "criminals" look like out the window. These guys looked like our husbands. Our friends. Our family members. They were clean cut and well dressed. They made casual conversation with neighbors along the way to the house they robbed. They easily could have been people we see in our daily life. At church. At the ball fields. At the store. They broke into my neighbors' home even with my large dogs barking loudly.
I will never forgive myself for not reaching out to the police immediately, and I'll forever feel as if I let my dear neighbors down. I was worried about looking like a crazy vigilante neighbor– and I failed to trust my gut. I wonder how many other people have done the same thing.
As mamas, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our homes, and our precious babies. It's imperative that we use our intuition when something doesn't seem quite right. At worst, we look crazy. At best, we protect the sense of security we've worked so hard to create for our loved ones by removing threats to our safety. If you ask me, that's worth every bit of looking a little cray-cray.