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Jack Smith

Will a Burglar in the Know Know Better?

November 26, 1987|Jack Smith

Before going on vacation, I wrote that any burglar who broke into our house would not find much of monetary value, and little else to his liking.

I did not mean to imply that burglars in general are culturally deprived, yet I doubted that most burglars would care about the complete works of Shakespeare, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the recorded works of Mozart and Beethoven, and several hundred cookbooks.

Superior Judge Ron Swearinger writes that he proved my point. "I took the list up to our courthouse lockup," he says, "and asked several convicted house burglars if they would be interested in the stuff. 'Naw,' they all said."

As a result of that little experiment, Judge Swearinger has thought of a way in which my assumption might be used by anyone contemplating a vacation.

"Since The Times publishes all kinds of advisals, how about a section called 'Notice to Burglars,' wherein folks about to go on vacation could advise as to what might be in their houses? This might be a serious deterrent to crime, since there is really not much worth stealing in the average American home."

The judge says his own house contains nothing that would catch the eye of the average burglar, if there is such a person.

"The stuff in the house is mostly carelessly accumulated Borax furniture, a 20-year-old TV set and a VCR that doesn't presently work very well. My wife's jewelry, such as it is, will be around her neck at the Grand Canyon and the wedding silver is in the shop having all the dents and dings hammered out."

The judge says a burglar would score better by hitting his garage than his house, and even then he would find few tools, since most of them would be over at his son's house, as usual.

I would do more than place an ad in the paper. I would be willing to publish a list of articles a burglar might look for, giving their locations, so as to save him time and avoid the vandalism likely to accompany a reckless search.

He would be doing me a favor if he took my telephone answering machine, which has never worked; my video recording machine, which is too advanced for me; my wife's Cuisinart, which she almost never uses, and which she undoubtedly feels guilty about because I bought it for her, and my stationary bicycle, which I never use and which I feel guilty about because she bought it for me.

If a burglar can find anything at all of value in our garage, he is welcome to it. I wish he would back a truck up to our garage door and take everything in it. My wife might regret the loss of trunkfuls of cloth and a few old hats, but my life would be gloriously lightened.

We do have two television sets that still work, but I should think a television set was rather hard to make off with, unless the man had help, and a man seen carrying such a bulky object from a house might inspire suspicion.

I'm not trying to get anyone arrested here; I'm just trying to simplify my life.

As for jewelry, we have three watches between us. One is a Mickey Mouse; one is a digital that doesn't work, and the third is the watch I received after 30 years on the job. I recently paid $50 to have it repaired, and it has stopped again.

My wife does not wear rings. She has a few necklaces of semiprecious stones, some of which I bought her and some of which she got through mail-order houses, and a few sets of earrings. She has no diamonds.

There is never any money in the house, except the few dollars my wife has left over from doing the grocery shopping. All I buy is the wine and beer, and I use a credit card.

We have no silver, no antiques and no art that I would consider negotiable. I have a few paintings by friends, but I doubt that any would catch a burglar's eye, or a dealer's.

Again, I don't mean to suggest that all burglars are culturally illiterate, but I suspect that few burglars, except specialists, would know a David Hockney from a Hieronymus Bosch, and specialists wouldn't be working our neighborhood.

I even have an idea that if we had Van Gogh's "Irises" hanging in our living room, it would be perfectly safe.

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