At 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, residents in the 800 block of North 60th Street reported that some time, probably between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Monday, someone entered two unlocked cars in their driveway and stole an iPhone and a can of Red Bull energy drink.
That's how I would have written up this incident when I ran across it while picking up police reports – if it had happened to someone else.
Since the residents in question are my wife and myself, I can say a little more, by way of an editor's epiphany.
We seldom lock our cars at home. We almost never leave anything valuable in our cars.
It's a deal we make with the operators who spend their evening hours roaming around neighborhoods, trying doors and rummaging through consoles: "You're welcome to enjoy this can of Red Bull. Thank you for not breaking my window."
In fact, it wasn't even our can of Red Bull. It belonged to our son-in-law, who had taken my Volvo to be detailed and left the drink in the car. His loss. We don't drink the stuff.
The iPhone is a slightly different matter. It was an original iPhone, with 4 gigs of memory. I bought it for Kathy the first weekend of the first release, in January 2007.
She's pretty frugal, and she used this now outdated phone, as a phone, up until about a year ago, when she upgraded to a 3G. Then she consigned the original to the status of an iPod, using it only to hold music for aerobics sessions.
She couldn't find it Wednesday morning. The last she remembered, she'd had it in her car Monday. She very infrequently leaves it in the console and dutifully locks the car when she does, and she never leaves it overnight. Or did she?
I immediately proposed theft. I read police reports twice a week.
We had been in a bit of a scramble Monday evening. Kathy was coming home from teaching an exercise class and had to bathe and dress for a dinner date in about 20 minutes flat.
She must have done the unthinkable. She left her old phone in the console of her Beetle – unlocked.
The irrefutable evidence was the missing Red Bull. She called our son-in-law. No, he had not recovered it.
Our cars had been rifled. And sure enough, the driver's door of the Volvo was ajar (she had checked the car from the passenger side).
Kathy proposed that I should report this next time I went to the police station, just because they would want to know this was happening in our neighborhood. I agreed. The police do want to know that.
But I said we should call it in immediately. I did, and told her an officer would be by soon.
She didn't believe me. "They're sending an officer? Here? Over this? They wouldn't do that in Milwaukee, would they?"
No, they wouldn't. In Milwaukee, they don't even answer burglar alarms. But this is Wauwatosa.
"The Wauwatosa police answer every call, without fail," I told her. "It's a matter of policy. Every call. That's why people live in Wauwatosa."
The very nice officer arrived shortly and took our report sympathetically. He agreed that it was better to remove valuables and not lock the cars, and said the department recommended it.
"What you lost is less than the cost of a new lock or a window," he said.
Did we feel a sense of invasion, a violation of our personal space?
No. I got over that when I lived in Chicago in the '80s and again when this same thing happened multiple times after I moved to Wauwatosa in the '90s.
"Help yourself. Thank you for not breaking my window...."
What we felt was a faint sense of foolishness for having left something of some slight value – more sentimental than real – vulnerable. And we were a bit amused about the poor loser who probably thought he had a real find in a 5-year-old iPhone that doesn't have as much memory as the teeniest iPod Nano today.
But the point of all this is that we accept this little loss as our own fault and the price of negligence while living in an urban center, and that we feel safe living in Wauwatosa. Safer now than at any time in our adult lives. Safer even than we felt living here five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago.
The police answer every call. Every one. They expend enormous resources doing so – resources that only we, as taxpayers, can provide.
This is something we expect because we live in Wauwatosa. And over the 20 years we've lived here, Wauwatosa has just become a safer community, a more vibrant and important community, an essential community to the greater metropolitan area as its hub of commerce.
The people who have harped for the 20 years I've been here, and who I'm told were harping for 20 years before that, about the ultimate downfall of Wauwatosa, strike me as ill-informed.
Never has Wauwatosa been in a better position as a desirable location for business or residence in the Milwaukee area.
But don't leave anything valuable in your car.