Is there still honor among theives?
October 1, 2009 7:06 PM   Subscribe

A coworker was robbed this week, and a box of very sentimental items was taken. Can anyone offer some advice for possibly having them returned or found?

I am not particularly close to this coworker, and don't know all of the details, but here are the relevant ones:

-She lost her husband unexpectedly, about a year ago. She has a ten-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.

-She was getting an alarm installed in her home last week and somehow the installers "could not finish." She was suddenly robbed the next day or day following. Of course, many people I work with suspect the alarm installers are somehow involved, but I don't know much more of the details regarding suspects, etc. I have never really heard of such a scam before, but I'm sure it's not impossible.

-The saddest part of this story is that, among other valuable (and easy to resell/pawn) items stolen, a "memory box" that her son was keeping was taken. It contained jewelry and other items belonging to the boy's deceased father. Obviously this young man is crushed, to the point of his mother considering sending him to therapy to deal with this second, and once again unexpected, loss.

Now, maybe I'm just being naive, but I can't help but feeling that if the thieves understood the situation, they would return the memory box. I'm sure my coworker would feel the same way - I haven't spoken to her much directly because she is so upset about it, and as I said I'm not particularly close to her.

Can anyone think of a way to try and reach out to the parties responsible and let them know that they stole something of immense emotional importance to this young man (and his young sister, who I'm sure will be devastated to learn this happened once she is old enough)? I've heard great stories of these kind of things on the web, but they involved objects like laptops or other "trackable" items.

I know this is pretty desperate, and I've already planned to reach out to my church and other coworkers to try and give these kids something to restore their faith in the kindness of people around them. I have a Nintendo Wii, for instance, that I want to donate to them. But I realize that means almost nothing if they can't move on from losing these memories of their dad. Any suggestions you can offer me would be appreciated.
posted by snapped to Grab Bag (17 answers total)
It's quite common for burglars and thieves to sell their loot very quickly --- for pennies on the dollar --- and quickly discard whatever they can't quickly sell.

I can't help but feeling that if the thieves understood the situation, they would return the memory box.

You don't understand thieves. They don't give a shit. They really, really don't give a shit.

People who break into a home and steal stuff are not decent people who just don't understand how important the stuff was to the people who lived there --- rather, they are soulless people who don't give a shit about anyone but themselves, and if they found out what you are telling us, they wouldn't care in the slightest.

posted by jayder at 7:13 PM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

She should probably ask the police if they have any suggestions. You could try to contact a local paper or local TV news human interest reporter. Who knows? Maybe some third party will find the stuff (if it was discarded, or pawned or something).
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:17 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is there still honor among thieves?

No. Especially not the kind who break into houses and steal this kind of stuff.

It's extremely likely that any non-valuables were immediately thrown away in the nearest convenient dumpster or remote area. Even if you could somehow get the attention of the thieves, I really doubt they held onto anything like that.

Anyway, in Louisiana (going by your profile) pawn shops submit records of their daily transactions, so if there are any uniquely identifiable, valuable items that might have been pawned, they might catch the attention of the police and be returned to the owner.
posted by empyrean at 7:18 PM on October 1, 2009

In addition to not giving a shit, they are not going to expose themselves to possible arrest.
posted by desjardins at 7:18 PM on October 1, 2009

While what jayder and above said is probably mostly correct, I have heard of instances where thieves have returned stolen goods after learning of their value.

Contact a local newspaper and news station.
posted by alligatorman at 7:23 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is so terrible. I think the best thing mom could do is help the kids understand that memories aren't in a box. Can she help them be sure they will remember, some other way? Maybe they could write things, or make a recording of themselves talking about memories of dad. They can then keep these things, but the real benefit is the exercise, not the replacement things.
posted by fritley at 7:27 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been mugged twice. Both times, I asked the police if there was anything they could suggest I do, to get things like photos back. Both times, the police told me to look in the gutters, Dumpsters, sides of the street, and so on. They said that people who steal will often go through whatever they got actually as they are making their getaway, and just toss on the side of the road (or wherever) anything that they cannot exchange for cash immediately. So, maybe looking within a 1/4 mile radius of the house (if they were on foot) or a larger radius (if they were in a car) will help them find it. If the memory box was wood or something (not a cardboard box), they probably hoped it was a jewelry box or silverware box or something, and threw out at least the contents.
posted by Houstonian at 7:29 PM on October 1, 2009

If the woman does suspect that the alarm installment company was involved, she should get a list of every single person who worked on the job and then go to the police and see if it qualifies for sufficient evidence. Go immediately to pawn shops and check Ebay and craigslist. No, I doubt she will have either the emotional or technological capacity to reach the thieves regarding their crime and convince them to repent.

And as devastating as this loss must be, I agree that the woman should emphasize to her son that memories and love are more than objects in a box.

People who break into a home and steal stuff are not decent people who just don't understand how important the stuff was to the people who lived there --- rather, they are soulless people who don't give a shit about anyone but themselves, and if they found out what you are telling us, they wouldn't care in the slightest.

I mean, sure, petty thieves are hardly upright citizens, but "soulless"? Not to get on my soapbox to defend the villains, but crime isn't as simple bad vs. good.

/gooey bleeding heart tangent

posted by zoomorphic at 7:39 PM on October 1, 2009

Maybe call the alarm company and say, "I am so sorry you could not finish a day earlier. I was robbed right before you could finish and my son's memory box, worth nothing in the street but so much to him was taken. If I could only get that back, I would not care about anything else." Do not accuse them. Just give them the opportunity to "find it" if they know anything about it. IF they did it and have a heart, I bet they leave it at the house when no one is around by the front door or something.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:48 PM on October 1, 2009

"I'll just check with the boys down at the crime lab, they've got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts!"

I'm sorry, but there is no way your friend's stuff is coming back. I'd take it up with the security company, though....seems goddamn fishy.
posted by notsnot at 7:49 PM on October 1, 2009

Check dumpsters and check pawnshops if there was anything remotely valuable. (My friends had to buy their heirlooms back.)
posted by small_ruminant at 8:31 PM on October 1, 2009

Look around for a likely place to dump stuff. Also, was there any identifying information in the box? Someone might find some of it and return it. My relevant experiences:

1. Got a bag full of tax paperwork and other stuff (like cell phone) stolen on a road trip--I was going to do my taxes during the trip.. Figured it was ID theft city, but the bag minus the electronics (and with the tax paperwork) was found by someone near where it been taken out of the car, and the finder tracked me down with all that info they had.

2. In the last 4 months or so I've found two ID cards (one military, one driver's license) on the side of the road on my bike commute through a canyon. Both had their wallets stolen out of the car; the thief just tossed the cards out the window apparently. Both cards were restored to their owners (at least saved them some hassle).

So there may be hope! At least for stuff of little immediate value.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:39 PM on October 1, 2009

Dumpsters. My purse was stolen at a bar and I was pretty sure who did it. Sure enough, I found all of my stuff, minus $5 in cash, in her apartment's dumpster.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:19 PM on October 1, 2009

Agreeing with above: look around the house, in ditches and dumpsters, on the chance that they threw out the box as soon as they saw it wasn't worth anything. I also think calling the security company and explaining the situation/getting names is worth a try.

Once my purse was stolen in a bar, and not only was I pretty sure who did it, but I was able to get his phone number. I called him and told him I wanted my purse back, and the next day, after several conversations, he gave it back (minus the cash).
posted by aka burlap at 11:11 PM on October 1, 2009

Thanks so much, guys. I may ask her about the newspaper/TV angle and see if she's spoken to anyone who might cover the story. She's not the sort of person who wants to draw attention to herself, though, so she may be reluctant to participate in any kind of interview or other emotional experience.

I am afraid I mostly agree with the analysis of the thieves, but I guess there is always hope that people aren't blanket stereotypes. Anyone can make a mistake, even a terrible mistake like stealing items from someone's home.
posted by snapped at 5:40 AM on October 2, 2009

Did your friend have anything unusually valuable that would have been noticed by the alarm company installers? Has she pursued this with the police and the alarm company? The timing does seem suspicious but of course it could be coincidence. Obviously an alarm company that routinely burgled its clients would soon be under investigation but there is always the possibility than an employee noticed something especially valuable, or a relatively high number of valuable things, and either stole it himself or passed the info on to a friend.
posted by 6550 at 7:00 AM on October 2, 2009

If there was identifying info in the box there may be hope. I once had my wallet stolen out of my purse on the grounds of my middle school and someone who apparently made his living dumpster diving found it and called to give it back for a reward. I would see about putting out ads or signs in the area offering a small reward.
posted by threeturtles at 10:18 AM on October 2, 2009

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