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Dealing with the unsavoury folks among us

 
Posts: 44
Location: Wilderness, South Africa
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Hi there,

I recently moved into a new area with a new community and new problems. The most pressing of which is a habitual criminal. A professional burglar. A thief.

This fellow lives nearby, has been in and out of jail since he was 9, and got out of jail most recently at the end of last year. As is expected when this happens, there has been a string of break ins and a spike in crime.

The police are useless. The justice system ineffective. And the community seems used to it and therefore not really fired up to take a stand.

What solutions do you all see to this problem? The common solution of call the police and send him to jail is not effective. People have tried to offer him a job so that he has an honest way of making a living. But he enjoys his profession. What to do?

 
gardener
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My first thought is "fencing and Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs" but there may be less extreme solutions that involve dogs.  An awful lot of professional thieves and burglars aren't violent enough to truly want to tangle with watchdogs, and most will completely avoid anywhere that has a dog that might bark.
 
Mike Harris
Posts: 44
Location: Wilderness, South Africa
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My ridgeback is snoring softly on the couch next to me. He's still a pup, so every person he sees is his best friend. He's found his bark though, and he's growing fast
 
Dan Boone
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Yay!  We have a rescue dog who looks (we haven't paid for the genetic test) like she might be a Ridgeback/pitbull mix.  She's getting old and slow and a little bit blind and all she really wants to do these days is sleep with her people.  Generally she has always been a sweet dog, and mellow to strangers; she'll just woof, loudly and unconcernedly, until we go outside to see what's up, then sit carefully at our feet (guarding us).  But a few times when extra-skeevy characters have showed up in our yard, she's demonstrated a sort of "circle and try to stalk from behind" behavior that is utterly horrifying to behold if you know canine body language. Dunno what she would do, because we've never let her complete the circle/stalk!
 
Mike Harris
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Location: Wilderness, South Africa
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Yea my experience with ridgebacks have always been the sweetest dogs. But dogs generally like me and I have experience with handling them, so that helps. The circle/stalk behaviour is certainly a terrifying one for those that are up to no good. Isn't it funny how quickly dogs pick up on who that is? My pup did that to a stranger on the beach today. And it turned out to be the only stranger that wasn't happy to see a puppy coming up to say hello. They know stuff, dogs
 
Posts: 124
Location: Middle Georgia, Zone 8B
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If police aren't willing to deal with it, then home protection is up to you. Here are my ideas:

1. Take responsibility for securing your property. Gates with locks, fences, deadbolts on doors, locked windows, loud dogs, burglar alarm systems, motion activated lights, etc. Use whatever you can to deter criminals.
2. Make your home as dull-looking as possible. Don't put valuable items (tools/fancy outdoor stereo speakers/etc) outside on display. If you do have valuables, don't flaunt them. If a thief sees your valuables, you're a target for theft.
3. Make yourself seen outside as often as possible. If criminals know someone is often home, they're more likely to leave your house alone.
4. Try not to keep a regular, predictable routine. That is, don't go to work at 8am and drive home at 5pm daily. Leave your house and come home at unpredictable times. Thieves often watch a target house for awhile to find out when the owner is likely to be gone. They probably don't want a confrontation any more than you do.
5. Keep any and all legal means of self-defense within easy reach. Whether that be a pocket knife, pepper spray, or firearms, that is your ultimate decision. Just be sure that you have a plan to protect yourself should that awful confrontation arise. And remember, no thing is worth your life. Decide now what you'll defend at all costs. Keep all the other "stuff" in perspective.
 
Mike Harris
Posts: 44
Location: Wilderness, South Africa
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I think my focus is more on the root of the problem. Securing my home and property is a fact of life in South Africa. I'm more interested in dealing with the problem person in question so that others don't fall victim as well. My concern is that he is surprised during a home invasion and things escalate. Or a teenage girl is home alone when he's snooping about. Am I swimming upstream here or does anyone have experience with a community solving a problem like this?

For the record those are great reminders Stacie. I think #4 is particularly relevant in this situation. He's definitely a chancer that can't help himself when he sees an opportunity.
And #5 has been hammered into me for as long as I can remember. And I hammer it into anyone who will listen. Invaluable advice. You can't be a hero if you're dead
 
master steward
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Mike Harris wrote: My concern is that he is surprised during a home invasion and things escalate. Or a teenage girl is home alone when he's snooping about. Am I swimming upstream here or does anyone have experience with a community solving a problem like this?



Since he has lived in the area for a long time he probably knows how not to go after, etc.

I like what Stacy has given so I want to add a tidbit more.

If it were me I would get the kind of security system which takes pictures and sends them to your phone.  That way you will have proof.

By doing this I feel it will also help the community by showing him how easy it is for him to get caught now with today's technology.

 
pollinator
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My first joke answer was put some seasoning salt on the unsavoury bastards. Second was to watch and study Home Alone, a paint can to the head seems like a fair punishment for a thief. In reality though, multiple big dogs (a pyrenees-akbash and a doberman) inside a fence that keeps them in is my solution. The dogs are actually sweethearts, but their bark doesn't sound like they are, and they are breeds know for sensing the intentions of visitors. The few people they haven't liked and barked viciously at, after only short interactions with those folks, I feel like the dogs were right.

I would also point out that none of us are immune from math, and the statistics on guns, their relationship to the owner's safety, and who actually falls victim to their use (the owner, and those closest to them are far more likely to be harmed by them than any criminal), might give caution to those who consider their usefulness for protection. Of course they are tools and the user is the most important factor in their safety, but when we are spooked and its dark, unintended stuff happens. Some can manage them safely, others less so. Dogs have night vision, hearing 200x our own, smell 10,000 our own, and are far less likely to accidentally kill a kid sneaking back in after a night out. I don't mean to make this political, and of course responsible gun ownership is possible, just sharing my logic on all this.
 
gardener
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Mike Harris wrote:I think my focus is more on the root of the problem. Securing my home and property is a fact of life in South Africa. I'm more interested in dealing with the problem person in question so that others don't fall victim as well. My concern is that he is surprised during a home invasion and things escalate. Or a teenage girl is home alone when he's snooping about. Am I swimming upstream here or does anyone have experience with a community solving a problem like this?

...



There are many reasons a person would continue a life of crime, some a community can help with and some that they can't. It's important also to prioritize your own wellbeing, mental and otherwise. It can be near impossible to change someone who doesn't want to change themselves. It might be good to think hard on how much you are willing to do for this person and draw a line for yourself of when to stop. And remember he might not be "self-employed", but could be working for other people that you might not want to get involved with...

It's frustrating to be the new person in a community and want to fix the obvious(from an outside perspective) problems only to find out no one cares. If the rest of the community is not helpful or onboard with trying to change the situation, they might even sabotage your efforts. If they will never accept him as a member, then it would be best for him to leave and try to fit in with another community. Easier said than done...

I think we need to know a bit more about his motivations for stealing. If he really does just enjoy it, then we could think about what skills he is using and what parts of the experience he enjoys. Then we could think of alternative livings that replicate those. Maybe hunting or foraging is similar in that you are looking in new environments for useful things to "steal" from nature?

If he has been living this life since childhood, it may be the only thing he believes he can do. The community and justice system are likely to reinforce this belief. He may say that he likes crime better to save himself the possibility of failing. Giving him the experience of succeeding at something else may open the door to him believing in the possibility of another lifestyle where he is valued and trusted by the community. Best to start small with one time, odd jobs. A respectable job with responsibilities all of the sudden could be overwhelming. Maybe a community garden?

You would really have to get to know the guy to learn what would work best in his situation, at your own risk of course.

You could also look into programs to reduce recidivism or reoffending that produced results and campaign in your community to start one. I'm not too familiar, but I've heard of prison gardens and taking care of rescued dogs in prisons, like each inmate gets a foster dog to train. Not to mention mental health care and job/life skill training in prison or at halfway houses after release. Probably what would really solve the root of the problem is going to be very tough for just one person to do.

"Are we done fighting yet" by Matthew Legge is a great book about reducing conflict and how to interact more peacefully. Might be a good resource for you to communicate more effectively, if you decide to interact with the guy.

A quick note on the preventative side. It might be a good idea to check with your insurance (if you have it) what kind of proof(receipts, pictures) they require for reimbursement of stolen goods just in case.
 
Posts: 409
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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Ben Zumeta wrote: the statistics on guns, their relationship to the owner's safety, and who actually falls victim to their use (the owner, and those closest to them are far more likely to be harmed by them than any criminal), might give caution to those who consider their usefulness for protection.



I would feel the same way about the other suggestion of "a pocket knife".  Unless you are experienced in the wielding of one, carrying a knife is probably the best way to get even more hurt yourself than the person you are trying to defend yourself from.  With any knife, you have to get real close to the other person to have any effect with it, and then they'll have it straight off you as they probably come into contact with knives far more than you do.  Just waving it from a distance is only likely to rile them, make them laugh or encourage them to come in and get it off you.  This is what I have told my son who I found sleeping with a knife under his pillow because it "made him feel safer".

Myself, I favour a 30" blackthorn stick which I am very experienced at waving around at close quarters and NOT hitting people with, so I reckon if I ever wanted to actually make contact my spatial awareness of it would be acute enough I could make it felt. At the very least I could poke the antagonist and keep them away from me.

Or the pepper spray.
 
pollinator
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Hester Winterbourne wrote:

Ben Zumeta wrote: the statistics on guns, their relationship to the owner's safety, and who actually falls victim to their use (the owner, and those closest to them are far more likely to be harmed by them than any criminal), might give caution to those who consider their usefulness for protection.



I would feel the same way about the other suggestion of "a pocket knife".  Unless you are experienced in the wielding of one, carrying a knife is probably the best way to get even more hurt yourself than the person you are trying to defend yourself from.  With any knife, you have to get real close to the other person to have any effect with it, and then they'll have it straight off you as they probably come into contact with knives far more than you do.  Just waving it from a distance is only likely to rile them, make them laugh or encourage them to come in and get it off you.  This is what I have told my son who I found sleeping with a knife under his pillow because it "made him feel safer".

Myself, I favour a 30" blackthorn stick which I am very experienced at waving around at close quarters and NOT hitting people with, so I reckon if I ever wanted to actually make contact my spatial awareness of it would be acute enough I could make it felt. At the very least I could poke the antagonist and keep them away from me.

Or the pepper spray.




Mindset is critical, and training a very damned good idea.

A knifefight is a great way for two people to kill each other.. but if the other guy didn't bring a knife it's a hell of an edge. We very occasionally practiced anti-knife techniques in aikido... the main takeaway for me was that anyone short of a second degree blackbelt was *very* likely to get hurt badly in the process of taking a knife away from someone... but if you aren't actually willing to stab someone and keep on stabbing until you can get away, then it is a liability. Same with any other weapon...


A knife is a very versatile tool; I've carried one daily since highschool. I've worn out several, and probably had a use for one... hm. 40,000 times? 20 years times at least a few uses per day,..

In that time I've only drawn it on a person once, and I'll never know if it was truly necessary.. the two guys I had a problem with immediately fucked off. Quite possibly they were joking around, but I didn't think so in the moment.


Guns... yes, being around a gun carries an inherent risk, which varies wildly according to handling and storage practices. Pretty safe if you are relentless about safe handling, secure storage, *and* do not spend time around armed people with lower standards. Most people simply do not stick to these very simple rules..

In my opinion, there is no excuse for shooting something you can't see, unless it is shooting at you. Really good flashlights are cheap, far cheaper than a gun. Mount one to your gun, keep another beside it. No see, no shoot.


Thing about gun stats is that their positive impact is damned hard to track, imo.  Most times that something goes wrong, there is a hospital or mortuary report... stats add up. Most times that something goes right, the problem sobers up and fucks right off... and nothing is recorded..
 
Mike Harris
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Thanks for all the input here folks. I don't have time at the moment to respond to everyone, but just wanted to jump on and say I appreciate all the feedback and I'm thinking of ways to implement them all. I'm busy trying to organise a meeting with all my neighbours so that we can work together and come up with a solution that suits us all.
 
gardener
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Mike, I live in a similar environment (Brazil). Police not particularly interested and plenty of unsavory characters.
We have a pretty tight neighborhood. I put up cameras a few years ago and I regularly get the neighbor lady showing up asking if she can see the camera from X day at Y time. We also have a whatsapp group that in theory allows us to alert each other if something odd is happening (neighborhood watch) although it's mostly just chitchat. We have a neighbor who is homebound in a wheelchair who literally watches the street from his balcony, but.... his home has also been robbed. It's exactly the same situation here- opportunistic, easy theft. We don't know who it is, but we know that any slip will be noticed.

I work at home alone all day, and my personal response is to make my house the least attractive on the block, with a big mean dog and bars on the window (which are normal here but several houses on my block don't have them because "they're ugly". they are indeed, but they work). The cameras are pushing it, but when the houses on both sides got burgled I decided to go for it.
Here there is a fine line between defense and calling attention to yourself; guns are hard to get, so advertising that you have one is a great way to attract even more attention from the bad guys. Even if I had one there is no way anyone would know about it until the moment I had to defend myself. In the meantime, the dog works well (we're recruiting his replacement as he retires).

The business about the possibility of escalation is hard. I have had this conversation with my neighbor lady- her teenage daughter is often home alone glued to her phone. But I can't make her care, unfortunately.
 
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All you can really do is make your stuff not low hanging fruit. Burglars look for an easy score.

It is an age old problem with many preventative solutions. Better locks, lights, look like someone is home, "Beware of Dog" sign, cameras, etc. What happens is low hanging fruit gets taken first and hopefully he gets caught before he gets to your dwelling.

With alternative community it can be more of a challenge. I have lived in communities that had no locks, share everything, kick no one out(except for violence), etc. Toss out all the conventional rules of life then... ? it makes problems challenging.
 
pollinator
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We've had 2 attempted break ins. Our neighbors have been robbed. They're all pretty sure they know who did it. Ours were only attempted. As it turns out a great pyreneese that can leap over a 6' fence is TERRIFYING to would be robbers.
 
Mike Harris
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We have about 10 neighbourhood Whatsapp groups all with different topics. Chit chat, fire alert, baboon movements, wildlife chat (blew up recently due to an increase in snares), and a neighbourhood watch one. The neighbourhood watch is for security purposes only. And within about 3 minutes of posting on this group you'll have 5 angry farmers on your doorstep. Which is a lot better than the 3-4 hours it takes for the cops to show up. Even though the 'satellite' station is just down the road.

Guns aren't really an option here. We're not a heavily armed society, besides for farmers and gangsters. I could probably get one off the black market in no time, but I'm not a fan of guns for reasons posted above.

It's a pity that we have to go to all these measures to protect our belongings from petty thieves. Especially when we all know who the culprit is. I've done all I'm willing to do to not make my property low hanging fruit, which it definitely was when I first arrived. Burglar bars, home alarm system, big dog. My house isn't visible from the road. It just looks like overgrown bush that's becoming forest. Unfortunately, before i moved here, there was a drunkard squatting here. And he would invite all the most unsavoury folks down the hill to come and watch him be the drunkest man in the Southern Hemisphere. So they all know what they're working with down here, even though I've done extensive renovations.

Oh well, thanks for the input and suggestions everyone


 
Dan Boone
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elle sagenev wrote:As it turns out a great pyreneese that can leap over a 6' fence is TERRIFYING to would be robbers.



This made me literally laugh out loud.  Our pyr is a spoiled baby pet who thinks twice before biting his own dogfood.  He has never been seen to leap over so much as a garden hose, although the one time that a fence offended him, he did push it down by busting a four-inch rotten fence pole off at the base after whamming his weight through his front paws against the pole at human head height. But for some reason strangers pay him amazing deference.

Actually this is true of all out rescue dogs, the least of which is about 65lbs.  They're all totally harmless except possibly the aforementioned pitbull/ridgeback cross.  The one that looks like a Doberman has literally no teeth (from chewing her way through walls to escape bad situations) but she looks and sounds fierce.  The brindle boy (possible shep/greyhound cross) moves like a German Shephard on fast forward and scares the shit out of people, but he's fearful and quite meek.  And the 100lb beast who looks like a supersized black lab has a muzzle covered in white scars plus a bork that shakes the whole neighborhood, but she's old and slow and she loves everybody, including the UPS driver who travels with dog biscuit bribes.  
 
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I am a single female in a very rural area.  I have a Belgian Malinois.  The dog was the best investment i've made in a while.  Pick your watch dogs carefully folks.  There are some breeds that protect by instinct, Belgians are one of them.
 
pollinator
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Well, I had the same problem.  My wife and I bought her family farm.  The local thief had been stealing from about 8 years old on.  He stole my wife's bicycle when she was little.  Little things would come up missing.  The change in the ash tray was usually gone the next day.  I refuse to lock my car.  One day he stopped in and needed a blower housing for a small engine and I gave him one.  I have way more small engine parts than I could possibly ever use.  I noticed his eyes all over my shop while I talked to him, so I invited him into my shop.  Yes, I know you think I'm crazy by this point.  I told him if he needs something just ask for it.  I told him that I will gladly give him parts if he needs them, just don't steal them because they might be one of my customers.  It has been 11 years now and nothing has ever come up missing again.  I'm sure this won't work in all cases, but it worked for me.
 
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Joan Olsen wrote:.... I have a Belgian Malinois.....



oh wow! those dogs are incredibly smart. And incredibly beautiful. I can see this being a very good investment.
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