I was the victim of a burglary. I know this because that's what it says on the copy of the Los Angeles Police Department Investigative Report I was given by Officer Norman of the Van Nuys branch of the LAPD (note: the officer's name has been changed)
The burglary happened on 10/10/14 at 1620 on the 14800 block of Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, CA.
Before I tell you what happened, you need to know this:
On Election Day, 2014, 58% of Californians who dragged themselves to their local polling place voted in favor of Proposition 47, a ballot measure that:
"Requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for certain drug and property offenses."
In other words, certain non-violent crimes which had previously resulted in convicted criminals going to jail... would now be classified as misdemeanors, whose punishment would most likely be a small fine. The multiple millions saved by reducing California's prison population will be earmarked for three things:
1. Reducing school truancy and decreasing the dropout rate.
2. Mental health and substance abuse programs
3. Victim services.
Depending on whom you ask, the passage of Proposition 47 will mean the imminent release from California prisons of between 10,000 and 30,000 criminals. You see Prop 47 doesn't just affect future non-violent criminals, it has a retroactive affect, as well, that springs non-violent cons from the joint.
In California this year, Christmas came early.
Meanwhile, back at the supermarket... after paying for four bottles of Mexican Coke, I walked into the parking lot of the supermarket carrying them in a paper bag. Yes, I know I'm supposed to bring my own bags, but I haven't brought a bag to the grocery store for 47 years... and I'm having a tough time breaking that habit. Also, I'm not really trying. Anyway, from where I was standing, I could see my car.
And I could see the man standing behind my car, too.
As I got closer, I could see the man was about 5'7" tall. I say this because I'm 6 feet tall... and he was a few inches shorter. He was wearing a white sports team jersey with a number on it and baggy black pants that didn't reach his ankles. He had a mustache and a baseball cap turned backwards. He was either bald or had very short hair. He looked Latin. Light skinned Latin.
When I reached the car, I could see he was holding a small plastic bag. Whatever was inside was kinda scrunched up. As I passed him on his right, on the way to the driver's side door of my car, I said: "Hey, you're gonna have to move. I'm pulling out."
I clicked my remote two times. Out of habit. Even though I wasn't traveling with any passengers. One click opens the driver's door. Two clicks opens them all. Next, I passed the bag of soda bottles I was carrying in my right hand, to my left, so I could open the car's door. As I climbed in, my head was down. I didn't want to bang the soda bottles. Once inside, I was going to reach my left arm over my lap, and put the bag with the sodas on the front passenger seat.
The soda's never got that far.
Before I could put the bag down, I looked up... and the guy with the mustache and the short long pants -- the guy who was standing behind my car -- he was now sitting in the passenger seat of my car. He was what? Six inches away? Seven?
"Get the fuck out of my car! Get the fuck out of my car," is what I said when I discovered him.
He did not get out of the car.
So, I did.
Next, I leaned back in with the door open. I pointed my index finger at the guy -- it was probably two feet from his face -- and again I said: "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE."
This time, he did. But, he didn't run off. Which I thought was weird.
Instead, he stood opposite me. Me on the driver's side - door open-- looking in. Him on the passenger side -- door open -- looking in. Then, he says to me in a quite voice, holding up the plastic bag: "This is yours."
"What? That is not my fucking bag. Take that shit and get the fuck out of here," I yell.
He stands motionless.
"Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Here!"
This time, he turns, bag in hand, and walks back towards the supermarket. I just stand and watch. He doesn't go inside the market... instead, he makes a left at the front door and keeps walking toward the side street.
I am relieved.
What the fuck just happened?
I pace back and forth doing the math in my head. "Did I drop a plastic bag and a guy tried to return it to me? A weird creepy guy who missed the lesson on personal boundaries?" No, I decide. I didn't have a plastic when I went into the store. And I didn't bring a plastic bag out.
"Was I mugged?," I think to myself. Nope! I still have my wallet. Plus, all my urine, thankfully, remains in my bladder.
"Was that a homeless guy with some sort of mental problem?" His clothes were clean. He was clean. He didn't smell like he hadn't showered. And I didn't smell any booze.
None of this added up.
So, I get back in the car. Then, I looked over my right shoulder onto the floor of the back seat and things instantly become more clear. The floor was a mess. Make-up. Lots of make-up was strewn about. A half dozen lipsticks. A few eyeliners. Cotton pads. Lip glosses. Two or three compact mirrors.
It's at this point, I should tell you that the car I was driving wasn't my car, but rather, it was my wife's and that I didn't lock the doors when I went inside. Anyway, back to the make-up on the floor. Seeing it I suddenly realize: "A few seconds before I arrive to find the guy in the black hat at the back door of my car, he must have been inside my wife's car -- and when all he finds is my wife's make-up, he dumps it on the floor of the back seat, minus a few items which remained in the bag he was holding."
A few more seconds pass... and more things become clearer to me. The guy who broke into my car was clearly on drugs. He was looking for something to steal to turn into cash. Drugs explain his weird behavior. Drugs explain why he chose to sit down next to me. Drugs explain why, when I "caught" him, he offered to give the bag back. Drugs explain why he slowly walks off after I kick him out of the car, rather than running away.
OK, so a guy I think was on drugs robbed my car, or as Officer Norman wrote on the Investigative Report:
"Unknown suspect burglarized victim's vehicle, entered into vehicle with victim, then fled with victim's property."
In the last 6 months, there were 845 property crimes committed in Sherman Oaks, California. That ranks 46 out of 209 other Los Angeles County communities. By comparison, in downtown LA over the same 6 month period, there were 1900 property crimes, which include: burglary, theft, grand theft auto and theft from a vehicle.
Before I leave the police station I ask Officer Norman what the punishment would be if they are able to catch the guy with the mustache and backwards hat and get a conviction? He tells me that a week ago, he would have gone to jail... but that today, instead of locking him up, thanks to Prop 47, the state is going to use the money to try and get him off drugs.
"Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Here" is what I wish I would have said to Officer Norman, instead of "I'm going to look into this. It doesn't sound like a very good plan."
"It isn't," he said.
Jon Hotchkiss is a 14 time Emmy loser and the creator of several new non-fiction TV programs which you can enjoy @ adorablepuppiesinc.com