By Scarlette Quille
I cannot tell you how many scary movies or Datelines I have watched where I sat staring at the screen wondering why the victims behave so stupidly. Why would you go around in your night gown searching for the bump in the night? Why wouldn’t you just ditch your haunted house and drive off to a new town and safer surroundings? Why didn’t they just call the cops?
It’s very easy to stare at a screen or read a story and sit in judgment of the victims. We are all so much smarter than the people we hear about in stories, right? Are you operating under the belief that life in a small town somehow insulates you from crime? Do you think that criminals are concerned with their personal safety because “everyone around here has guns?” I believed some of those things, and then I got a wake-up call at 3:40 a.m. on a Thursday this July.
I live in the city limits, but on the outskirts of town. My neighbors are down the street rather than next door. Until the bike path on Boyer was constructed a few years ago, I had very little foot traffic near my house.
Like many older homes around here, most of my windows do not open, and in the summer my house is just a few degrees hotter than hell. In the hotter summer months my family is known to sleep outside or build a makeshift bed in the living room so we can open the doors and let the cool air in. Air conditioning is something I just have a hard time purchasing when it’s only hot for about five weeks a year. Locking doors is something you do in a big city. The scariest entity on my property in the last eight years has been a moose. During college I lived in a big city, I moved back to Sandpoint because it felt like a safe place to raise children, and for the most part it has been.
That is why I came home from the Festival a few weeks ago, stripped off my clothes and laid under a fan in my living room. I was sleeping next to my large bearded, tattooed male companion and had no reason to question my personal safety.
I also have four teenagers who keep strange hours. There is a lot of activity into the wee hours of the night, and though they were not home on this evening, it is not unusual for one to show up to retrieve a personal item that they have forgotten or for help with any other teenage issue.
When I felt a presence in my home that evening, I just thought one of the kids had come home. When I rolled over to see what was bumping around in my living room, I expected to see one of my kids. Instead I saw a man holding his phone up with the flashlight on looking around my house.
This is the part of the story where everyone interjects and asks me where my gun was. Folks, I do not have a gun. I don’t have a problem with guns or people who have them, I just don’t have one. If I did have a gun it would have been locked up, as I have children, and one of them is seven years old. I wouldn’t have been sleeping with a firearm under my couch pillow. That’s just not how I roll.
My first thought was that I might know the intruder, or maybe he was a friend of my kids and messing around. I asked him directly: “What the f*ck are you doing in my house?” He calmly replied, “I’m looking for some…” as he walked towards me, my bearded companion awoke, the intruder saw him and ran out the screen door. I guess he didn’t find what he was looking for, and both of us were confused whether or not we were hallucinating or dreaming.
The dog never barked, I never heard a door slam, there was no car in the driveway and chasing him down in my skivvies seemed like a poor choice as he was no longer in my house. So after spending a minute or two in disbelief we called the police. That’s the thing, folks, home invasions do not occur when we are expecting them. Thieves and perverts don’t RSVP. You may not be in the room where you store your firearm when a bad guy comes. Dogs don’t generally bark unless they hear someone knocking or a car pull into the driveway. In other words, you aren’t as safe as you think you are.
Sandpoint is growing, quickly, and we have many people in our community who are underemployed, hungry and suffering from addiction, and we do not have the systems in place to support them. If I had a gun that night, I might have stopped him from breaking into the guy down the street’s house (he was able to do that before the police arrived). I also might have shot one of my kids’ friends or a 21-year-old with a drug problem. I don’t think a gun would have solved much in this scenario, but there are sure are a lot of people who disagree … and that’s OK with me.
What does continue to bother me is that this person is still out there, and someday he is going to hit up the wrong person’s house, and someone might end up shot. In a perfect world it would be the “bad guy,” but in the real world it might be an innocent bystander or teenager sneaking out of a house. As a community we need to get together and figure out how to work together to catch these criminals. The current system is overwhelmed, and four weeks later, there are no answers. No detectives, no security footage from nearby businesses, no victim statements required … it’s as if it didn’t happen. Except it does happen, more than we think, and it’s time we acknowledge that we have an issue as a community.
Complaining about it on Facebook isn’t working, folks. We need to take our concerns to the City Council. If any of you are interested in writing a statement regarding an influx of crime in your neighborhood, I would like you invite you to write down your concerns and take them with you to the next meeting. I will be doing this, as I care about the people in my community, even the ones I don’t know.
Locking the doors these days,