Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Was Robbed

I'm not a suspicious person.  I never have been.  I don't try to find the evil in others.  It's just not how I'm wired.

At least I wasn't.  Until December 10, 2014.

I debated whether or not I should write about this.  Only a handful of people have heard most of the details and even fewer have heard my darkest thoughts about it.

Let's start from the beginning.

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, I had plans to meet a friend for a short bike ride.  We met at a local park with access to the bike path.  I was coming from work, so I had several bags in the back of my car with clothes in it.  My purse was hidden in one of the bags before I left work and was never taken out after arriving at the park.

I was a little early, so I got my bike ready then sat in my car to wait.

When my friend arrived, I got out to put my bike shoes on.  During this time, an older style minivan pulled into the parking lot and backed into the parking space behind mine.  There were two people in the van and they didn't get out.  I thought nothing of this, after all, just a few minutes ago, I was sitting in the car, too.  They must be waiting for someone, I assumed.

My friend and I rode for 30 minutes.  When we returned, I was greeted with this.

And the van, that had just parked behind me 30 minutes before, was gone.

I knew at that moment that the people in the van were responsible.  They were waiting for someone, alright.  For me.  To leave.

They were watching me.

It still gives me the creeps.

I was in shock and don't remember a whole lot of details from this part of the day, but I do know that I called to make a police report and I remember asking my friend to look in my car to see if my shoes were still there (they were) and if I still had two car seats (I did).

My purse was the only thing missing.

I asked my friend to call my husband, who was in California for work, to let him know that he can't use any of our credit cards, but Randy was in a meeting and didn't answer.  My friend left him a message.

Before we left the park, my friend and I looked in all of the garbage cans in the parking lot just in case the people (I've had many names for the people in the past several weeks, but I'll leave them to your imagination) took the cash and dumped the rest.  No luck.

I talked to Randy on my way home from the park as I wracked my brain to think of all the contents in my purse.  Cash and credit cards were a given.  My ID.  My coupons (grr).

My house keys.


I pulled into my driveway and was afraid to go into the house.  The people had my ID and my keys.  God knows what they would do with them.  Logic told me that they only wanted the money.  They waited for me to leave the parking lot, they wanted nothing to do with me or my house, but I was terrified.

Instead of going in the house, I walked up to the front window and tapped on the glass.  Immediately, my 85 pound dog jumped up in the window barking his head off and flashing his teeth at me.  The other two dogs joined him in the window seconds later.

The dogs were fine.

It was safe to assume that the people weren't in my house waiting for me.

I went into the house, calmed the dogs with treats (Good dogs!  Tear unwelcome visitors to shreds!) and started making phone calls.  I had two debit cards and two credit cards.  All were used.  Well, one of the debit cards was used to attempt to get money out of an ATM.  Seven times.  Unsuccessfully.  That particular card couldn't be used for purchases after that, thank goodness.

Back to the ATM attempts.  This is the one ray of sunshine in my miserable day.  I have a small piece of paper in my wallet with lots of numbers written on it.  There is no explanation of what the numbers are and they're all encrypted with extra numbers at the beginning and end and only I know how many extra numbers there are and what the numbers mean.  The people assumed they were ATM pin numbers and tried to use them.  HA!

Score one for the good guys!

Once all of my cards were cancelled, I needed a locksmith.  The people had my keys and there was no way in hell my children and I were sleeping in my house without having the locks changed.

Luckily, I had some cash in my house and could pay the locksmith.

Local friends, in case you ever need one, Columbus Locksmith was great. (614) 236-5397

The next day, Thursday, I needed to get a new driver's license.  I had enough cash leftover to get my license, but would need more money to pay to have my window fixed and buy a few groceries.  Several friends offered me cash to borrow, but I was getting a new ID so I could go to the bank.  No problem!  Right?

Wrong.  The man at the bank gave me a hard time because my ID was printed that day and I had no credit cards in my wallet with my name on it.  Are you kidding me?  I want two hundred bucks.  I'm not clearing out the account.  So there I was, crying at the bank because I was told I couldn't have access to my own money.  Eventually I did get some money but not before he made me sign my name three times because my signature didn't match the one they have on file.  From 12 years ago.

I left the bank and went home feeling completely defeated.  It wasn't enough that I had to deal with all of this.  Alone.  Because my husband was on the other side of the country (with no credit cards).  My baby's car seat was full of glass and the bank made me feel like a criminal.  I very much wanted to lay on the couch with the dogs and have (another) good cry but something was nagging at me to call the location of the ATM that the people tried to use.  It was in a CVS nearby.  I called, hoping there was a surveillance camera on the ATM, but knowing in my heart that there wasn't.  That's why the people used it.

I talked to the store manager.  No, there is no camera on the ATM.  She asked me when the transactions took place and I told her around 1:15pm the day before.

She remembered the people.

They may not have been on camera using the ATM, but they were on camera making purchases with my other credit cards.

Even better: one of the employees was suspicious of them and wrote down their license plate number.  They were, indeed, the same people in the van I saw at the park.  I took down the information, added the license place number to my police report, had my window replaced and started to get back to my normal life.

Honestly, I didn't expect anything to come of this.  Columbus Police are busy with real life or death stuff.  No one was hurt during this robbery and I assumed that it was on the very bottom of someone's to-do list.  Small potatoes, compared to other crimes going on in the world.  So I shared the information I had on Facebook to warn my other runner-friends who frequent our metro parks to keep a look out for the vehicle and license plate number in case the people try again.

Imagine my delight on December 22 when I received a phone call from a Columbus Police detective who told me that the people had been arrested.  The people were linked to fifteen other car break-ins and I was the only one who included a license plate number in the police report.  They used the license plate to track the people down to arrest them. 

The detective was impressed when I told him that it was the CVS employee who got the plate number.  The CVS employee wrote down the plate number knowing the people were up to no good, but didn't know what to do with the information...until I called.

People, when your gut is nagging at you to do something, even if you don't understand why or you think there's no point, do it.  Don't second guess your intuition.

I'm so thankful that there are caring people still left in the world.  I'm sure the other 15 victims are as well.

It's been almost one month since this terrible event and life has pretty much gone back to normal.  The first few times I parked my car and went for a run, I was panicked for my entire run.  Even knowing that there was nothing to steal, I still panicked just leaving my car in a parking lot.  The fear gets a little less each time.  On New Year's Day, I didn't think about my car at all until mile 8.

I'm getting there.

Stay safe, friends.