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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Crime Victim

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 30, 2013

Although I write mysteries, my only connection to the real world of crime has been through seminars with specialists in the field. Now I can finally claim a true crime experience of my own.

Our Orlando condo had a break-in and all jewelry plus portable electronics were stolen. The thieves tossed our clothing onto the floor, knocked over a lamp, riffled through the master bedroom dresser and nightstand, and took two pillowcases plus two entire drawers from our lovely dresser.

We felt violated, insecure, and sad for our daughter whose lifelong collection of jewelry had been taken. These included graduation and birthday gifts, heirlooms from her grandmother, gifts from her friends, and designer pieces we’d bought for her on our Caribbean cruises. The sentimental value is greater than the actual value.

Insurance doesn’t nearly cover the cost of everything. Her company was easy, listing her losses over the phone. Mine requires receipts or appraisals, photos and replacement values. Doing all of this paperwork has consumed my attention in recent weeks, which is why I haven’t posted here until lately. Fortunately my blog tour picked up the slack, since I’d already written and submitted those pieces. This experience has been an education. I’d advise you to check your insurance policies. Coverage on valuables is very limited. You might want to itemize certain items of value. Make sure you have everything you own well documented.

Our bedroom dresser has to be replaced. Right now it has two gaping spots from the missing drawers. Really? The burglars had to ruin my piece of furniture?

I am angry at the crooks who have no respect for anyone’s property. I am dismayed by the delay in replacing our damaged front door. The thieves used a crowbar to gain entry and damaged both the door and the frame. It’s taking our homeowner’s association weeks to get a new door that fits the code. Meanwhile, we’ve instituted a monitored alarm system and additional security measures.

The fallout from a theft takes a toll. We haven’t even begun to shop for replacement items, but the dresser will be a priority. We’ve made two unexpected four-hour trips to Orlando to deal with these issues. This means two weeks of work lost and other chores gone undone, not to mention the cost in gas and meals.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone who loses their home and all their possessions in a fire or other natural disaster. How horribly sad and unsettling. In the case of a break-in, though, you feel more paranoid. You realize your home isn’t sacrosanct. No more do you feel safe from invasion.

One bright spot in all of this: Our kids discovered the Beck Brothers blueberry farm and they picked a bunch of sweet berries. So I made blueberry bread and blueberry coffee cake.

Blueberry Cake

31 Responses to “Crime Victim”

  1. Nancy,
    I’m sorry about your break in. How awful. Last year a cleaning person took some of my jewelry. Though I “replaced” the missing items, I wish I had the original ones. And the fact that they were stolen still rankles.

    • It is so important to hire people who are trustworthy, but you just never know. It’s impossible to replace items exactly, plus the prices have increased over the years for fine jewelry.

  2. Betsy said

    Oh Nancy, I’m so sorry. You focused on feeling violated when strangers pawed through your belongings and took what they wanted. I agree. That sense of loss of personal safety, of being attacked, of knowing someone went through your property are so real. So is anger, which came through in your post. You should be angry.

    You wondered how people who lose everything feel. Once the grief and anger and sense of being overwhelmed fades, some feel lightened. Yes. lightened. As if loads have been lifted from shoulders. We all lose stuff, but it’s just that. Stuff. Memories, loved ones, pets–if they are safe, we can and do recover.

    Be strong. You will get through this. And you will explore your emotions in your next book, I get.

    • Oh yes, I’m sure Marla will find her house ransacked in a future book. As for the anger, that is real. Especially about my dresser! They don’t make that model anymore and it matches the nightstand. I’m more sad for my daughter about the jewelry she lost, not to mention the thousands we spent on much of it. Those pieces are irreplaceable too.

  3. I was visiting my parents with my toddler son. I’d taken my son out, and my parents were both at work. When I returned with my son, I sent him to the bathroom (being at that stage in his life!) and noticed that the house didn’t seem as impeccably neat as my mom normally left things. Since I didn’t live there, it didn’t register immediately that someone had broken in and taken things. I still feel a sense of relief on one hand–that they weren’t still there and my son hadn’t walked in on them, mixed with your anger that their home had been violated. They took my suitcase, probably to carry off their booty. And you’re so right. Jewelry and valuables are NOT covered under basic homeowner’s policies. You need to add riders for anything worth more than whatever (low) limit they set.

    I hope things get back to normal for you, although I know you’ll never forget the day.

    • We’d like the police report but they haven’t received our initial paperwork so I’ve had to copy and email it to our daughter. Nor have I heard back from our insurance company on what paltry amount they’re giving me to compensate us for our losses. First they’ll take out the deductible.

  4. Marcia said

    I am really sorry to hear this. Nothing makes me madder than people with no respect for the property and the rights of others. Our neighbors had a break in a month ago. The thieves took money, all of the jewelry left to the wife by her deceased mother, and other valuables. They smashed their big screen tv because they couldn’t get pull the cable out of the wall so they could take it. (Guess they weren’t prepared). But worst of all, the 13-year-old grandson was home sick. He hid on the floor between his bed and the wall, terrified they would kill him if they found him. They actually came into his room, and then left and trashed the master bedroom, instead. So the only good thing I can say is, thank God no one was hurt in your situation. All too often, that is not the case. I’m really glad you are all safe, and I know you will never be able to replace the things that had sentimental value for you, but you still all have each other.

    Hang in there. You will get through it, and eventually, the shock of such an awful violation will ease up some. As for the thieves, I sincerely hope they get exactly what’s coming to them. Sending positive thoughts your way, and hoping that some of your most precious things are recovered at some point…maybe at pawn shops, or the like. It does happen now and then.

    Stay safe.

    • That poor kid; he must have been terrified. Thank heaven the thieves didn’t find him. But how mean to smash the TV. It’s like these people feel entitled to rob others and to damage property because they don’t have as much. Hey, maybe this will give me an excuse if I ever get jury duty again. I’ll just say the crooks look guilty to me. I will definitely have less sympathy and want to see them get their just rewards.

  5. Charlaine said

    Nancy, I am sorry, and thankful that you and your daughter were not at home.

  6. David Wainland said

    We’ve been through similar, twice in fact. The first time a week after we returned from our Honeymoon. They took the camera with most of our honeymoon shots. Violated is not a strong enough word in this case, however I cannot think of another without dropping into the realm of vulgarity. This too shall pass.

  7. Debbie said

    I’m so sorry that happened to you and that you’ve had a hard time with the insurance companies. Back on 9-11-99 we lost our house, garage, and all contents to a house fire. We were lucky in that our insurance company was great to work with and we can say we had a good experience with them. They sent someone in to inventory the burned mess (even counting paper clips) and we had to look it over and add to it items that they may have missed. The only draw back was that we then had to take the list and mark down how old it was, what we paid for it, and the cost today.We had a new house within 3 months and check for contents even sooner. They also cut us a check right away as payment towards our contents, this was later subtracted from the remaining balance, but at least we could start to replace items. Our agent suggested taking pictures of each room and keeping the disk or jump drive in a fire proof safe. Also keep all receipts for anything major. Good luck!

    • You were lucky with the insurance company. We have way too much stuff in our house, but yes, I’ve been trying to take pix and put them in another location, but cataloguing stuff with receipts and possible replacement value is a monumental and full-time chore. I can’t even begin to guess the cost of things today, and they don’t make things like my computer desk anymore. Plus the costs for everything has escalated.

      • Debbie said

        It was not fun having to attempt to price things. How do you put a dollar amount on paintings that family members painted? All of the afghans, baby blankets, etc that my mom crocheted? That was the hardest part. I am sad that my son does not have those for his kids some day, and my mom has passed away and can’t replace them. We did realize that although we would like to have our belongings, we are so glad that no one was hurt. People can’t be replaced, but things can, for the most part. Let me just say that when you have to go and buy EVERYTHING it is a pain, and one reason that I’m not a big shopper any more! I only go to the mall if I need something, LOL

  8. Ann said

    Sorry about your break in. It is a violation and hard to shake. My own experience as a crime victim occurred when the co-executor of my parents’s estate drained all their liquid assets, then burned the home I grew up in hoping to get an insurance settlement to steal. Ironically, he had neglected to pay their home owner’s insurance. The added betrayal of someone I trusted like a brother compounded the bitter loss – but hey, we’re writers and I’ve written what I call “Never Bet Your Future on a Guy Called Weasel”

  9. Pen M said

    Years ago some kids broke in and wrecked my house. I had nothing of value to steal. We were in the process of redoing it and no one was living in it. But my furniture and pics and stuff were there. They seemed to have used it like a club house. There was a jar lid with the remains of cigarettes and marijuana and empty bottles. And the living room was chest deep in trash. It was awful. And so many books and pics destroyed. Weird stuff like the lid to a pot in the VCR.
    I wish you could find the most sentimental jewelry in a pawn shop.

  10. I am really sorry about all the destruction. Thanks for the tips. When I moved to my first studio apartment in NYC years ago, someone broke in and stole a clock radio – the only thing of value. It was horrible so I can only imagine what you and your family went through. It’s just terrible…I am one of those VERY tough on crime people so I hope they catch the crooks and string them up by their you-know-what.

  11. I have to tell you that I totally know how you feel. The horrid loss of things more treasured then valued, the loss of your peace of mind, but the worst is the sense of violation. Someone touched your intimate things and nothing can take that back. Someone robbed out apartment in Queens, it was one of the reasons we moved here. Sadly, people who feel entitled or just too plain lazy to work, live everywhere.
    I am so sorry for your unfortunate experience.

    • Thanks so much, Mary. You hit every nail on the head. I think these people do feel entitled, and it’s easier to steal other folks’ stuff than to get a job and earn their pay. And likely they resent the “Have’s” and don’t care what they destroy.

  12. That is terrible, Nancy. I had my purse stolen on a flight OUT from Boston to CA and it was a nightmare. I can relate to some of this but not to the personal intrusion on your space. I know from what people say, that it will take awhile to get over this. I am thinking of you. Take care.

    • I imagine it would be a nightmare to have your purse stolen with all your credit cards and drivers license inside plus cash and airline tickets? The paperwork afterward must have been very time consuming just notifying everyone and getting replacement documents. Identity theft is scary.

  13. I’m sorry to hear about your break-in. I’ve been blessed by never having this happen. Of course, being a dog lover is a great deterent.

    I’m praying for the return of some of the items. It’s hard to replace the sentiment with some of the pieces, not to mention the piece of mind.

    • Having a Dog is a great deterrent. I don’t hold out much hope for finding the stuff. Designer pieces can be replaced, although they cost more now. But things from friends or bought on trips are more unique.

  14. I hope things are back to normal soon. I have had thesame experience in Belfast and it’s the red tape and how nasty the insurance company was. To be honest I was so upset at losing a hold all of momentoes I didn’t care too much about the other replacable stuff. It’s when they steal your memories and moments you have cherished and stored for years.

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