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Let Inga Tell You: Cameras provide more security against crime than, say, starch

If nothing else, security camera footage is a good way to pass the time in a waiting room, Inga says.
(stock.adobe.com)

Last time, I wrote about the spate of crime in our area and the frustrated efforts of my neighbors to rein in what seems to be a nightly onslaught of bike thieves, garage break-ins, porch pirates, creepy trespassers and brazen burglary attempts, even when people are home, all caught up close and personal on what are now pervasive security cameras.

In the small town where I grew up, doors were unlocked and keys left in the car.

Fortunately, between the time I submitted that column (eight days before its Sept. 9 publication) and the time it appeared, a man suspected of being one of the boldest of the bike thieves, who had probably starred in more videos than the Kardashians, was finally apprehended thanks to dedicated efforts by the neighborhood.

The La Jolla Light reported that the suspect was being held in San Diego County Jail. Is he still there? Did he perhaps post bail with profits from fencing all those high-end bikes? [As of Sept. 21, he was still in jail.]

OK, sounding a little jaded here. But I was genuinely happy that at least one of the miscreants preying on my neighborhood finally might be at least temporarily a guest of law enforcement.

Like many of our neighbors, we installed exterior security cameras, although not the popular Ring variety that so many of our neighbors have. (They hadn’t really come out when we installed ours.)

I have to say that these cameras are a huge improvement over my earlier efforts at self-protection against crime. Or at least the illusion of it.

In my 12 years of single parenthood from 1983 to 1995, I felt utterly defenseless. I remember calling the Police Department early on and asking what it recommended for a woman alone with two young children.

After a long discourse about how I couldn’t do anything more to them than they intended to do to me (i.e., I was not permitted to kill someone who only intended to beat, maim and terrorize me) and a lecture that most weapons I might have could be used against me (no argument there), an officer suggested the lone-woman’s protection of choice: spray starch.

Seriously.

Frankly, spray starch never inspired that much confidence in me. Would the assailant wait while I shook the can as I hoped the nozzle was pointing at him and not me? Incapacitating myself seemed counterproductive to the scenario, although I’m sure the perp would have been grateful, if puzzled. The mere shock might have caused him to flee.

I specifically remember an incident soon after getting this advice when a neighbor friend mentioned that the previous night, she thought she heard someone in her backyard. Her husband got up and quietly got their gun out of the safe and loaded it. I found myself desperately envious of her: a man and a gun to protect her. (Three generations of rabidly feminist ancestors were turning over in their graves that I even thought this.) I, meanwhile, would have quietly reached for my can of spray starch and removed the cap.

When we installed our cameras, plenty of people told us that security cameras rarely result in anyone being arrested or convicted of a crime. But as I’ve written before, we’ve had our front fence taken out three times — the second and third times by hit-and-run drivers. (The 86-year-old lady in the ‘49 Dodge who did the first one may have tried to make a break for it, but I was faster.)

On another occasion, some reprobates seriously vandalized 50 cars on our street, including ours. So even if the police weren’t interested in making them accountable, I could see myself getting in touch with my inner vigilante and sending my cousin Guido to chat with them about it.

The folks who installed our video cameras told us that pretty much everyone who installs them has at least two motives. One, of course, is security. The other, the installers said, is not infrequently related to dog poop. Seriously. People want to know once and for all whose dog is inflicting feculent ordure on their lawn. Dare to deny it now, scumbag neighbor!

If you think there is a lot of contention about the seals and sea lions at La Jolla beaches, you don’t read Nextdoor.

A friend who has outdoor security cameras warned me that they are so much fun, I might end up canceling cable. And I confess she’s right. When I’m in a waiting room for an appointment, I pull out my phone (on which I can see my cameras) to see what’s happening at home. Frankly, usually not much. Sometimes somebody is putting a bag of dog poop in our trash.

I watch the neighbors unloading their groceries and people blasting through the stop sign in front of our house without even slowing down. (SDPD, we could work a deal here.)

Now that we’re officially crazy paranoid spy people with security cameras, I cruise through the replay of the night before to see if there was any action.

But most of all, I’m just grateful I have options other than spray starch.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at inga47@san.rr.com. ◆