Better Safe Than Sorry

To the editor:

As a neighborly follow-up to your posting wisely alerting people to be wary of opening a door to strangers, we have had kids going through our neighborhood asking to rake leaves. Having mowed lawns and shoveled snow as a youngster, I am never one to impede youthful enterprise.

Leave it to Beaver, though, is no longer the norm in these less than innocent times. Alarmingly, older kids are sometimes not far behind the avowed rakers. Somehow that makes you wonder.

Just like there is no such thing as a stupid question, there is no such thing as a stupid call to the police. Ask our men and women in blue to be vigilant and maybe drive by. This, after all, is a repeat of the common practice of kids ringing your bell collecting for a basketball league or some such extra-curricular activity. Truth be told, I not only habitually get puzzled at the private club they represent as it seems I have never heard of it.

Worse yet, given the burglary climate, I have bigger fears than contributing to a possible sham. It could be legit; it could be a set-up. It’s easy to feel guilty because we don’t want to doubt people asking for help, but preying on guilt can be a practiced art. Consider the studies that show that as much as 70% and upwards of beggars use their panhandled money for drugs.

You owe it to your family. Better safe than sorry.

I must confess that as a former New Yorker I have had to adjust to casual California where the doors rarely have peepholes and police locks (now called door jammers or braces) are uncommon. Those devices are poles, like long car clubs, that stick in the floor propped into the door. It would take a battering ram to force the door open.

New Yorkers take this stuff seriously and, obviously, jammers are far better than the useless door chain. Those decorative bracelets might stop a seven year old but they, and sorry to say, that $30 lock you are so proud of, are laughable to even a mere 130-pound crack addict with two good legs looking for their next fix.

Advice: If you are a woman and answer the door you might wish to yell upstairs, “honey, it’s some kids” -even if no male is home it sends a message you’re not to be messed with.

Incidentally, I met a fellow at the Golden Gate Bell Ringer and Boys Chorus concert last night who said that nine homes on his block had recently been burglarized. Five of them had previously shrugged off joining the local Neighborhood Watch group. Any wonder why they now sing a different tune?

Walter Ruehlig

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