I’m a Crime Stopper
I left my apartment to check on my laundry down the hall. I hate doing laundry and I usually send it out. I don’t have a lot of money to burn, but it’s the one thing I do for myself.
Some people think laundry soothing or theraputic. Not me. I could die tomorrow and I spend the whole day fluffing and folding? No. I think it’s the folding I hate the most. I’d put socks on hangars if I could.
Except that day. I was feeling particularly fiscally responsible and decided to use the laundry room on my floor. I was in the middle of the second of three loads, because I wait to do laundry until I have nothing left except a 1992 Club Med t shirt and 5 socks that dont match. (That’s also how I grocery shop, waiting until I have 3 baby carrots, half a bottle of seltzer and 17 kinds of mustard).
So I left the apartment to run down the hall. I only leaned the door shut. But hey – I was only gonna be a second.
30 minutes earlier, a woman in my building went on Craigslist to find a cheap electrician to fix her refrigerator. There was an ad with the man’s photo that said “Neighborhood Fix-it guy for all your electrical odds and ends”. They corresponded a few times and he told her that he could be right over as he only lived four blocks east.
After looking at her refrigerator, he told her he had to get a piece of equipment to replace a coil. After he left her apartment, the woman realized she was missing her wallet.
As surveillance cameras found later, not only did the guy steal her wallet, but he then gave himself a tour of the building, looking for open apartment doors.
After checking my laundry which was still wet because our dryers SUCK which is why I hate doing laundry in the first place, not to mention the random hair of strangers stuck to the machines, I walk back down the hall and I see a guy coming out of what I think is my apartment holding something under his arm!
I yell, “HEY!” Which always helps … He runs to the stairwell. I run in my apartment to find my laptop is gone from my desk. Things have been disturbed but nothing else seemed to be gone as I race after him while calling the police.
Racing down the 2 levels of stairs to the back door, I dont seem him on the street! I race back inside to the lower hallways, nothing. The garage and the street again? Nothing. How did he get out and disappear so fast?!
I race to the building manager’s office to find the refrigerator woman there telling her story and catching me up. The police come and we view the footage.
They actually took fingerprints throughout my apartment. It made me feel hopeful, until I was told they may be able to analyze it within the year.
I was less upset about the laptop than I was about my fellow human beings playing by a different set of rules in life. I already have a hot button issue about people disrespecting me. Which is why I was stewing and couldn’t let this go.
The refrigerator woman sent me the guy’s Craigslist ad and I contacted him saying I needed help wiring a lamp. He actually answered, and my heart started pumping. He was ready to meet me until he recognized the location and called me out.
“I know who you are and if you want your computer back, you’re gonna pay for it!”
I told him he had no charger for the laptop, it was locked and gonna die soon. He wasn’t gonna get anything from it. The computer can be replaced, it’s just an inconvenience to me but I’ll give him $100 bucks to return it right now.
FIX IT GUY EMAIL:
“I’m gonna give you a location to leave the money, and then I’ll return the laptop.”
“What are you fuckin crazy? I’m not leaving you money! You’ll take that too!”
FIX IT GUY EMAIL:
“Oh you promise??? Wellllll that’s different! If the thief promises, I’ll also leave you the keys to my car!” No. You’re gonna meet me at the Starbucks counter at 1pm. I’ll give you the money and you’ll give me the laptop.”
I call LAPD and tell them that it’s gonna go down. They tell me I shouldn’t take matters into my own hands and to just call them when I see the guy. “Call you when I see him? By the time you get there he’ll be gone! This way he’s gonna be right there!”
Then the email alerts back and forth go fast and furious:
HIM: No go man. You’ll do it my way or forget it.
ME: I already alerted CL and your account info is being investigated as we speak!
HIM: I’m not from here and I’m leaving town tomorrow so you’re out of luck.
ME: You’re an idiot. The cops dusted and your prints were all over the place!
HIM: I was a criminal behavior major at UCLA. I didn’t leave a mark!
ME: You said you weren’t from here and btw, half of my desk was moved around!
……. no reply.
ME: So what are we gonna do?
BING!* —- email bounce back. Deleted the address. He’s gone.
This isn’t over. I knew he was still nearby. And I knew he lived 4 blocks east. I used his Craigslist Fix-It ad photo to make a flyer.
WE HAVE A THIEF IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD!
5’11, 165 lbs. REWARD!
I go to the copy store and print out 30 flyers, plastering them in every store, lampost, and apartment lobby. Then I went home.
9:30pm I get a call: “I’ve seen your guy. He’s walkin down SMB and Las Palmas.”
I get in my car and go. I don’t see him nor do I know what I’ll do if I did, but I see my flyers and the faces have been ripped off. It’s him. He’s seen them.
I pull into the corner 7-11 and chat it up with the stationed police officers telling them my story. The phone rings.
“You want your computer?”
“You gotta stop puttin my face up everywhere.”
“I don’t have to do shit. You stole from me.”
“Look I’m sorry. I needed it. I’m sorry. The computer is in an open, apartment building garage in the far corner, under some wood and a bucket ok?
I hang up, asked the cops to go with me. After getting the OK from the police dispatcher, they escorted my car to the location. We all stand at the entrance to the parking garage. They shoot their flashlights into the corner and we see the bucket.
One cop says, “There it is.” As in, go get it.
I look at them and say, “Um – you have the guns, YOU go get it!”
They carefully moved the wood and bucket to reveal my laptop.
They never found the guy or the lady’s wallet.
I took control of my life.
I flushed out a criminal.
And I will never do my own laundry again.