As always, it's been awhile since I've posted anything, but this seemed to be a worthwhile topic to spend some time on. Linda and I moved last June with the kids into a lovely house here in West Orange. Linda's ex, Mike, also moved up here and took a nice, charming home about a mile away.
For the most part, I love the house, and I've really liked West Orange since Kim and I moved here back in 2000. The people are mostly friendly, the area is full of trees, it's convenient to NYC for my commute, and this new house is just beautiful with a huge yard and plenty of 1920's charm.
Fast forward to about 5 or 6 months ago, when Mike is still getting settled and his house was robbed. Someone (or several someones) broke in during the day while he was out, took a number of things, and left. The place wasn't trashed or anything, and it wasn't a financial disaster--just enough to be annoying and uncomfortable.
Again, move forward to about 3 months ago when I happened to be awake at around 2 AM one evening when I see someone going through our cars in our driveway with a penlight in hand. I called the police, who were there within 5 minutes in force, and really nothing was taken, but it was distressing and I was once again reminded that even though our little 'burb is a nice place to live, there are people out there who want what we have and don't mind just taking it from us given the chance.
Now we get to this past Sat. night. While myself, Linda and the kids (including Ellen) were sleeping in my house, someone opened the back door and robbed us. They went through the first floor, took laptops, my new camera, my wallet, linda's purse, and fled. We didn't find out about it until the police came to show us that a neighbor had found some of our discarded things in their yard and called them.
Needless to say, this last was difficult to accept. The "stuff" can and will all be replaced, but the idea of someone in our house while we're there was and is very disconcerting and is taking a bit of time to come to grips with.
Yesterday, the Mayor of West Orange called my cell to apologize on behalf of the town, and hope that we were all OK, which was very nice. I didn't get a chance to talk to him much because I had a contractor coming to look at getting better doors on the house to prevent this happening again, but I took the time to write him an email, and he wrote back today. I thought I'd share those emails here:
From me, yesterday:
Hi Mr. Mayor,
First, thanks for the phone call today. It was as appreciate as it was unexpected.
Second, I'm sorry if it felt like I had to draw our talk to a close quickly. I had reached out to a local contractor to get new, better doors in the back to replace the one that got broken into, and he drove up (and the dog started freaking out) as you and I were talking. Generally, I wouldn't be rushing to hang up on the mayor...
Third, I have to say that I've been a WO resident for almost 15 years now. I lived with my now-ex-wife up at 14 Colony Drive West until this past June, when our divorce was finalized and I moved in with my new fiancee (wedding in September here at 35 beverly!) and her two kids. In that time, I've always felt very safe in WO. However (and you knew there was a "however" coming, didn't you?), it's been pretty dicey since my new family moved up here.
My wife's ex moved up with her and the kids and took a house on Gregory (11 Gregory) shortly after we bought our house. About 6 months ago, HE was robbed. The kids (her family is all from Northern VA) are used to very safe, and that eroded that just a bit. But then, about 3 months someone went through our cars in our driveway. I called the police, who were here in force very quickly, but no one was caught. Then last night, we were robbed while still in the house.
West Orange has been my home for quite awhile, and I like it very much, but it's not making a great impression on the kids to be honest. I don't know what we can do about it, but I moved from Queens where I didn't ever feel particularly safe to WO where I always have--until recently.
Again, thanks for the call. Let me know what you think, if you have time.
From the Mayor, Robert Parisi, today:
Good afternoon...took me awhile to figure out how to respond and not sure I came up with a good solution. Very heartbreaking to read your email...especially as someone who has spent his whole life here and still, despite our flaws, believes deeply in the community. We obviously have occasional crime...be foolish to suggest otherwise...we always have and, in truth, for those that care about statistics, our crime is way down from a year ago...all that, means a hill of beans for you and your family. I would love to be able to schedule time to come visit with you...maybe even the extended family you reference or interested neighbors...along with the Police Chief and talk about these concerns...would you be interested in hosting us one night at your convenience?
I think it goes without saying that this is a wonderfully unexpected and caring gesture. I've never really heard of this kind of thing before, and it IS much appreciated. I expect that we WILL host Mr. Parisi and his chief of police once we determine what the best way to do this will be, and who we should ask to join us. We don't really know our neighbors yet, but I can think of a number of people would might have some good questions or ideas.
Regardless, it's been an interesting few days and does appear to be getting more interesting by the day. More to come on this.