… we personally would reach for something with a little more range and a simpler point-and-click interface than the Wusthofs in the kitchen. And once the guy bugs out (assuming we uncharacteristically missed all three shots on Mozambique-drilling him), we’d let him keep bugging. In our house, burglars go to the drawer at the county morgue; outside, they’re Officer Friendly’s problem. We and Friendly are both down with that division of labor.
But a Portsmouth, NH man didn’t see it that way when some Wealth Redistribution Specialist broke into his home after midnight, with him and his wife inside. The Portsmouth Herald’s Elizabeth Dinan reports:
An Osprey Landing resident called police early Wednesday morning to report an intruder broke into her home and that her husband was armed with kitchen knives while chasing the burglar through some woods, say police.
The emergency call was made Oct. 24 at 12:20 a.m. by a Sanderling Road resident who said the burglar got into her home through a back door, according to the public police log. The resident said her husband grabbed three knives and “took off into the woods after” the burglar, the police report states.
While the guy’s ardor for assisting the authorities is certainly public-spirited, he committed several errors that could have been his undoing.
- You are cautioned not to “bring a knife to a gunfight” for a reason. A knife is, in fact, a deadly weapon, even in untrained hands. But a gun is trumps from all material standpoints: more reach, more power, faster second strike, more intimidation. If the burglar had been armed with a gun, this might have ended badly for the householder.
- When the defender leaves the house, the house is undefended. If the guy’s intent wasn’t mere burglary, he may be persistent enough to double back. If he had accomplices, they might just carry on with the intended crime in your absence.
- What are you going to do if you catch him, carve him up? Shoot him? Even though he’s the criminal and you’re the victim, there are actions you can take that reverse that relationship and land you in the dock. Defending your home, inside the home, is a pretty defensible position most places.If they find you on a high hill, holding the severed head of the burglar and baying at the moon, you as good guy are a harder sell.
- You might be planning to intimidate him into waiting for police, but the kind of guy that burgles an occupied residence is more likely to be a drug user than not, and is not guaranteed to be rational. He is certainly more prone to violent criminality than you are. Then what?
- You are asking, in running through suburban woods armed like the antagonist in an October slasher movie, for the responding cops to commit a blue-on-YOU error.
So what’s the right thing to do? Use the force necessary to make him leave your home. With most burglars, it won’t take all that much. With some, you’re just going to have to kill them. But if your burglar bugs out, let him go.
The story continues:
The suspect was described as about 6 feet tall, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with black and gray pants, and fled through some woods toward Blue Heron Drive. A police K-9 team followed a scent toward Spinnaker Point, then Market Street and Woodbury Avenue, according to the police log.
We know the area. Those last are busy commercial streets, and probably where the burglar’s car or accomplice was. He’s still on the loose, but undoubtedly not for long. Anyone bold enough to burglarize occupied homes will soon be caught — or shot.
People beat up the cops about burglary closure rates, but the fact is, although no one gets arrested for most burglaries, a burglar can’t live (or more usually, support his enjoyment of drugs) on one burglary. He has to do it over and over again. All career burglars get caught, and spend much of their lives in prison. This doesn’t deter them for several reasons, but principally because they have low intelligence and poor impulse control, and because penalties for residential burglaries are trivial.
As an aside, we note that we have yet to read a story about some good or public-spirited deed undertaken by a young man in a hoodie.
Portsmouth Police Lt. Mark Newport had a few words of advice for people like this householder:
He also advised armed and unarmed citizens not to pursue suspects. “Just call the police.”
When they’re in your house, we reiterate, they’re your problem. When they’re back out and on the lam, they’re society’s problem, and society’s tool is the police force. And don’t get downhearted if he doesn’t get bagged tonight. He’s gonna get bagged pretty soon — nature of the business.