Saturday, June 11, 2011

Life In The Big City

Our house was broken into yesterday. We're out a decent amount of electronics; though not everything or even most things, some luggage that was presumably used to carry out the electronics; and a $20 flat iron (no, we don't understand that one either).

Seeing as how nothing of sentimental value was taken, and there was no personal animus expressed by the burglars, in the grand scheme of things the level of personal violation we feel is pretty low. It could have been a lot worse. Saying "it's just stuff" can sometimes trivialize the importance of stuff to one's quality of life, but clearly times like this make you think about which bits of your stuff are truly important, and none of that stuff is gone. We live in a high-crime area by Seattle standards, which has a somewhat high rate of property crime for a large non-Southern city, but an extremely low rate of violent crime. The event doesn't give us a sudden desire to move out of our neighborhood, let alone the whole city, though we will probably be more choosy in terms of the physical security of the house we move into next. Nor is it causing me to rethink of my views on crime control policies, which mostly have to do with devoting more police resources to physical security in urban areas and fewer to the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs.

In the meantime here are some straightforward, low-cost tips that might take a modest amount of work for you this afternoon, but would increase the chances that your stolen goods are recovered (or not stolen in the first place) and the thieves are apprehended. They will also make dealing with police and your insurance company much more pleasant for all involved.
  • Keep a Google spreadsheet with the serial numbers of the major pieces of electronics (and perhaps kitchen equipment) handy. Lester Freamon will know when your stolen goods show up in a pawn shop.
  • Also keep the MAC addresses of any network-capable electronics written down (computers, iPads, video game consoles, IPTV gadgets like the Roku player or Google TV, etc). When you configure your wireless router there is probably somewhere you can see a list of "attached devices" that will tell you these addresses. They look something like this: "6A:02:5F:2E:E8:73".
  • Make sure you have the "Console ID" of your Xbox 360 written down along with the serial number. The console ID is different from the serial number, and can be used by law enforcement and Microsoft to try to track down your console if it ever tries to connect to Xbox Live. Here are instructions from Microsoft on how to find your Xbox 360 console ID. Presumably the PS3 and Wii have similar magic numbers that can be used for tracking purposes; I just don't know where they are.
  • Install Hidden ($15/year; bulk discounts for multiple licenses) on your Mac, which can help the police gather evidence needed to catch the thief, or at least the possessor of stolen goods. If anyone has recommendations for PC equivalents, that would be useful.
  • Make sure your renter's/homeowner's insurance has the lowest deductible you can afford. There are a decent number of policies out there where this burglary wouldn't have hit the deductible.
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