Choosing what to have stolen

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Choosing what to have stolen

We got a call from a couple who had been robbed. As it turned out, they had been renting out their apartment on short-term leases through an agency whenever they traveled. Their personal papers were in unlocked files, and their valuables were cunningly hidden in a hollow book.

Unfortunately, their valuables were not as cunningly hidden as they thought because when they got ready for their next trip, it turned out that their valuables were gone. They had lost their passports, birth certificates, a vault key (carefully labeled with bank address and box number), gold coins, their father’s heirloom watches, and a few other bits and pieces of economic or sentimental value.

Who had robbed them? Well, it could have been the last, very respectable, renters. Or it could have been building staff, who had keys and had been in and out of the apartment a number of times on legitimate business. Or it could have been the cleaning people. Or it could have been less-than- scrupulous friends or acquaintances (remember: without trust there can be no betrayal). In truth, they will probably never know.

After the incident there was much gnashing of teeth and many regrets about renting the apartment. But that missed the point. The point is that robberies take place, and we control what is there to be stolen. How you choose what you will allow to be stolen is very much a personal choice.

Some items have some economic value but little sentimental value. Some items are not easily disposed of. Some items expose you to the risk of identity theft. Some items have great value but are little used. In some circumstances your risk of pilferage is high, and special care must be taken.

For small items of great economic or sentimental value, it is worth taking extra care. Jewelry, gold, silverware, heirlooms, important papers, and other similar items probably should be made inaccessible. In many cases this means that they should be put into a safety deposit box or locked in a real safe (as opposed to a small home safe that can be carried out of the house in a trash basket and broken into at leisure).

Special circumstances also affect the degree of risk considered to be acceptable. For example, if this editor were renting his apartment to strangers, he would leave behind nothing worth crying over, not even if cleverly hidden. Another special case is that of the aging. This editor’s mother is 93 and now requires some transient help from time to time. Because of this, her personal items such as valuable jewelry, important papers, and silverware, all of which are unlikely to be used on a regular basis (if ever), are locked away, secure from all but the serious burglar, which means that petty theft is not an issue. Quality-of-life articles, such as paintings, are not locked up, as they do not lend themselves to petty theft.

Look around your home. What would leave you in tears, or greatly concerned, if it were stolen? What items must always be there, even when you are away? How can you protect these items? Are they covered by insurance? Do you have adequate access control?

If you can ask these questions and either answer them – or get us or someone like us to help answer them, then you are on your way to keeping them.

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