Crime Story

Corporal Scott E. Murphy of the Denver Police Department fills out a report this morning in our apartment.

I was robbed today.

It was a simple little heist at Paris on the Platte, up till now my favorite spot for Thursday’s weekly cigarette. I arrived there serene from the Zen Center, eager to settle in with a Gauloise Blonde, when I realized I’d forgotten to bring the pack. I walked to the back of the cafe to buy a new pack, taking my pouch with money and credit cards, but leaving on the table my scone, my coffee, my cap, my fountain pen, and my $400 Hewlett-Packard iPAQ containing all of my personal data. While I was waiting, a man dressed all in black with a large knapsack slung over his shoulder came in, stood in line for a while, then left without ordering. I noticed that as he headed for the door he seemed too close to my table. I forgot about the cigarettes, walked quickly to the table and could not find the Pocket PC. Had I really brought it with me? I called Darlene on my cell phone as I walked out the door, looking for the guy. She couldn’t find it in my den. He was gone. So was my iPAQ.

I drove around the neighborhood in the Volvo for a while, looking for the perp. My plan was to offer to buy the iPAQ back for $40 which is all I thought he would get at a pawn shop. Although I had my pocket Swiss Army knife with me, I did not plan on getting into a foolish confrontation, which was where Darlene feared I was headed. I came home, switched to the Segway and roamed the neighborhood for another hour, quickly giving up hope of finding the man.

I mainly turned my attention to the pawn shops near Coors Field. “They should start cutting off the hands of people who do shit like that,” a petite woman at one shop offered as she wrote down my name and number. A man at another establishment said he would confiscate the item if someone brought it in and call me. At Jumping Jack Cash on Larimer Street, Pete said that such confiscations weren’t really his line of work, but he wrote down details that would be entered in his computer. Pete explained that a pawn shop has to hold an item like mine for 30 days before selling it, which provides enough time to match stolen property with police reports.

Which brings me to Corporal Murphy. He arrived within a half hour of my call, said he had already had coffee, thanks, and went right to work taking down the information. Luckily I had backed up all my data last night, so I had everything on my desktop computer, including the Serial Number. “That’s good,” Corporal Murphy said. I asked if it would be okay to take his photo for the blog, and he said it would be a lot better than the last time his image appeared on the internet, on a “Kill the Cop” web site set up by someone who was unhappy with the Corporal’s handling of a case. Corporal Murphy has been on the force for 21 years. He is also a founding member and the “unrelenting” bass player of a rock group called the Jump Street Band. I thanked him for his quick response to the theft and promised to link to his site, so if you are looking for a good contemproary classic rock ‘n’ roll band for a gig, please check out Jump Street here.

After the corporal left, I began to worry about identity theft. One document on the iPAQ contains Darlene’s Social Security number, without her last name. This exposure led me to enter a fraud alert at the three national credit bureaus, so no one can take out any new cards using that SSN without triggering a phone call to us. For the usernames and passwords to our credit card web sites, I changed all the passwords. Since the actual card numbers do not appear anywhere on the iPAQ, the companies said there was no need to cancel the cards and issue new numbers.

With all the doable details taken care of, an abstract feeling of violation arrived later in the day. I loved that little iPAQ and used it to look at photos of my family, read books, plan my day according to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” program, and even look at web pages and e-mail if there is a Wi-Fi connection. I have journal entries in there and all kinds of personal stuff. The idea that someone could just walk off with it has left me dazed. This is the first such incident I’ve ever experienced in Denver, and it changes my way of being in the city. I feel incredibly stupid for having left something of such importance to me lying on a table in a public place. I have also felt unwanted empathy for the thief, imagining it must take a pretty desperate life circumstance for someone to end up pulling such a stunt. All of these emotions have ebbed and flowed against the backdrop of Katrina, making me feel that my little loss was nothing compared to families who lost every single possession in the hurricane. It also seems like a light-weight Yuppie sort of violation. “Omigod, they stole your rx-3115! That’s unbelievable! Off with their heads!”

On my Segway hunt, I cruised by the Phoenix Concept, a halfway house where I attend meetings from time to time. A couple of the guys I know were out on the sidewalk and recognized me, so I stopped to visit. “How’s your day going, man?” one asked. So I told him. He didn’t snicker, come to think of it, at a guy on a Segway all shook up because someone had stolen his PDA. “That sucks, man,” he said, and I could tell he meant it. “Try Jumping Jack Cash. I know a guy there and he’ll help you out.”

Usually blogging about a little crisis helps resolve it, but the story-telling trick doesn’t seem to be working tonight. I don’t feel I’ve gained any control over these events by shaping them with words. But I did want to get the facts down while they’re fresh. I know I will recognize that guy if I run into him again. I’ve already begun shopping for a replacement, and this time I will definitely use the password feature that I ignored on the last one.

My quote from the AA Big Book today was, “We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends.” So when I finally smoked my weekly Gauloise Blonde in a doorway on Larimer Street across from Jumping Jack’s, I said a bunch of prayers for everyone I could think of. It did make a difference.

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7 Responses to Crime Story

  1. Erica says:

    I like very much what you write. God knows why because I cannot relate in any way. Never had a RV, never really travelled, lost my friends when I moved to the Phony Dreamland. Maybe I like how you think. Your understanding of the thief’s motives. That’s rare. Once in a while , all of us, we need to be fired, get lost in a place without money and no possible way of getting some. That clears our heads of prejudices. That and good books, really good movies. Never read or saw one in the last fifteen years.
    Good luck to you and Darlene.

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