We have a little more perspective on our robbery now that we’ve had some time to sort through the details.

We appreciated how helpful Facebook can be. Jenny was feeling unsettled right after we discovered the break-in and decided to post a status update about it. It was so great to hear from so many friends—both from near and far—which made her feel a lot better. Friends in Rome who heard the news also called to check in on us and it was nice to have some local comfort.

Unfortunately, we may have blogged too fast yesterday when we reported that nothing was taken. As we were putting the apartment back together, we realized that there were some things stolen. It is true that our passports and most jewelry were left behind. The cash left behind worried us the most because it seemed so odd; but it might have been a case of them simply missing it as they were quickly turning things over. Three pieces of our jewelry and one item belonging to the owners of the apartment were taken. I lost a pair of cuff links that I had never worn and that had no monetary or sentimental value. Jenny lost a simple gold necklace (that she didn’t particularly like, but kept because her parents had given it to her) and pair of earrings that she liked, but were not particularly special to her. It is very fortunate that we decided to leave anything that was special to us back home in our bank’s safe deposit box—including everyday stuff with sentimental value. We knew we’d be traveling a lot and just didn’t think we needed much.

But we are relieved to know the thieves took something. That makes sense and is less creepy than thinking someone broke into our home and went through the house and then took nothing. This left us with a new hypothesis. Initially what we found odd was how much potentially valuable stuff—like electronics and passports—was left behind, as well as the fact that so many cabinets and doors and drawers had been opened. What was the motivation? Well, we got to see the thieves and they arrived only planning to take small stuff. But more on that in a paragraph or two. . .

What do we think happened? We got a fortunate deal on the apartment that we are renting. It is a two-floor penthouse in a very high-end neighborhood. A thief would expect rather affluent tenants—not two college professors on a year long sabbatical. We imagine that when the thieves saw Jenny’s jewelry in a basket in our bedroom, they didn’t believe that what they saw was really the family jewels of the lady of the manor. Jenny basically brought with her what might be politely called the “funky” type of jewelry often seen among our academic crowd. Translation = no precious metals or gemstones. The thieves might have thought that this stuff couldn’t have been all we had and that the good stuff was hidden somewhere else in the house. And they set about trying to find it.

We learned a bit from studying the mess left behind. It might be tempting to think that hiding jewelry in non-obvious places in one’s house will protect it. But the folks that hit our apartment didn’t leave much unexplored. They went through the kitchen drawers where we keep tin foil, empty vases and pottery in the study, our luggage and toiletry cases, children’s closets and games, linen closets, drawers of clothing (interestingly, Jenny’s, not mine), cabinets underneath bathroom sinks, the laundry room, and every single drawer and cabinet—including small drawers– in every room. If we did have nice jewlery, it is hard to think of where in the house we could have put them and not had them found.

But here is today’s interesting twist. The security company delivered the video tape from the camera monitoring our building today. It was an odd experience sitting in a crowd of other folks from our building and watching the tape— we played it fast-forwarded at first, as the sun began to light the street, then watched me leave to take the children to the bus in the morning, and saw the street coming alive with activity. As we approached the time when Jenny left the building my stomach felt very tense. I had left about a half hour after her. We knew that the thieves had about a three-hour window between when I left and when I returned. It was oddly satisfying when we saw them appear and watched them enter and then leave the building.

Jenny was relieved to see that the thieves came in through the front door rather than through an open window via the roof. (Often in Rome thieves enter at night while people are sleeping and administer a spray that sedates the residents and leaves – we are told—quite a headache the next day). We had thought it unlikely that anyone could enter our apartment through a means other than the door, though.

I had an image of a scary, burley, drug-crazed thug as the thief. But it was a team. And they weren’t creepy or frightening at all. They were a young couple who appeared to be in their late twenties. They looked like perfectly ordinary shoppers. The young woman kept fixing her hair—loosening and refastening her long pony-tail – as they waited to get in. She carried a super huge pocketbook that was obviously empty as they entered. The couple rang all of the doorbells in our building and stood outside for a while. When a tenant entered, they blocked the door from closing, waited another ten minutes, and then entered themselves. They were in the building for about 35 minutes. Presumably, some of that time was spent opening our door. (I was relieved to know that they had left long before I returned home. But word to the wise: I was foolish to have called the police from the apartment and should have left immediately when I realized something was wrong. I just wasn’t thinking). There was a third member of the team: a well-dressed woman in her mid-thirties wearing an all-black leather motorcycle outfit. She stood outside on the street holding an iPhone, presumably to notify them if anyone was returning to the building. None of them looked particularly nefarious —just like folks who’ve made a regular job for themselves. They looked really calm. At least they had the good taste to both stare directly at the camera– so if they are known to the police, they can be easily identified on the tape.

It feels somehow settling to have watched the crime unfold in real time. And Jenny added, cheerfully, that it was satisfying that we could sit in a room full of Italians from our building and be able to understand most of what they were saying and even bond with them over this violation of our building. Every time we saw someone approach the door to the building on the tape, someone would say something like, “Oh, that’s just signor XXX from the third floor” or “Oh, my mother and I were heading out for lunch.” We decided not to tell the children about the robbery yet. There doesn’t seem to be any need for them to get upset or worried and none of their stuff was taken.

Thinking about this made us realize that the most valuable inanimate possessions for us are our family photos. So we decided to buy extra space on DropBox and are now uploading all of our photos there in case our computers are ever stolen.

We are glad that there is a school holiday for the rest of this week- so we plan to skip town and explore Venezia for the long weekend.

And I thought of a creative place to hide the passports. . . .

For those of you who wrote saying you couldn"t believe I had taken notice of how the police looked. . . imagine having two guys dressed like this standing in your apartment! It was kind of wild.

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