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Reporter gets taste of crime firsthand

On Monday morning a wallet was stolen from a vehicle in a parking lot on Garrison Avenue.

No one has been arrested; no  criminal complaint to explain the details. Just my own experience.

Yeah, the wallet was mine.

I didn’t realized it was gone until my phone rang at 9:44 a.m. and a PNC automated voice  asked me to confirm the previous five charges. A typical, if somewhat rare, call. This time though, things weren’t typical, as the first charge was fraud. I spoke with a representative who canceled my debit card and told me I would need to file a dispute claim.

The fraudulent charges were all made in Sabraton. I experienced my first emotion of the day — panic — as I set about searching for my wallet.

I quickly realized I left it in my car Sunday. I went hiking with my dog, Honey, at Prickett’s Fort and typically I keep my wallet in my center console when I’m doing an outdoor activity like that.

When we got home, Honey was muddy, so the priority was getting her inside and giving her a bath. Then I showered and ate dinner. I watched some TV. I was careless and left the car unlocked with my wallet in it.

I knew better, too. I write about crimes, and  I’ve found my car rummaged through when I’ve left it unlocked before. 

My second emotion of the day was rage.

It was the kind of white-hot rage that empties your body’s entire supply of adrenaline. That sets every muscle and nerve shaking. A kind of anger I hadn’t experienced in years. It was the kind that blurs your vision and stops rational thought. 

If I had encountered the person who took my wallet before 11 a.m., we would have fought. I’m not saying I would have won, but fists would have been flying.

Then I started making phone calls. There were so many  to make.

First, I called my landlord’s maintenance guy to see if the parking lot security cameras  caught the theft. 

Next, I called off work. 

I knew I needed to  report the theft, but I wanted the security footage first to make it easier on police. 

While waiting, I called my mom and basically  ranted while she told me to calm down. 

By the time my maintenance guy showed up around noon, sadness had come.

The cameras didn’t appear to catch the theft, so I called the Morgantown Police Department. 

I provided the basics of what happened and was told an officer would call me back. About 10 minutes later, Officer McCrobie did that. I explained what happen and where my card was used. She asked what else was taken besides my card — everything — and then suggested I search the neighborhood.

She said  wallets and anything identifying are typically thrown out pretty quickly after the money and any valuables are taken. I found my hunting and fishing license, but not my wallet.

After talking with McCrobie,  just how much was missing became real. It wasn’t just my driver’s license and debit cards. It was the military ID I left the military with.

“Look how not fat I was, 10 years ago,” I could say when I showed it to people.

It was countless reward cards. My insurance card, AAA membership card, a $50 gift card my dad gave me — I was saving it for a rainy day — and about $15 cash.

That realization brought a round of lesser anger, which quickly faded to more sadness.

My next stop was  a local  PNC branch. They were able to return my money and printed me a new debit card. My proof of ID was signing into the PNC app on my phone.

At some point after noon, I called my bank on the West Coast, where my military disability money is sent. There were attempted charges, but none of them went through.

Finally, I called the DMV. I was told I could  order a replacement driver’s license online and not  have to go in — quite possibly   the best news of the day.

However, I’ve moved, which means my address is  not current, So, I’ve memorized my driver’s license number until my appointment  April 15.

With my DMV appointment scheduled, I crashed. Physically and emotionally, I was drained. 

So, what’s next? 

Well, the MPD is  investigating, and I predict the person who did this will face four charges: Breaking and entering a vehicle, petit larceny and two counts of access device fraud.

I don’t want whoever did this to go to jail.

Clearly, they need help more than imprisonment.  Help feeding their family or more likely and possibly not unrelated to feeding their family, help fighting a substance abuse disorder.

I’d be OK with  the person  getting help. That said, if it is substance abuse, forced rehab won’t help. The  person has to want to  deal with his or her addiction.

Even if I had to shoulder the entire $637.85 loss, I still wouldn’t want them to go to jail.

The county will spend more money paying for two weeks of jail than it would if it just reimbursed whoever ends up eating the costs of the fraud.

Some of you are probably thinking this is a whole lot of words for a stolen wallet and wondering why I’m writing this. There are three big reasons.

First, I somewhat regularly approach people who are dealing with trauma far worse than a stolen wallet and ask them to share their thoughts and feelings. As an example, if you own a home and it burns down, and you’re on scene, I will probably attempt to talk to you while your house is still burning. It would be hypocritical and dishonest of me to not put my business out there when it’s related to what I do.

Second, in sharing my experience, I hope it helps someone else  know what to do should something like this happen to them.

Third, I have to write a certain number of stories each week and since I took a day off to deal with this I’m behind and not going to let good content go to waste.

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