Modern-Day Outlaws – Yikes! by Pam Crooks

I’ve lived in the same house in a rather affluent part of my city for 35 years. In that time, I’ve seen the area grow and thrive. We have lots of restaurants and shopping, banks and office buildings. Good schools and churches. Neighborhoods are well-kept and safe.

Safe, most of all.

Until recently, that is.

Several weeks ago, less than a mile away from my home, one of the banks I frequent was robbed. The two thieves pistol-whipped a bank employee, roughed up and dragged a pregnant employee by the hair, and injured a bank customer. They got away with $350,000. Luckily, the police found them early the next morning. One of the robbers had red dye staining his face, pretty strong evidence of his guilt.

Last week, unbelievably, a young, heavily-armed man walked into my Target store a mere block from the same bank. 250 people were in that store. Once he started shooting, people fled into bathrooms, fitting rooms, and out the back door. By the grace of God, he didn’t kill anyone. Dozens of police cars from all over the city and surrounding towns raced to the store. Six minutes after the first 911 call, one brave police officer took care of the situation, saving those 250 lives.

Sure makes you want to lock up your house and never come out, doesn’t it?

But of course, we can’t live that way, and in the time since, I wondered about the men and women who lived in the far reaches of our country when it was yet new and unsettled. No 911 calls. No speeding policemen. No high-tech databases. No cell phones to keep frantic families informed.

Sure, they had sheriff posses and organized groups like the Texas Rangers. The men were dedicated and tough, but they were helped along only by their horse, word-of-mouth, and possibly the occasional telegram from neighboring county law enforcement that might have news about an outlaw’s whereabouts.

The Pinkerton Agency’s detectives were a little more sophisticated in their sleuthing. Record-keeping was perfected, criminals and their methods were studied, and even the cleverness of working undercover produced positive results in preventing crime and catching criminals. But speed wasn’t their strong suit.

And then there were the citizens themselves who often took matters in their own hands when law enforcement was nowhere to be found or too far away to help. Vigilantes, too, who enacted justice with the help of a rope and a long-branched tree.

Thank goodness those days are gone. Justice was hard and slow. Sometimes it didn’t happen at all.

Unfortunately, crime still thrives, the acts far more sophisticated and deadly than ever before. I’m afraid the outlaws of yesteryear would never have thought of the crimes being committed today.

I’m grateful to say I’ve never been a victim of one. I’ve never had a car broken into, or my house robbed, or my purse stolen. My neighborhood–knock on wood–remains very safe, and hopefully will for a very long time to come.

Have you ever been a victim of a crime? Did the modern-day outlaw fall to justice?

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but she's proud of her contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing, too! Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

45 thoughts on “Modern-Day Outlaws – Yikes! by Pam Crooks”

  1. We had a shed in South Florida that the lawn care items were stored. It was broken into and the items were stolen. The police caught the man who did it and we got our items back.

    • Good morning, Kathleen! I always wonder about someone who steals. Do they really think no one will notice, or that the chances are very likely they will get caught? Why would they think the risks were worth it?? Lawn care items seem pretty random–I wouldn’t think they’d fetch alot of money if the thief wanted to sell them, but who knows?

      Thank goodness he didn’t break into your home, but maybe that would’ve been the next step. At least, you got your items back. That’s the only good thing – but I’m sure you still felt violated and worried that he’d come back and try again. I sure would!

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Someone broke into my house many years ago, but the only thing they took was about $70 in rolled coins laying on my bed. I knew someone had broken in, because my plant wasn’t in front of one of my doors like I kept it. I called the police to go in the house, before I went in. They took a report, but that was it.

    • Oh, scaredsilly. Knowing that someone had been in my home would totally freak me out. My skin would literally crawl when I realized that my plant had been moved.

      You were so, so smart to call the police before you went in. Hopefully, whomever stole your money ($70 is no small chunk of change) didn’t bother you or anyone else again.

  3. Sounds like you live near Omaha. I live in Lincoln. No I have been a victim of a crime. Live in a secure apartment buillding. Many crimes have happen here in Lincoln and yes some people have died but for the most part It’s a pretty good city to live in.

    • Good morning, Kim! You probably heard about the crimes since you’re in Lincoln. Both were a BIG deal. That lone policeman in Target was a true hero and incredibly brave. He truly prevented a massacre from happening.

      I’m glad you live in a secure place. That’s a huge comfort. And you’re right – crime happens everywhere, but Lincoln is a lovely city and meant to be enjoyed. Lots of fun things happen there.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. In the neighborhood where I grew up, my car was broken into. He had hit multiple vehicles that night. He got a change purse I kept in the glove compartment–quarters for the parking meter–and a pair of gloves. Broke the lock on the glove compartment.

    In our first apartment, I came home early one day from work to find the VCR gone–they forgot the remote–but they put the vase I had back on top of the place where the VCR had been. Coincidentally, the apartment maintenance had been there the same day. The police said they passed the lie detector test.

    The door would automatically lock, so we suspected they used the deadbolt to keep the door ajar while they worked on the heating unit inside and out, and the thieves entered that way. Always wondered if it had been a crime of opportunity by a neighbor.

    • Good morning, Denise! It sounds like your thief went through alot of trouble to steal a change purse. It’s not easy to break into most cars. Sheesh. No doubt he was hoping for more.

      I’m not sure what to think about lie detector tests. Seems to me someone could cheat the outcome by keeping their cool, but at least the police followed through.

      Yes, maybe a crime of opportunity – someone just couldn’t resist that open door. I would be so suspicious of everyone living around me – and knowing a stranger had been in my apartment . . . dang! I’d have trouble sleeping at night.

      Thanks for sharing.

  5. Good morning Pam- How scary what happened so close to your home. I haven’t been involved with a crime, praise Jesus. It’s a very scary world these days. I have to travel a lot with my job, I stay vigilant of my surroundings at all times. I may live in SW KS, in the middle of nowhere, but crimes happen out here as well and I always vere in the side of caution.
    Thank you for sharing. Stay safe and have a great day.

    • So glad you’ve not experienced crimes, either, Tonya. You are being smart by always staying vigilant. We all need to be that way, even if we’re just running to the grocery store.

      No doubt you always have a cell phone with you and that is huge. How did we live without them? Keeping your vehicle serviced and in good running condition when you’re on the road so much is another way to stay safe. I’m sure you do all those things – but unfortunately, not everyone does.

      Thanks for stopping by – and continue being safe!!

  6. I was once taken hostage by an inmate I was transporting. He had a home-made zip gun and threatened to shoot my partner if we didn’t surrender our weapons and give him the van. Thankfully after a 30 minute standoff, we were able to overpower him. take his weapon and continue on our way.

    • Rhonda!!!! Oh, my goodness. How terrifying! I’m so glad your partner was with you. I’m sure that 30 minutes felt like FOREVER!!

      “… and continue on our way.” Dang. I assume you had to keep that inmate in the van with you? Handcuffed, I hope! I’d be scared he’d try something bad again.

      I admire you. You had a tough job but a necessary one, for sure.

  7. Good morning Pam! I live in a very rural unincorporated community at the far north west corner of my county. It’s 27 miles to the sheriff’s department. It’s 26 miles to the hospital in my county although I’d want to go to a hospital in the county that is just a few miles from me which makes me 17 miles from that hospital in Athens, Texas. It’s a bigger hospital. Athens will have an ER soon that is associated with my primary doctor soon and that’s where I would want to be taken if necessary. The problem is that the ambulance that would arrive at my home in an emergency wouldn’t want to transport to a different county. I’d have to insist and then they have to go thru some kind of special approval to transport to a different county. In a true emergency this scenario isn’t ideal. The plus to our remote area is virtually no crime. Well yet.

    I haven’t been in a situation where I was a victim of a crime. Thank goodness. It looks more and more like we will eventually be in one of these situations in our lifetime. I’m on disabilty and don’t leave my home very often so if I do end up in such a situation it would be going way against the realm of it being possible.

    It’s a sad time that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. We have to be alert everywhere we go.

    • Howdy, Steph! Where you live reminds me of our cabin at the lake. It’s off the highway and pretty secluded if no one knows the lake is there. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. 🙂

      I get your ER situation. We live very close to a hospital, and if we’d need a squad, that’s where they would take us. But if our emergency was trauma, they’d have to drive half-way across the city to take us to a trauma center hospital, which would be better equipped to handle something severe. But it’s a pretty long way away.

      I can see how transporting a patient to a different county would be against policy. Hopefully your insurance company wouldn’t fight it. They get tripped up on stuff like that. 🙂

    • I didn’t know that, Teresa!! Oh, I bet you hear about some doozies.

      Having friends and coworkers in law enforcement could be a real advantage, I would think. 🙂

  8. Twice someone has stolen from our woodpile in July! Crazy! Wood is a precious commodity since we heat our house all winter long with wood. Plus, I like campfires with the grands! Ha!

    • In July, Kathy? I don’t know about your July but ours is hot already. Who needs wood to warm up?

      I don’t know if you chop your own wood or buy it by the cord, but yes, it’s expensive, and it has been for a long time!! Was the woodpile close to your house that someone would have to drive a pickup to it?

      Do you not have a furnace? Or do you use wood 100% of the time?

      • The wood is away from the house by our pole barn. Twice, while we were camping people helped themselves. We put up our own wood, cutting down the trees, splitting it, and stacking it all. We’ve had a terrible tornado-like winter ice/snowstorm that destroyed many of our trees this year. We will be busy putting up wood after the snow melts. We do have an electric furnace but we prefer to burn wood in the extreme cold of winter because it is a warmer heat. Hope to see you on June 17th in SD.

      • I see, Kathy. It’s scary when someone knows you’re gone and abuse that information by helping themselves to your hard work!! They’re cowards – they know they can be sneaky like that. Grr.

        Sympathies on losing all those trees. Sometimes, Mother Nature is heartless. I always think how long it took for those trees to grow, and then –like that!–they’re gone.

        Yes about June 17th!!! I can’t wait to meet you!! It will be a highlight, let me tell you.

  9. Welcome today and thanks for sharing. This unfortunately is like you said, all too real right now. No, by the grace of God, I have never been a victim. But I have know those who have. It may be glamorized by hollywood, but that is so far from the truth of what really happens.

    • Hi, Lori. So glad you’ve been safe from criminals. Sadly, not too many can say that.

      There is a whole list of reasons why criminals do what they do. I think video games and social media is a big part. Drugs, mental illness, unemployment . . . it goes on and on.

  10. The first time we took a vacation in SE Florida we went to the ocean with my parents. While we were talking and playing in the shallow water someone broke into my dad’s car’s trunk. Golf clubs, a camera and camera bag and my dad’s old doctor bag ( he had recently retired) we’re all stolen. Never got any of it back.
    Now we never take anything with us of any value when we go to a beach.

    • Oh, that’s terrible, Laurie. I bet your dad was mad he lost those big ticket items, and it’s made worse that the goods were never recovered. Probably taken to a pawn shop, never to be seen or traced again.

      We live close to a really nice park. Lots of joggers, bikers, and trails. Having cars broken into is a big problem when folks park so they can go running or biking. What a shame. I haven’t heard if the park posted cameras. Hopefully they did.

      Well, we learn from experiences like these, don’t we? That’s about the only good that comes from it.

  11. When I was a little kid Mom kept dollar coins in an empty baking powder can in the pantry. A neighbor kid saw her putting some in there one day and the next day our house had been broken into and the coins were the only thing missing. I don’t know that anything ever came of it. I was about 5 or 6yo.

    As an adult, our home has never been broken into, but someone stole the first-aid kit out of our car and the back window has been broken several times. It’s not so much that the area was bad, but we were on a dead-end street off of a dead-end street. When the local kids wanted to get into mischief that was where they went. Hubby, ever the dad, would tell them to move along or call the police on them, depending on what they were up to.
    They figured out which was his car, but not where he lived.

    Mom mother-in-law has been robbed three times in the house she inherited 21 years ago. She’s gone to court over one or two cases. One was a string of robberies across three counties done by the same group of people. She is an artist, with a good eye for detail, and was able to give a good description of the people that kept her occupied in her back yard while the robbers were in her house. EEK!

    • Oh, my goodness, maryellen. If I was your mom, I’d be sorely tempted to ask the kid if he knew anything. The coincidence is a little too strong.

      Your poor mother-in-law! Three times is a lot. I’d be pretty punchy over them. Sheesh! The robbers sound like they had a fairly sophisticated MO going on over three counties. I hope they were caught. And yes, double-EEK from me that they were actually in her house while she was in the back yard!!! I hope she didn’t live alone!!

  12. Years ago my mobile home was broken into and I lost all my jewelry, an antique clock and the TV. I had a lot of sterling silver that a friend of mine had made me. What I regretted most was a pendant watch engraved with my grandmother’s name. An aunt had it and had only sons so she’d promised it to me. I hadn’t had it long. And I lost a silver necklace I’d made in a jewelry class in college worth about $200 at the time. I loved that necklace. It was beautiful. Never had an occasion to wear it but it still meant a ton to me. Other homes were broken into but the thieves were never caught. Police said the jewelry would have been taken to California, melted down and sold. My beautiful necklace melted? It broke my heart. Even earlier than that I had lost two of my oil paintings, my paint box/easel, and a ceramic pot made in college. Irreplaceable. One of the painting was of an old-time saloon girl. I keep wondering what bar she ended up hanging over.

    • Oh, sympathies, Charlene!! You’ve had more than your share of crimes against you. I’d be devastated that things so precious to me were taken, only to be handled carelessly by someone else. That they were never caught only makes the heartache worse.

      I know you’re an artist. You would have put so much love and time into those paintings. More heartache for you!

      Thanks for sharing, my friend.

  13. I’ve never been the victim of a crime. We did have a shed someone tried to get into, but they didn’t take anything, and we didn’t report it. I’ve lived in the same house all my life, and my neighborhood is safe. There have been two break-ins over the years, one to the house across the street, and one two houses down, but both had privacy fences, and the police said that was why those houses were chosen.

    • Interesting about the privacy fences, Trudy. I suppose they do shield the robbers, but criminals are brazen regardless.

      In this day and age, so many people have Ring doorbells and surveillance cameras. Criminals don’t seem to care. Like my bank’s crime? The bank had cameras everywhere. That’s what caught them – clear pictures. Didn’t matter the robbers wore hoodies to hide themselves. They had to know there’d be cameras, but they stole the money anyway.

      And don’t even get me started on porch pirates. Ring doorbells pick up people stealing packages all the time, but it doesn’t stop them. They still keep running up onto porches and taking packages, even though they don’t even know what’s IN them.

      So glad you’ve never been a victim, Trudy. I hope it stays that way.

  14. This past year our outside shed was broken into during the night. (We had no security light back there which has changed.) They took a crow bar and pried the padlock latch until it broke and stole our lawn mower, weed eater, grass trimmer and a brand new pressure washer. Our shed also contained a riding mower, but they didn’t try to take it as they suspected it was too hard to move without the key to start it. Fortunately, our home insurance covered everything. They never caught the thieves who also pilfered a couple other sheds off the back yards right next to us. After this we installed a couple more sensor detecting lights as well as the neighbor next door installing lights and cameras. I believe we are now safe as nothing else has occurred for a while.

    • Wow, Judy. They made quite a haul. How wonderful insurance covered your losses. You were one of the lucky ones!

      It takes something like that to happen to compel us to get cameras, doesn’t it? I’ve been thinking of getting some, too, and I fear there will come a day when we’ll regret we never followed through.

      Lights are a huge deterrent. And barking dogs.

      Thanks for stopping by, Judy!

  15. We had someone steal our riding mower & weed eater out of our shed on some land we owned several years back. That feeling of violation is not good, even when there really wasn’t any real danger to us personally. The thief was never caught. The mower that was stolen was not new & not in real tip-top shape because we’d had trouble with field mice getting in the shed & chewing on the seat, steering wheel, etc, & building nests in the engine !!LOL!! (plus the thief didn’t have a key), but thankfullly insurance covered everything as if it were almost new. My husband was able to buy a really nice used zero-turn mower to replace it, so it all ended well. 🙂

    • A riding lawn mower? And no key? How in the world did they move it? Those things are heavy! Maybe it was small gang of thieves.

      I agree about the violation. I would be constantly wondering who the lowlife was – and then worry that he’d come back.

      Yes, it ended well for you. You have to look at it that way.

      What would we do without insurance?

  16. I could fill pages with the number of things that have been stollen in our area. In the last three or four years I have met 7 or 8 of our county deputies as they responded to our calls. Last night one called to tell me he had finally gotten a response on some finger prints from a flashlight we found after one incident in the spring of 2021, not our flashlight. The fingerprints belonged to our grandson who is on file because he is in the Navy ROTC program and he had handled the flashlight when we found it. The deputy said this is only the second time in his years of law enforcement that he has had a hit on fingerprints. Both times it has turned out to be a family member. Definitely not the Hollywood version of fingerprinting nor the time it takes to get results.

    We live in a sparsely populated farming area where it is no longer safe to leave equipment in the field even if the field is 3 to 10 miles from the home place. Some of the tools stollen have been sold on internet sites. Some items are taken to metal recyclers. We have had three trail cameras stollen and now have two cameras mounted on power poles that are connected to our cell phones. They have given us an arrest of two people in the middle of the day and a citation in another incident also in the middle of the day. The lights we had mounted apparently weren’t high enough on the side of buildings because they too were stollen. In some ways it helps to know we are not alone in this. Many of our neighbors have had similar experiences.

    The biggest question is How Can We Stop This Epidemic of Theft? There seems to be no deterrent to it even when people are arrested. The people arrested at our place had previously been arrested at a neighbors. We have never recovered any of the things stollen from us including the Honda 90 and 110 Trail bikes.

    • Alice!!! That’s terrible! It truly is an epidemic for you! I’m sorry you’re experiencing these losses. It sounds like you are doing everything right. I can only imagine how frustrated you – and your neighbors – are!

      The internet truly has become a hotbed for stolen goods. While researching my contemporary, MY KIND OF COWBOY, I learned how stolen calves before they are branded are stolen, not even weaned yet, then sold on the Internet. They can be sold in stockyards in another county, too, and since they haven’t been branded, buyers assume the seller is legit, not knowing the livestock he’s buying in good faith had been stolen.

      Shameful!

  17. About 14-15 years ago my house was broken in. The door was kicked in when we were not home. A few things were stolen which were never recovered. Needless to say for a few days I was uneasy about being home by myself.

    • Oh, my goodness, karijean! I would be so freaked out staying home by myself after that. Just knowing some lowlife walked on my floors and touched my things would make me mad. Even worse that the creep got away with it. Just not fair. Sympathies! I’m glad it was a long time ago and that you’ve moved on.

  18. We have had our out building broke into but we didn’t know it at the time until my husband got to looking for a tool that was missing, it was really to late then to do anything about it.

    • Quilt Lady, I’m sure that happens alot. How frustrating that you discovered your loss too late. The criminal lucked out over that, didn’t he? Darn it!

  19. Luckily nothing major, but I did have the money taken out of my wallet by a 10 year old when I was teaching overseas. Here in the US we had our car broken into and the 8 track system stolen (you can tell how long ago that was.). More recently someone tried to break down the back door to our garage addition. Luckily they didn’t succeed, but a couple more whacks of the brick they were using would have done it. As it was, they broke the frame. Our son has had many things stolen off his truck but he is guilty of not securing them well. In all cases, the criminal was not caught. Our daughter and her husband had all their guns stolen. They knew the neighbor did it and tracked down most of the guns. Even though our son-in-law’s name was engraved on the barrel of the guns, the sheriff’s department wouldn’t do anything because they didn’t have a serial numbers. Most of the guns were his dad’s and older without serial numbers. Very frustrating.

  20. The most interesting of the things I’ve had stolen was a Sony Trinitron 25 inch TV. Now, most of the time it would be a big deal, but I had kept the burned out unit for parts that I was going to use in a project. The storage unit (in a fenced-in storage company) was broken into and only the TV stolen. I suspect the people who were loading stuff into the unit next door and saw the TV going in. I am sure they thought they could get a good price or have a good TV until they found out that a lightening strike had burned the unit out.

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