Cape Crime

The New York Times has made Cape Cod’s dirty secret national news this morning with a story on the property crime epidemic spawned by pain killer addicts looking for flat panel televisions and GPSs to feed their pill problem.

I experienced it first hand one night last summer when my cars were ransacked in the driveway, unlocked as they have been forever, gleaned of anything worth fencing. The police came, expressed their sympathy and said we were only one of many Cotusions to get hit in recent weeks.

Since a set of keys were stolen from one of the cars the locksmith was called and the locks were changed on the house. Hasps and padlocks went onto the garage doors and suddenly, I was locking my doors in Cotuit for the first time in 50 years.

The culprits aren’t urban invaders or some “new” element that has arrived along with sprawl and pollution, but young white kids: teens to young adults living in what I would consider to be one of the worst places for a young person to begin a life in terms of economic opportunity and urban excitement.  I’m urging my children to get out and stay out until they find some opportunity elsewhere, and then they can return as vacationers.  I came here full-time in 1991 in my early thirties as a technology enabled telecommuter and even went so far as to write a  big utopian story for Forbes on how tech was going to transform the hinterland into a paradise of ISDN-enabled day traders, software programmers, and affluent bohemian “knowledge workers” who would phone it in via telepresence technology. Ha. As one old timer told me early on at the village post office, “You can’t be a fireman unless you live near the fire.” The story of my career has been: “Raise the family on the Cape, earn the living elsewhere.”

The Cape, following the torrid building boom of the 70s through the 90s, has never generated much of a year-round economy. A few tech companies here and there, nothing major and certainly no “Silicon Sandbar” as was hoped twenty years ago. There’s no manufacturing to speak of, and of course the resort/vacationer economy that has been the mainstay of the region for the last sixty years dies every winter, when even the local restaurant owners close their doors and head south to escape the snowless tedium.

The Cape has a large elderly population, mostly middle-income retirees drawn here by the prospect of light snow and the Patti Page mythical idyll of “Olde Cape Cod.”  They appear to be especially victimized by the spate of home invasions as the addicts rifle through their medicine cabinets in the middle of the night.

On the good side, at least we don’t have a meth epidemic, though I should watch my words and knock on wood.

Meanwhile the doors are locked and something has been lost that isn’t coming back ever again.


Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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