Sunday afternoon, PG and I were enjoying a cold beverage on his apartment balcony, watching the world go by. I’ve probably mentioned this before, that there is always a lot to see on his street, usually due to the location of the pub at the corner. But this Sunday, the action was at the apartment building directly across from his building.
We idly watched an older, dark-haired gentleman walk down the street, using what appeared to be a magazine to shield his eyes from the sun. He ambled up to the balcony of the ground-floor suite beside the main entrance of that apartment building. The drapes were all drawn in that suite, but they were very slightly parted at the balcony sliding door. This man stood at the edge of the balcony, waving his magazine at that opening and calling something (I couldn’t quite make it out – it was probably the name of the person who lived there). PG and I cracked up at this point, quite amused at the thought of someone trying to attract the attention of whoever lived there by waving at an opening in the drapes and calling their name. I noted that it was very unlikely that even if the occupant was in there watching TV, that they would see or hear this man outside. PG added that this was a very weird way to call on a friend or relative – shouldn’t one try the front door first?
Which is exactly what the man did next. He went to the front door and buzzed that apartment suite. No response. Obviously, nobody home. PG said, “She’s not there. Go away!” I said, “A she lives there? How do you know?” He replied, “Because I’ve seen her.” Oh. Asked and answered.
Then things got more interesting. Instead of going away, the man now reached over from the front porch of the building and knocked on the bedroom window of the suite, again calling out her name (which I still couldn’t quite make out, but that’s what I think he was saying). Again, no response. And again, he went back to the balcony and waved his magazine at the crack in the drapes.
This was getting even weirder. Most people would give up at that point and leave. But this man now proceeded to climb over the railing onto the balcony. He knocked on the sliding glass door, waved his magazine, called her name, tried to peer right into the suite!
PG and I were quite uncomfortable now. “Should we call the police?” he said slowly. “He’s trespassing and he’s a peeping Tom now.”
We discussed it for a few minutes, unsure. Finally, we decided to do it. My heart was starting to pound.
PG phoned the police non-emergency number. I stepped back into his apartment myself, still watching the man on the balcony across the street. PG was explaining the man’s behaviour, saying it could very well be just fine, but it did look suspicious to us. He was in the process of giving a not-very-clear physical description of the man to the operator – and I squealed.
“He’s trying to get IN!” I yelled.
Indeed he was. I watched him try to push the sliding glass door, which didn’t move much. PG started to relay this new information to the operator, and then the man bent down and lifted the sliding part out of its track. He slid the door open about half a metre. I yelled again.
“He’s got the door open! He’s just gone right IN!”
PG later said that immediately he told this to the operator, she replied briskly, “Well, I’ll just ramp this up and send a police car right now.”
Shaking, I grabbed my phone and prepared to take photos. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to do this before – but I’d never seen a crime in progress before, so I guess I wasn’t really thinking clearly. But I must say, it was hard to take those photos because I was shaking so badly. I still don’t know why I shook so much – it wasn’t like I was doing anything illegal!
Anyway, two police cars arrived within five minutes, coincidentally just as the man was coming out of the apartment back onto the balcony. I continued taking photos (in retrospect, I should have been filming, but again, this was a totally new experience for me, so I obviously wasn’t thinking too logically. Apparently, I am NOT your go-to person in a crisis). The police officers watched him for a moment, then confronted him. The apartment building manager (we think that’s who it was) came out to talk to the officers as well. The man carefully closed the balcony door, climbed off the balcony, and stood talking with the officers for maybe 10 minutes. He seemed a little agitated, particularly when he had to produce ID, but again, we couldn’t really hear what anybody was saying.
Then they let him go!
I don’t know what he said to explain himself, or what the manager said, but they let him go. We were mystified! The guy just pulled a break and enter, with witnesses, and the cops let him go! They didn’t even talk to us! Well, what can you do?
Fast forward an hour later. PG and I were walking to his sister’s house, two blocks away. We had to pass that apartment building across the street, and as we did, we spotted a man and a woman sitting out on the balcony. THE balcony! I whispered to PG, “Is that the gal who lives them? Maybe we should talk to them? Tell them what happened? Ask if the police have called them yet?” He looked at me, undecided. “Would YOU want to know that someone had gotten into YOUR apartment that easily? Even if nothing was stolen?” I continued. PG replied firmly, “Yes!”
So we went over and told the couple what had happened earlier that afternoon. They were absolutely shocked, to say the least. The woman’s face went white and she started to shake. (A common reaction to stress, obviously) She told us that she has an ex-husband who is in jail, though she didn’t elaborate further. The man sitting with her (presumably her current husband, as she was wearing engagement and wedding rings) suggested to her that this might have been some friend of the ex’s, who is not supposed to have any contact with her. They asked us a lot of questions, and I showed them my photos, which, unfortunately, don’t ever show the man’s face, so it’s unlikely that they could ever be used as evidence against him. PG politely suggested that maybe they should consider moving to a higher floor, or at the very least, that they do something about that balcony door to secure it. The husband nodded and told us that he was a carpenter, and he would attend to that immediately. We all wondered why the police hadn’t yet contacted them about this incident, and we all hoped that when the officers filed their report later in the day, they would then phone. Regardless, the woman assured us, she was going to call the police herself and ask what had gone on.
She, in particular, was very shaken by our story, and both she and her husband were so very grateful that PG had called the police. They thanked us over and over again for coming by to tell them what had happened. We exchanged names and a few more details, then PG and I continued on our way to his sister’s place. We felt pretty good about what we’d just done, but I also felt a little ashamed that we’d actually hesitated both about calling the police and about telling the couple what we’d witnessed. But we did do the right thing in the end.
I don’t know if there will be any consequences to that afternoon’s events. Maybe those people will move (they’ve only been there a couple of months, PG says). Maybe the mystery man will come back and make trouble for them. Maybe the police will eventually arrest him. Maybe PG and I will be contacted as star witnesses.
Whatever happens, I do know that I need to work both on my crime demeanor (this shaking all over and heart hammering is so very unhelpful) and my crime photography (let’s at least get the perp’s face next time, shall we?).