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December 10, 2018

So, that was a thing
Posted by Patrick at 08:45 PM * 38 comments

Our buzzer goes off. About 8 PM. We’re not expecting anyone.

I go downstairs. “Police,” announce the two guys outside our building front door.

WTF? I can’t think of any reason actual police should be demanding admittance to our Park Slope apartment.

(Yes, we moved since the last time I posted to Making Light, back in a long-ago geological era.)

I was suddenly very conscious of having said critical things about the NYPD on Twitter this very day.

Indeed, it tells you everything you need to know about the utter lack of democracy and freedom in 2018 America is that this is the first thing I thought. Americans used to mock the petty indignities of the Brezhnevite USSR. Now we accept them as normal.

“Do you have a warrant?” I asked. “We don’t need a warrant,” they answered.


Needless to say, we didn’t let them in.

Also needless to say, TNH phoned 911, and some perfectly nice actually-obviously-NYPD people came by and spoke with her. We didn’t let them into the building, either, but they didn’t make an issue of it.

As of 9PM tonight, we appear to be OK. But holy crap, that was a thing. If we didn’t know all of you? If we didn’t have the social capital we have?

There are people serving decades-long sentences — there are people on death row — because they didn’t have the friends and connections we do.

Comments on So, that was a thing:
#1 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 10:02 PM:

Yeah, I saw that on Twitter.

I don't know that I would have had the presence of mind to challenge them. Glad you were able to.

#2 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 10:27 PM:

Either the link doesn't work, or Twitter has blocked it, or something.

Glad you are both okay.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 10:40 PM:

I used the links on the front page to see the threads. (Yes, TNH posted about it also.)

I get a lot of no-voice phone calls from, I suspect, people who want into the building and punch the first button they see - which is mine, because it's by apt, mine is at the bottom of the column and the manager's apt is up a bit higher. (If they took even five seconds to look, they'd see the button actually marked "MANAGER".) I suspect most of them are legit, but I'm not going to do anything. (I have to ask to find out how I buzz someone in. That's how many visitors I get. It's easier just to walk around to where I can see the door.)

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 12:17 AM:

It will be interesting to see if the first folks come back again. And, if so, whether they actually were police or not -- several possible scenarios have them being various forms of opportunists.

I'm sorry you had to go through this, and glad it hasn't been worse.

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 05:39 AM:

On due consideration, Teresa is pretty sure it was an attempted home invasion by non-cops, and that they're far more likely to try someone else than they are to bother us again.

I'm still more than a little freaked out.

#6 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 07:06 AM:

"so was it bandits, or the security service?"

"pretty sure it was bandits."

"oh thank god. much less trouble."

yeah, thing's ain't right these days.

#7 ::: Mike G. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 09:12 AM:

Reminds me of when I moved to the US (to northern NJ, from Canada) 25 years ago, and I asked the guy hiring me if crime was a problem. He said "nah, the mafia, the unions, and the cops have the area sewn up, so it's all well-organized crime, no issues."

I thought it was funny, until I moved there and realized that he meant it.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 10:16 AM:

To repeat what I tweeted last night, reading this made me wish there was a delivery service that would drop off a basket with a careful selection of liquor, Edibles, and a loaner therapy puppy to people who've been through shit.

As unlikely as this is, it would probably be more likely to come about than some actual much more needed social justice.

#9 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 10:16 AM:

If we didn’t know all of you? If we didn’t have the social capital we have?

I hope not to make too big a deal of this, but you could easily have added: "If we weren't middle-class white folks living in a nice neighborhood", and perhaps a few other points of privilege.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 10:54 AM:

Jesus. Like you need this. And points for presence of mind. Me, all I would have been able to summon up is years of being a slightly obstructive front-woman. "May I ask what this is about?" or "Who did you need to speak to," or perhaps "Could you slide the badge under the door so I can take a look at it, please?"

You and Teresa have earned a little post-event shivering. And maybe a stiff drink.

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 11:39 AM:

Dave Harmon, #9: Yes, absolutely.

#12 ::: Angiportus Librarysaver ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 01:20 PM:

Scary. Guess I have to send some time studying that ACLU leaflet about what to do if the police stop you, etc. I got it at the library; maybe they have something on their website that you can print out.

#13 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 02:42 PM:

Ok, that's a new home-invasion wrinkle. In this day and age of crime shows it's difficult to believe that someone would have let them in...

But maybe I'm being to generous to some of my fellow citizens.

Glad you both are ok -- I wouldn't have been able to go to sleep!

#14 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 03:21 PM:

Holy crap, that's awful. I'm so sorry this happened, and so glad you're OK.

I think Teresa's probably right that it was an attempted home invasion. Which is quite scary enough by itself.

I've got the shivers just thinking about this. I can't even imagine what this must be like for you. Good energies offered if welcome.

#15 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 05:36 PM:

I'm horrified, and I agree that it sounds more like an attempted home invasion than the actual police.

#16 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 05:56 PM:

I'm glad you folks are more-or-less okay. I agree that it sounds more like an attempt at robbery than like a real police visit. I'll admit to having wondered occasionally if your and Teresa's prolonged general absence from ML might involve suppression of left-leaning bloggers. Because these days, that seems not-improbable.

Some years back when I was living in an apartment, I occasionally had some idiot punching my apartment's buzzer in the hope that I'd let them in without checking their identity. I probably got that more often than most other building residents, because my apartment was highest-numbered on the top floor, so mine was the last button on the board.

#17 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 10:38 PM:

Lori @13:

A great many scams are predicated on the idea that there are people confused (or confusable) enough to fall for anything. A lot of scams are engineered to be easily and gracefully turned aside by marks who don't even notice that they were being baited.

Elderly people living alone are a disproportionately large share of the marks in successful scams.

#18 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2018, 12:07 AM:

Yes, a would-be scammer prefers that a failed attempt not lead to anything that would interfere in their moving along to the next potential victim. Don't waste my time, don't slow me down, don't call the authorities...

#19 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2018, 12:09 PM:

A scam that’s been running here for a few years involves a recorded message from someone claiming to be an RCMP officer about to arrest you for non-payment of income tax, that is, unless you contact them and send them money via gift card. It seems obviously fake, but I’m guessing it’s aimed at the easily frightened or confused, and likely also those with enough actual experience of extortion threats from the authorities they don’t question the details. And I guess that like spam, it only has to work on a small percentage of the targets.

#20 ::: Angiportus Librarysaver ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2018, 09:17 PM:

All right, what if the would-be invaders say they DO have a warrant? Do you tell them to slide it under the door while you call 911, or what? If there's 2 people in the house the other one can call, but what if you live alone in an apartment like me?
I'm worried about Mom. She lives alone in a trailer out in the sticks, and the trailer is old and the door could easily be kicked in.
Practical discussion here would help.

#21 ::: Grimmtooth ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2018, 11:21 PM:

Wow, I'm blocked from seeing @pnh tweets. Not sure how I earned that dubious honor. Sorry for whatever it was.

#22 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2018, 12:15 AM:

Patrick, did the supposed cops show something like badges?

#23 ::: peri ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2018, 09:53 PM:

This whole year has felt like Katrina and Rita ad nauseous.

#24 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 02:24 PM:

Yeah, we had one like that locally, a few weeks ago. Older woman, living alone in a small house, two "cops" come to the door and tell her some story about needing to search her house. She didn't let them in, but she did open the front door--and that was all they needed to force their way inside, assault and rob her. It's a terrifying thought, on several levels.

#25 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 02:59 PM:

Sounds like a scam for sure — a variant of one that's fairly common in the UK (only here they don't masquerade as cops, they claim to be from gas/electricity utilities and want access to read the meter). Could be direct robbery by force, or casing the premises for future burglary.

Scary stuff.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 05:28 PM:

The "utility employee" version isn't unknown in the US. There was a warning this week - I saw it at SFGate - about people claiming to be from PG&E. (Always ask to see their ID. Real utilities here tend to issue photo IDs that are hard to counterfeit, not the laminated kind.)

#27 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2018, 08:35 AM:

#25-26: I remember warnings about the "utility men" scam from 30-40 years ago. I think they might have been doing police back then, but it was definitely rarer. Of course if caught, the latter wouldn't just be facing theft-and-violence charges, but also "impersonation of a police officer", perhaps with some extrajudicial attention as well.

#28 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2018, 08:43 AM:

Jesus--smart thinking and a warning.


#29 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2018, 05:59 PM:

This is why I don't open the door unless I recognize the person or am expecting someone. I've already had one incident of coming home to find a strange man in my apartment. Glad you're OK!

#30 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2018, 06:01 PM:

Melissa Mead: !!??!!!


#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2018, 12:18 PM:

Damn. That sounds like attempted home invasion to me. I am glad that you’re all right.

#32 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2018, 12:14 AM:

Awful to think that attempted home invasion is less frightening than the possibility of real cops saying "We don't need a warrant". May you and Teresa continue to be safe.

#33 ::: Dan R ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2018, 10:14 PM:

Patrick, you might call the local NYPD bureau and ask if they have reports of two visits to your apartment, or just one today? If they only show the one, then you could report the other "visit" as a potential robbery attempt...

(as he pulls Solzhenitsyn off the shelf again...)

#34 ::: Concrete Lady ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2019, 04:15 PM:

That is super freaky! Good thing we can share stuff like this so we are all in the know!

#35 ::: Mary Aileen sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2019, 04:25 PM:

Concrete praise-spam, on this and other threads.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2019, 05:17 PM:

With slight variations in the name, too.

#37 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2019, 06:50 PM:

35, 36,

The spam-link was for (nominally) different stamped concrete companies, too.

#38 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2019, 05:52 PM:

I just finally read the comments. I have very different reflexes, and that's given me pause. A couple weeks ago, I was just waking up and heard the gate at the side of the house make a noise. Then, out my bedroom window, I see a figure walking toward the alley. He shouted something. Not wearing my glasses, I couldn't tell much about him.

I think "Hey! Who the hell does that guy think he is cutting through our yard!" I leapt out of bed and got dressed in a flash, popped out the back door, and went to the alley to see if I could find this person and give them a good glare or something.

I found him coming back around the side of the house. I might have jumped; he apologized, said he'd rung the doorbell (I can't hear it in the basement and I was the only one home at the time), and what he'd shouted as he walked into the back hard was "Utility Man" which my brain finally parsed for me after I met him. He just needed to read the gas meter. He was very apologetic.

Nevertheless, the fact that my first and only response to "stranger in the back yard" was to leap to challenge him is . . . well. Hmm. The idea that this response is the default for somebody that happens to be tall, white, and male is obvious enough to be kind of boring. The fact that I'm a dead ringer for the guy who gets sand kicked in his face on the beach and that no amount of height, testosterone, or whiteness can stop a bullet seems to have escaped me. :/ Hmm.

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