A bit of excitement around the place last night. The dogs went a crazy about midnight, barking and jumping at the back door. We have a good size fenced area for them behind the house that extends almost to the barn, so I let them out and did a quick visual scan of the area... didn't see anything... and they seemed to settle down once they had checked out their "territory".
About five minutes later the neighbors immediately south of us called and said their alarm had just gone off indicating that one of the overhead doors on their barn had been opened. The wife and I "geared-up" and headed out.
Maybe a little background is appropriate here before I continue...
In addition to a general increase of burglaries and thefts around here as the economy has declined, there has been a pretty slick burglary group working a five or six county area for about three years now. They don't hit homes... just out-buildings, barns, and unattached garages or utility trailers and usually stick to ATVs, dirtbikes, generators, construction grade tools, air compressors, etc. They don't waste their time on junk and they don't spend time on hardened structures or ones with obvious alarm systems.
They typically drop off three to four crooks who go in on foot, set items they want outside, and then come back through quickly with trucks or vans to load up and disappear. The will often hit six to a dozen places up and down the same road over several miles. We were hit about two and a half years ago when they took three dirtbikes and a good selection of Dewalt 18-volt power tools from our barn. They hit our neighbors and several others up and down the road here that same night. We've since extended the alarm system from the house to the barn and have alarm company stickers on all the barn doors now to make it obvious it is alarmed.
Now back to last night...
We met the neighbors by their barn with LED "torches" and large caliber "pitch forks" in hand. They had let the alarm company go ahead and notify the sheriff's department. Some of our other neighbors showed up pretty quickly. The area was quickly checked. We did find some fresh footprints in the dew-covered grass behind their barn that lead back across to our property, behind our barn, then the trail continued to the tall weeds at the edge of our property towards the state nature preserve that borders our field.
The sheriff's deputies showed up about twenty minutes after the alarm had gone off, which is about average... give or take ten minutes or so... in our large, mostly rural county. The group had gathered near the front of the neighbor's barn at this point and as the first deputy exited his cruiser, he commented, "well, I don't see any dead bodies." We looked at each other and realized our group of neighbors had enough handguns, shotguns, ARs, Mini-14s, flashlights, ammo, and other gear to equip a platoon. I guess a country boy CAN survive.
After a second deputy showed up and they confirmed the trail we found, they started patrols in the area looking for anyone on foot or a "pick up" vehicle. The perpetrator(s) of our disturbance was (were) never located, but with all the farm fields, 300+ acres of nature preserve bordering our property, and woods... there's a lot of territory to hide in, let alone be searched.
Now I know you can't use deadly force in Ohio to defend property, but there's nothing wrong with being prepared for self-defense as these guys who have been doing most of the burglaries are no hillbilly amateurs. I'm thankful for a rural community, friends, and neighbors that look out for each other as 911 is... well, it is, to some extent, just a phone call around here.
We have terrific law enforcement officers in our sheriff's department, but with budget cuts and hundreds of square miles to cover... folks have to tend to their own sometimes, especially when you're dealing with two-legged varmints.