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Editor, Ceres Courier,

About three weeks ago, I called the Ceres Police Department to my house because of problems I was having with a neighbor. The man next door was caught twice stealing my paper on videotape and from there, it just kept escalating. The final straw came when the backyard fence between our properties was being vandalized.

Boards were being knocked out of the fence and stolen. After all the constant vandalism, the fence is now about to fall over. The fence wasn't like that before I caught this man stealing.

Police response was within the hour, which I thought was good for a non-emergency call. However, the officer felt that the fence was just old and that a person needing drug money is probably the one who stole the boards. I didn't believe that statement. I believe that even a strung out individual would know that wood boards from a fence are not worth anything.

The officer then talked to the neighbor. According to the officer, the man was at work and the wife had said that her husband thought the house was empty at the time that he was stealing the paper. Didn't her husband see the big camera on a tripod that I had in full view on my living room window sill? Didn't her husband see the Bee come to my house to bring me my replacement papers? Didn't he see lights on in my house? This man was only stealing my Sunday paper. Didn't he wonder where the other Modesto Bee papers from the subscription were? Did he think that Santa Claus was swinging by and taking the papers that he wasn't stealing? They probably do believe that if neither one of them saw any signs of life or have the common sense to think about why there were no other papers being left out on the front lawn.

According to the officer, the wife also said that her husband offered to pay for the papers. Not only did he not offer to pay for the papers, he never even apologized or made any comment to me about how he thought the house was empty. When I confronted him, it was to talk about the fence, not the papers. He did offer to pay for the first complete replacement of the fence but when I asked him to sign a paper and have it notarized, his exact response was "I don't have to sign a paper just because you tell me to." Such a mature response from this man. He asked me if I believed him and I told him I would not believe anybody who would steal a newspaper and that is why I wanted it in writing.

In the end, I did get a police report to go along with the pictures of my fence to turn into my insurance company. The officer said that, in his opinion, I was trying to blame this neighbor for something that he was not his doing but he was going to try to talk to the man later after he came home from work and would get back to me. He did talk to my neighbor but did not talk to me again as he said he would. Unfortunately, I will not be able to press charges for the theft because of the lag of time. I waited a long time before calling the police only because I did not want to waste the officer's time on small things but the vandalism to the fence was finally worth calling the police.

At some point, I had to say enough is enough. I gave my neighbor an inch and he took a mile. That will not happen again.

I'm sorry to say this but the officer was fooled and it wasn't by me. I find it very sad that the victim seems to be the one in the wrong and that doing the right thing seems to be almost as big a crime as the actual crime itself.

However, we should all still do our part to make things better and Art de Werk's article about not remaining silent was terrific. It should be read and practiced by all.

Maryann Goodman,