A little girl woke up in the middle of the night thirsty for a glass of water. On her way to the refrigerator she saw the shadow of two strangers in the kitchen. She ran to her bedroom, locking the door behind her.
This frantic experience is one of several incidents that have occurred in comfortable neighborhoods around town over the last couple of months. Residents are frightened and police investigators are looking at cases throughout the area.
Information from neighborhood associations and the Columbus Police Department is piling up. They agree that parts of Hilton Heights and Overlook have been under siege.
Doors have been kicked down. Cars have been stolen, purses have been taken and family silver is missing. Copper has been ripped away from air conditioning units. Teenagers walking near their homes have been harassed. Backpacks belonging to members of the Columbus High tennis and track teams have been taken while teammates were working out.
Some of these episodes came during the day while residents were at work and some happened at night while families were in bed nestled under the covers believing they were safe with doors locked and alarms set.
An alarming email sent out by the Hilton Heights Neighborhood Association on Sept. 10, described a single eventful night in August.
Unknown individuals were seen walking on Slate Drive.
Later that night, a truck was stolen from a driveway on Averett Drive, a woman on Hilton Avenue reported someone trying to get in her door and a couple on that same street had a big-screen TV taken from their pool house.
Investigator Steve Cox confirmed the rash of burglaries and break-ins but said recent arrests may curtail the incidents. The veteran lieutenant said police believe two different groups have been operating -- one during the day and another at night.
"The night time break-ins are usually rare," Cox said. "Burglars don't want to see you anymore than you want to see them. Night time bears the greatest chance for harm."
The leader of a group that was charged with burglaries in the Columbus panhandle last June was arrested again this week.
Authorities believe he and his group may be involved with the recent incidents around Hilton Heights and Overlook.
The Overlook Association sent out a bulletin Wednesday reporting that police had arrested two suspects after a burglary on Elmwood Avenue. An alert resident reported two men startled by a motion sensitive security light in the driveway next door. The suspects fled but were later apprehended.
That kind of diligence will support police efforts. Patrols have been beefed up but authorities need the various neighborhoods to work together and report suspicious activities to law enforcement when they occur.
Only then will thirsty children feel safe in their own home.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com.