Why I’m Glad Someone Broke Into My Santa Monica Apartment

A couple days ago I came home after a work dinner to find that someone had forced entry into my Santa Monica apartment and stolen a handful of personal belongings. After filing the police report, conducting a forensics investigation, making an insurance claim and talking to my landlord, I’m glad it happened. Here’s the story.

Paige from forensics dusts my coffee table for prints. I stood by to offer emotional support.

On Thursday I had a celebratory dinner for my newly-promoted and now former assistant at Maestro’s in Beverley Hills.

The meal was top notch - a celebration of career progress to date and a forecasting of exciting things to come, all accompanied by delectable wine, lobster and steak. I beamed with pride and positive notes on my drive home.

Upon reaching my apartment, I parked in my designated spot, hung out in my SUV for a few extra minutes to jam out to the last song on my Spotify playlist, and then made the short walk to my door. As I put my key in the deadbolt, I quickly realized it was unlocked.


I ALWAYS lock my door in the mornings before heading to work. My head rushed with scenarios: my former roommate had gone in to grab something and forgot to lock the door on his way out…my landlord was making repairs as he often does when I’m not home…my best friend with a spare key had stopped by…

But after five seconds of mental processing, none of those stories seemed to fit.

Upon entry, I immediately got a feeling that something was off;

a slightly turned over sofa cushion, a painting on the ground, a shelf unit partially pushed aside. In isolation, none of these would make me feel uneasy (earthquake perhaps?), but in aggregate they told a story of intrusion.

The kicker was my bedroom, where I found my saxophone case awkwardly cast to the foot of my bed, far from its closet resting place. My eyes raised and immediately scanned the room: half-opened bedside table drawers, hangers of clothes pushed aside in my closet, selective items pulled from their natural habitat, a screen propped up against a wall. Clear signs of a scramble to find a hidden treasure trove that fortunately never was.

Yup, this was a robbery.

My alto saxophone case resting in unnatural habitat. And yes, my mattress is currently on the floor. My new bed arrives next week ;)

I promptly called the police and was told they could come by in 4.5 hours. That meant 2:30am on a work night.

Ridiculous. Hard pass. I would re-engage in the morning. I left my landlord a voice message and, realizing there was nothing else I could do that night, went to sleep…but not before scanning my closets to ensure I was home alone. In retrospect, I was surprisingly at ease. I believe it’s because I knew what had transpired was not a hard crime…and that I was very, very lucky.

I worked remotely the next day to get my affairs in order.

More black dust for the door knob. Upon examining my door, Paige said I kept a very clean apartment.

For a minor break in, the logistical workload was heavy. Two police officers came by to file an official report. I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Chase and Bank of America putting a stop payment order on all outstanding checks. The forensics team dusted for prints and covered my apartment in black dust. My landlord changed my deadbolt and knob locks (a spare key had gone missing, eek!). I submitted an insurance claim for two stolen laptops and a watch.

With all of this headache, you’re probably asking yourself,

“Wait, why is this guy lucky?”

This is why:

  • I’m on the ground floor of a six-building unit in Santa Monica, with windows facing the street. I leave my blinds up and windows cracked all the time. I live near the beach, which is home to a large transient community. I leave my spare keys underneath the mat and patio flower pots. I recently re-decorated my apartment, spending nearly $10,000 on the upgrade. I own many surfboards, expensive guitars, and stereo equipment. None of these larger items were taken or damaged.
  • The two stolen computers included a Macbook Air, my backup work computer, and a Macbook Pro, which only took up closet space. The watch was from an ex girlfriend and I never wore it — in fact, it was still in the box. My expensive Raymond Weil watch that was sitting out on my bureau is still in my possession.
  • I have renters insurance.
  • From the police offers I learned about Prop 47 in California, which reduces penalties for non violent crimes with the intent of reducing the strain on the California prison system, but in turn has put many drug abusers and low-level criminals back on the street. The officers’ anecdotal note is that minor crime and theft is on the rise across the state, most prominently in LA and surrounding areas like Santa Monica. Good to know.
  • The forensics “team” was, to my pleasant surprise, a young woman. We engaged in friendly banter, I learned about her craft, and we joked about the situation at hand to help ease the mood. Further, all the black dusting powder gave me a good reason to scrub down my apartment…it is now sparkling.
  • The guy who lives upstairs, who I hadn’t yet met, stopped by to offer his support. Turns out he’s also a surfer, and we’ll be hitting the waves together soon.
  • During all the down time I finally changed my wifi name and password from its 37 character default status to something more user friendly.
  • My landlord replaced my deadbolt and knob locks, and even installed window locks and dowel stoppers as a further deterrent. A new building alarm system is in the works.
  • I will never again leave my ground floor windows open when I’m not home, and will instruct my children (someday) to do the same.
  • I purchased a lock box for my few high-value items.
  • I will never again leave a spare key under the mat or nearby flower pot, and instead will always store it in a key safe. Again, I will instruct my children (someday) to do the same.

As a result of my apartment break-in, I am more informed about my local Santa Monica community, apprised of new laws governing my home state, made a new acquaintance in Paige of forensics, am new buddies with a fellow surfer, have a much more secure home and am armed with solid parenting advice when fatherhood catches up with me.

I’m feeling pretty darn good about all of that.

Of course, there is one point that pains me, and will probably leave an emotional scar in its wake.

This is the intrusion into my living space. I feel personally violated. The idea of someone rifling through my belongings, with no care about their sentimental value to me or the stories behind them, is heartbreaking.

My living space is more than four walls, furniture and a place to eat and sleep. It is my home. It is where I host loved ones and hide when I want to get away. This new feeling of unwelcome accessibility is extremely unsettling, but I will not let that fester. I have taken the proper precautionary measures and my home is now much more secure. My only option is to return to business as usual, because things are actually quite alright, and I am very, very lucky.

This could have been A LOT worse.

A painting from my late grandmother’s home awkwardly rests upside down on the floor. That is not a wall safe, but simply the fuse box…much to the perpetrator’s dismay.
Scene of the crime: the screen which the perpetrator removed to gain access to my spare bedroom. That window is now reinforced with a lock and dowel stopper.
Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Christopher Erwin’s story.