Houston...We Have a Problem
I am happy to be home. I could not wait to get away from Houston. I made it until Thursday night, and I hopped on a flight to LAX and by 12 AM, I was on the way back to Stralia. In all seriousness, I wanted to leave the same night it happened, but that would not have been the most professional of moves.
My host and I had a free afternoon to explore the city. We had a really good day at work, and she was the best person for me to shadow. We went to a couple of stores and spots in the city that are well-known by residents. We found somewhere to eat for lunch, and it was maybe 15 minutes away. We thought it was a safe place because security was driving around and cameras were visible from every angle. We went to this shopping/entertainment centre that featured an IMAX, cinema, restaurants, stores, etc. and browsed. I had never heard of most of the restaurants there, so we randomly picked one. While we were eating lunch, someone broke into the car. It was not immediately noticeable. I did not realise she had left anything of value in the car. When I travel, I keep it light. I have my licence and another form of picture identification, insurance cards, two credit cards, mobile, insurance card, and currency of that country. Those things are always on my body, and I only carry a clutch to dinner that never leaves the table or my lap. Generally, I wear my passport around my neck and tucked into my top. Oh no moment? She left her handbag in the car under the seat, and I was unaware. The purse alone was worth a bit under $2,000. Her tablet and some other devices were inside. To make matters worse, the perpetrator attempted to use three of her cards at petrol stations. The officer said thieves do that to see if the cards are valid, have funds, and/or have not been blocked, yet. Two of the numerous attempted transactions were actually approved.
After we left lunch, we went straight to my hotel. The vehicle was still locked when we approached it, and the hotel was not far away. She discovered it when we got back to my hotel, and she was transferring her bags to her car. I kept saying, "We need to call the police." I was in Forensic Files-CSI-Criminal Minds mode, and thinking, "The handle needs to be dusted. What if he/she/they touched the paper sitting on the console? We need ninhydrin!" I was looking at the handle that was damn near falling off. I saw where some instrument was entered into the keyhole because it left a mark in the metal. I was thinking, "This is a tall vehicle, and he/she/they were in the driver's seat and likely touched the steering wheel when they got in." Houston was hot as Satan's balls, so I highly doubt they wore gloves.
It was a mess for the first five hours. She refused to call the police, and she said they would not do anything because they have millions of residents in the city. I finally convinced her to at least file an incident report because she was the victim of identity theft. This was after she had to cancel every card, freeze accounts, add access codes, change passwords, etc. It was a multi-hour process, and I was gutted and uneasy the whole time. The good thing is one of her banks alerted her when suspicious activity was suspected.
We later retraced our steps, contacted the security at every place we went, and they were kind enough to give us minute by minute playbacks. One store even described what we were wearing in great detail--down to my shoe designer. I did not sleep at all the first night. I was paranoid as hell. My mind was thinking, "This person or these people were bold enough to step inside of a petrol station and attempt to enter a pin. What if they decide to go to her home because they had her licence with her address on it?" I was seriously worried about her, but I am keeping in contact and doing as much as I can from my side of the world. She has been keeping me informed, and she does have an investigator assigned to the her case. The last I heard--which was a few hours ago--she spoke with the security at the shopping centre we were at, and a lady in security told her that she needed to forward her name and number to the investigator on the case, so that he could come by and pick up the footage. I do hope they found something.
My first, last, and only trip to Houston, Texas. Unless I am on a stopover, I can honestly say I will never step foot in that city again. I usually love visiting the States, but last week has me rethinking the decision to holiday there during my girls' next term break.