Passport theft

THE VICTIM: Patricia Derry

DATE: Sunday, Dec. 29

TIME: 3:30 p.m.

PLACE: 6100 block of Hudson

For weeks, contractors had been working on Patricia Derry’s duplex, replacing the roof, then the siding, and finally the windows. Derry was preparing to travel for a few days to get away from the whole mess, but the day before she left for Peru — “to see the rainforest before it disappears,” she says — her passport disappeared from her purse.

Derry’s friends helped her search high and low to no avail. She had no evidence that anyone in particular took it, and says she didn’t want to point any fingers, but she suspected that a few of the contractors were illegal immigrants.

“And passports go for quite a bit of money on the black market,” she says.

When her landlord threatened to call immigration officials, one of the contractors “mysteriously found” Derry’s passport, she says, saying it was found under her bed.

“We looked there three times. We crawled under there. We turned the house upside down,” Derry insists. “We even looked through kitty litter looking for that stupid thing.”

Even more bizarre was her experience two days later when Derry came home early in the morning after attending a New Year’s Eve celebration. She went straight upstairs to bed, and when she came downstairs the next morning, she found a woman’s “slinky black skirt” and “tacky tank top,” describing it as an apparent “token” of an illicit rendezvous in her living room.

Derry couldn’t find any evidence of breaking and entering, so she assumed that whoever was in her home had a key to her duplex. Even worse, she found the clothes draped over her purse, which she had set down on her way in the night before.

“So they were here while I was here, and I didn’t know they were in the house,” she says. “I feel so violated.”

Luckily, nothing of value was missing, but Derry suspects the woman probably took some of her clothes.

“I’m sure she didn’t walk out of here in her underwear,” she says.

Contractors should have access to the inside of your house only if they are doing interior work, says Officer Keith Allen of the Central Division.

“If they’re doing siding or roofing or a shed, you never want to give them access to the house, and certainly not unsupervised access,” he says. “Always make sure someone is there.”

Allen recommends checking with the Better Business Bureau before hiring contractors, and always obtaining a list of references. If they say they’ve done work in your neighborhood, get your neighbors’ feedback. And never pay someone up front for any work.

He also suggests changing all locks and even garage door opener codes after the work is completed.

“If it’s a nice day, and you come home and leave your car windows open, it’s easy for someone to take your garage door opener and obtain the code,” Allen says. “Anything that would secure your house you never want to leave accessible.”

Derry, who finally did get to travel to Peru, changed her locks soon after the New Year’s escapade.

“Hopefully we will not have any more unexpected contractors,” she says.

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