December 14, 2011. For all purposes it was a typical day. My children were attending school and I was busy driving my grandparents around town on various errands in preparation for Christmas.
I had picked up a few more gifts for the children and was excited to return home to wrap and place them under the tree, however, something just felt wrong. I wasn’t sure what it was at the time and put it off to the back of my mind as one of those false positive spidey senses.
Yeah, I was wrong. Now, I don’t believe in psychic abilities even though I’ve met several dozen people with a cousin, or distant relative, who they profess to be sensitive in the art (eye roll). I’m also aware of people counting the hits and ignoring the misses, but this hit clearly means I have at least some type of power, probably acquired during one of my many gaming sessions of Mage the Ascension.
Upon arriving home I quickly noticed the side gate open and screen door ajar. From my position in the driveway I also noticed the angle of the door. My stomach sank and my heart jumped into my mouth.
As if on autopilot I jumped out of the car and quickly made my way to the side door. As I stuck my head into the house I realized someone could still be inside, and cursed myself for no longer taking advantage of the Common Wealth’s concealed carry permit. My Glock 23 had been safely disassembled and placed in a locked container at the top my closet to prevent any little hands from finding it.
My ears strained for a moment and I could feel the pounding of my heart slowing as I realized the house was empty. I studied the door and noted the wood splinters littering the kitchen floor. I also realized that the door frame was practically made of particle board, I was sure my seven-year-old could have kicked the door in with little effort.
Again, my heart jumped as my mind conjured the image of our Christmas tree and the gifts littered beneath it suddenly disappearing as if seized by a large malicious green creature. I darted from the kitchen to the living room in fear of the scene that would be soon thrust upon me.
Before I even turned the corner my wits came about me again, as I remembered emptying the boxes of their contents and wrapping hollow shells. The Nintendo 3DS systems, which I swore to never buy, the countless games, and other random electronic items were all safely locked away in a remote and obscure part of the house.
I laughed at the thought of someone hauling a ton of boxes to some dank hideout and excitedly opening the colourfully wrapped gifts to find the promises of pricey electronic toys, only be crushed at finding their payday to be a total bust.
To my surprise the gifts were still there, in the same order I had meticulously placed them. The tree stood in solace, the mechanical Santa waving aimlessly from atop, as if in open defiance of the situation I found myself contending with.
My eyes bounced around the room and landed on the entertainment stand, and the empty spot that just that morning held my PlayStation 3. I spun around to the large bookshelves toward the back of the room and gaped in horror for the entire row of PS3 games had disappeared.
As I approached the bookcase I found three game cases amongst the litter of broken Christmas decorations that had adorned the shelf. Skyrim, Fallout New Vegas, and Infamous 2. Apparently the thief was in too big of a hurry to bother picking up his fumbled loot, and minor though it was I counted this as lucky.
It was also humorous to see the Nintendo Wii sitting alone on the entertainment stand. Just as it was neglected by the family to which it belonged, it also was ignored by the thief. Its dust remained undisturbed and its games stood uniform one shelf below the now vacant row that once held the beloved PlayStation titles.
I was also relieved that the television, multimedia center, and computer monitors still held their places in the room, and that they weren’t damaged out of spite. The other electronics were also safe and sound throughout the rest of the gaff. After digging out a yellowed pack of almost forgotten cigarettes, I finally called in the police. They arrived and surveyed the scene of the crime. Finger prints were dusted for, pictures taken, and statements recorded. They also wanted a full list of the games taken.
Being obsessive compulsive I had a list of the games recorded in a text doc on the multimedia center, which I then noted was powered off. Apparently the thief had unplugged the main surge protector when he yanked out the game system. This was great news since I would be able to check the system process record for a shut down or power loss. And I found it.
An hour! I had only missed the thief by one hour. If I hadn’t stopped with my grandparents to eat at that disgusting buffet I would have arrived home just about the time the computer had lost power. Of course this is conjecture on my part, as I might have been hungry and went through a quick service window or stopped for gas or any other number of random events may have occurred to detour me. But still, just go with it.
I pulled up the list of games and it totaled some 26 stolen, all of which were purchased new around time of their release. There also was something on the list that reminded me that the stolen system had recently been repaired/replaced by Sony over the summer. This was excellent indeed.
I had read reports of Xbox 360’s being returned to their owners thanks to the crooks haphazardly plugging the system into an Internet connection and the security department tracking the serial number or IP address back to the location. Something like that, I guess. I’m not very tech savvy. I was sure this was probably the case for PlayStation, so it was just the matter of contacting Sony for the serial number.
Well, I did exactly that. In less than ten minutes on the phone I was given the serial number and an email address that I could provide to the investigator assigned to the case. The investigator, and only the investigator, was allowed to talk to the Sony security department. I quickly passed this information on to the cops. I was also informed by Sony to change my account password as a way to protect whatever, but I decided against this for obvious reasons.
I was still pretty pissed at the occurrence. I had thought up a lie to tell my children with regard to the missing games and system, in hopes that I would be able to recover them soon or simply replace them at a more convenient time, as telling children that the safety of their home was in question wouldn’t do much to help the situation. Besides, we still had a PlayStation 3 in their playroom that was little used.
I also set about contacting all the GameStops and pawn shops in the area. I created a flier with a list of information about the stolen items; system model, games, usernames on the console, etc., etc., basically anything that would help in their identifying the system as stolen. I then carried it to each store and spoke to any manager willing to listen. I was sure it would do little good, but it felt like I was doing something. After passing around the fliers to the local stores, I pretty much left it up to the police to handle.
The investigator indicated he had been in contact with Sony and was trying to get them to help in getting the paperwork started, and the police department had more pressing issues to worry about as there had just been a murder. So I basically played the waiting game and checked criagslist from time to time to see if maybe the goods would show up.
It was about eight days later when my brother arrived in town on his holiday vacation. He had heard of the theft and picked up a PlayStation 3 from one of the pawn shops in J-Vegas (Jacksonville, NC) as a gift for the kids. He also purchased a copy of Undead Nightmare for us to play while he was in town.
Jacksonville Ninja, on the case!
I had just setup the Internet connection on the ‘new’ system and popped in the Undead Nightmare disk when we received a message that the account had been signed off because the same user had logged on.
I unplugged the ‘new’ system as to prevent it from knocking the missing system offline, and we rushed to the playroom to log onto our second account which was friended to the stolen system. And there it was, my account sitting online. The icon of Drake starring at me blankly, almost as if he were calling to me, confused. It was a strange feeling knowing that somewhere someone was using the missing member of our family. I glared at the screen, trying to muster my Jedi abilities to form a mindlink with whomever possessed the console.
We watched in silence for minutes as the person cycled through several of the stolen titles. Pure, Assassins Creed 2, Killzone 2, Dead Island, Wolverine, and then back to Pure -- the only sports game I had owned... If that counts as a sports game... As I watched, I called the investigator but it was no good. He was on Christmas vacation, and last I heard Sony was still giving him a bit of the run around with the paperwork.
All I could do was watch and wait. I wrote down the time that the account had first logged on, the date, and the games that were being played. I figured it was something, anything to help me feel like I was being proactive in the matter. Then he got a trophy. I’m sure it’s a bit silly, as my family isn’t that big on trophy hunting but it just felt like another violation. We had earned all of our trophies, all the way up to level 13, and now a total stranger, maybe even a thief, was contributing to our collection.
After the holidays, I informed the investigator of the events that had transpired. He was pleased that the system had turned up so soon, however, he was still having issues with Sony ‘getting the ball rolling’ and submitting the search warrant. This was January 14, 2012 exactly one month after the theft.
February 3, 2012 was the last time I had contact with the investigator over the phone. He indicated that Sony was having him speak to a paralegal in regard to the situation. He wasn’t sure if this was good or bad, but at least they were still talking which was a plus in my book. After that conversation I pretty much decided to give it up to chance and not bother checking craigslist anymore, or bugging the cops every week.
I had finally managed to force the event out of my mind, which was a feat unto itself. That was until February 29, 2012 when both our current PlayStations refused to play LittleBigPlanet or any other downloaded title. After contacting Sony I was informed that I’d need to deactivate one of the three systems linked to the account.
Thankfully, the Representative on the phone was able to take care of the problem in less than ten minutes. Why this problem suddenly showed up I had no Idea, as we had played the games since the date of the theft with no issues. It put my mind to thinking once again.
I decided after getting off the phone with Sony that I was going to contact the investigator on March 1, 2012. Unfortunately it turned out to be a pretty busy day. Between my youngest being tested for Pre-K entrance and the other children having various commitments, I wasn’t able to make time to contact the police.
We had just arrived home the evening of March 1, 2012 when my mobile rang. It was the investigator and he indicated that he would be stopping by shortly to speak with me. I was certain I was to be informed that the system had traced to somewhere across country, or even out of country; or that Sony had issued an indefinite [clock] block.
Well, he approached my door with the missing system in hand. It was beautiful to see it again in all its fat glory! I wasted no time in plugging it up in hopes that its memory hadn’t been wiped, and sure enough everything was intact. It was okay.
The officer informed me that it was sold to a … local pawn shop (dammit you bastards!)... and purchased by an unsuspecting person a few towns over. The poor guy that bought it was probably dumbfounded to have cops show up at his door. They wouldn’t give me his name or the name of the pawn shop.
The person responsible for pawning the system was also arrested, though they weren’t sure if he was in fact the thief or a random fence. They showed me a picture, but I didn’t know the guy. Legally, I doubt they can make anything stick.
Looking through the save files on the system was also interesting. I could see were a few of our games had been played and saved before the date of the first log-in. These ranged from the 19th to the 22nd of December.
Then there was the save files for the games I never owned, the games owned by the temporary master of my machine. God of War 3, Street Fighter 4, and Soul Caliber Something. Looking through the trophies and saved files, it was clear he had spent a good deal of time playing the games, even unlocking a gold trophy or two. I can’t help but wonder about the person that spent time with the console, a person who also had something taken from him.
I was going to leave it at that, but I don't want it to end sounding too negative. All things considered, I have to admit that I'm very happy with the outcome. The police did their job well and the Sony Representatives were helpful every time I spoke with them. It took just over a couple of months, and while the police may never recover the stolen games, we still have our saved files for when the games are eventually replaced.
Not to mention that our PlayStation has a very exciting story to tell.