My break-in happened on Christmas Eve. I was in Southern California when my neighbor called to let me know my front door was wide open. She called the police to report it for me and another neighbor who had a key to my house came over and secured the house for me so I could at least have Christmas Day with my family. I drove home the following day.

I was fortunate because I don't have much in the way of valuables -- no jewelry, cash or high-end electronics. The burglars had taken what they could, though, and what little I

had was enough.

The personal invasion was disturbing, of course. In a lifetime, I have never had my home entered by strangers like this. It's hard not to picture them breaking in the door to the laundry room, going through the house, taking a television off the wall, walking out that front door with my computer. But the worst of it was something I had never dreamed of: how ordinary this was. Not for me, of course -- for the police.

Mine was one of about 33 burglaries that happen every day in this city. Every day, 33 of us have someone break into our homes, go through our personal lives and belongings and take what they want.

That would be an enormous job for any police department, and I want to be clear that our police were professional and polite. The officer who came out told me my home is pretty secure, and I had done the right things: keeping lights on, having strong windows and doors and a large dog, which I had brought with me for the holidays. The burglary was just my bad luck.

Except that it was more than that. There were fingerprints on some of the drawers in my bedroom, a solid footprint on the door they had kicked in, and other evidence that my neighbors had been careful not to touch. But when the officer came, it was immediately clear he was not there to investigate anything. He was there to take a report. Period. No dusting for prints, no DNA samples, no CSI treatment at all. How silly of me to have expected that.

I laughed at my outsize expectations. But I am quite sure every burglar within a 30-mile radius knows exactly what I know now. No one in Oakland is going to investigate a mere break-in of someone's home. There are much worse crimes.

So in Oakland, breaking into homes is a good bet. Burglars can leave behind fingerprints, DNA, do anything but drop a business card and be safe in the knowledge that they'll get away with their crime, pick up a few bucks moving the hot items and plan the next break-in. It might even be a decent living.

That's because we let it be. Violent crimes take up police time and priorities. Mere burglary -- physically breaking into people's homes and stealing their property and their sense of security -- is a free crime in Oakland.

After having lived my life in cities as diverse as Los Angeles, Pasadena, Sacramento and Riverside, I have never had this happen to me. Is Oakland so different? Well, 33 burglaries happen here every day.

And every uninvestigated incident makes the burglar economy look profitable. That is the message our inaction sends.

David Link is a resident of Piedmont Pines.