Writing this mainly for my own records, but seems good to put it out in a public place just in case.
Few days ago, after a 2-inch fresh snow, I noticed footprints in the yard that were not my shoes. The prints came down the street from the west, into the driveway, into the center of the back yard, then back out via the driveway. Fairly large shoes, probably male.
At first I assumed it was an Avista meter reader. They make a similar track pattern: down the driveway, take a picture of my meter, then into the back yard to take a picture of the neighbor's meter. (Presumably because the neighbor's yard is completely enclosed and has a Beware Of Dog sign.) But this track pattern seemed wrong because it didn't include a pause in front of my meter.
Today, after the snow melted, I found a cig butt at the same spot where the prints turned around in the center of the yard. Presumably it was stomped into the snow, then appeared when the snow went away.
This pretty much eliminates the Avista theory. Their readers might smoke, but wouldn't toss and stomp a butt in the middle of a yard. Unprofessional.
Cops or feds? Unlikely for the same reason, plus they're too smart to leave snowprints. Voyeur? Doesn't make sense. Anyone who has ever spotted me knows there's nothing to voy here! Thief? No, the prints didn't go anywhere near doors or windows. Voyeur or thief casing the overall neighborhood? Maybe.
Probably never know.
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12/30/11: Another vaguely suspicious event, could be related or not. Around 6:40 PM (after dark) a knock at the door. I normally don't answer the door after dark, but for some reason got incautious this time. It was a beggar. First one in 20 years in this neighborhood. He claimed to "live in the house on the corner", but I know he's not one of the people there, and he wanted to "borrow a dollar for gas", which is a typical line for local beggars. I refused and he went away.
The most distinctive characteristic was his huge smell! After just 15 seconds at the door, his smell stayed in the house for a half hour. Apparently he doesn't realize, or doesn't care, that a smell like that would be instantly recognizable. You may not know what your neighbors look like, but you'd know that smell if it lived "on the corner" or even three blocks away!
I reported both these events to the neighborhood watch website, so they might be able to compare with other reports if any.