The FBI estimates 1 out of every 36 homes will be burglarized. While we have all heard the standard precautions from our home insurers, the Georgetown View reached out to some people who have actually been convicted of robbery or burglary, to get a better idea of how they manage to work around those “standard” precautions. This is especially important over the holidays when homeowner schedules are less routine and we are more likely to have a lot of extra merchandise and valuables around the home. We will call our “experts” Adam, Baker, Charlie, and Clark.
Put bars on your windows and doors • Get an alarm • Keep an extra car in the driveway • Keep lights, TVs and radios on • Get to know your neighbors quickly, especially in new developments
WHAT WE LOOK FOR
Our experts say they most often come in through unlocked doors or windows, which is more common than people want to admit. If force is necessary, the loud *bang* of kicking in a door can be mistaken for many things and dismissed. The sound of breaking glass is always out of place and draws attention; plus, no one wants to be cut.
If you’re going to reinforce your home, start with steel exterior doors and add a deadbolt for good measure.
Adam says, “We usually start in the master bedroom, where you keep most of your valuables or guns, away from your kids. Then we move through the home looking in everything from the toilet tank to your cereal boxes. What we really want is guns, jewelry, electronics, collectibles, cash and credit cards. It’s especially nice if you have them in a portable safe we can take with us and open at our leisure later.”
Invest in a bank’s lock-box or at least a wall safe; we never want to take the time to crack those.
Generally, Experts say they look for homes they are certain are empty, or appear to be so. They and their friends almost always knock first, and if you answer the door, they will pretend to be lost or looking for a Craig’s List seller. Some bring a clipboard and dress nicely so you think they are doing a survey. Which is semi-true… they are surveilling your home; looking for your alarm pad, or mirrors that let them see around your house from the door or window.
Having security cameras is nice, but for Charlie, that was just a guarantee that there were some great things to look for inside. “Video doorbells will make you feel better about porch pirates, but I steal those too and you’ll have a nice video of me taking it.”
If you’re going to use cameras, make them visible to deter us, but put them out of our reach. Include a motion-activated light for good measure.
WHAT WE LIKE
“I love it when you leave a ladder around,” Baker says. “Most people don’t lock their upstairs windows, and they usually aren’t wired either.”
Adam likes small dogs. “They are adorable, especially because they know I’m not afraid of them and I always bring a hot dog or a treat with me.”
Baker adds, “I love going through your trash, especially when you haven’t cut up or broken down your boxes from Apple, Sony, or Smith & Wesson.”
Charlie says he likes large homes with nice cars in the driveway, tall fences and lots of shrubbery that enable him to work in solitude. Those nice cars are especially handy when unlocked and he already knows you’re not home—the garage door opener lets him in much more easily.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
All experts agree, “Unless we’ve already learned your schedule, we generally don’t like cars in the driveway. That is almost always an indication that someone is home.” Charlie says, “Leave lights, radios or televisions on, even when you’re not home. Although if you are the type to leave your blinds and shades down all the time, the lights won’t matter, especially if you live in an upper-class neighborhood. I can work behind closed drapes pretty easily.”
Our Experts agree they never want to be in the house when someone is home, and they will leave immediately if an alarm system is triggered, although there are ways of circumventing those. “Your best bet is to get to know your neighbors; they will know if something at your house is ‘not right.’”
Baker says he does a lot of casing when people invite him to their home to see the items they are selling on Craig’s List or other websites. “If it’s something small, I’ll just grab it and run, or I can come back later and take other items I noticed while I was there. Also, people get chatty and tell me they are moving or downsizing, and all the other great things they are looking to sell that I can grab when I come back later. So, when you tell me to meet you in a ‘safe place’ at a police station, I will definitely not show up.”
“Clark” is a different kind of expert. He’s the Varsity of foiling bad guys, and he has pro tips from the good guys.
- When it comes to your property, it’s more about deterrence than recovery. It may not seem neighborly, but one of your goals should be simply to make your house look less appealing to a criminal than anyone else’s.
- Hiding cameras is a good way to catch a thief, but mounting them in obvious places may keep them from thieving in the first place. Using more than one will help create cross coverage; multiple angles will limit the unobserved lanes of approach. It may also deter someone who doesn’t want to draw attention by spending time to detach all of them.
- If you can’t afford high-tech, the Ring doorbell is good, but upgrade to add the Peephole Cam. You’ll at least get a good look at the person running away with your doorbell.
- Install fake cameras. They are cheaper than the real thing and thieves generally can’t tell the difference.
- If you’re home, have an extra car key fob somewhere handy, or on your nightstand when sleeping. If you hear something suspicious, hit the Panic button to scare away potential intruders.
- Ask a neighbor to use your driveway or park in front of your house when you’re out of town.
- Let your kids leave a few toys in the front yard. The more people burglars think live in the home, the more likely someone is always in the house.
- When it comes to your family, sign up at MyLocalCrime.com. If the majority of crimes in your area are burglary, get some cameras and a big dog. If the majority are assaults or other violent crimes, maybe rethink the camera and invest in the kind of personal protection Texas is famous for.