How Criminals view your Home and Property

Terry B. Davis

What Burglar's and Thieve's Think about your Home

Before we get into the topic at hand. I will give you a little background information on myself. I have worked in Law Enforcement over the last 37 years. Prior to entering the Law Enforcement field, I was employed by a National retail chain as a Loss Prevention Officer. Promoted to a Manger of Loss prevention, for that same National Retailer. I was employed for three years in loss prevention prior to entering the Law Enforcement field. I was deemed an expert witness in our local court, concerning retail theft. The California Department of Correction hired me as a Correctional Officer, or guard if you like that better. I was promoted to a Correctional Counselor and held that job for three years at Salinas Valley State prison. As a Correctional Counselor part of my job required me to read an inmate's records. These records contained all the inmate's criminal files and court documents. In addition to reading their record file, I also interviewed them and was surprised at how forth right many were when discussing their criminal history and crimes they had committed. Due to confidentiality I can not relay specific information regarding anyone of those files, but can generalize, based on the accumulation of the information I had access to. Over the years, I estimate that I have interviewed about 2,400 inmates about their crimes, how they did it, why, and what did they look for while choosing their victim's.

I have divided these types of criminals into three categories:

1.Professional, career criminals.

2.Criminals looking for a career.

3.Drug user's and spur of the moment criminals.

Professional criminals are very intelligent. Their goal is to steal or take the smallest, most profitable property, with a minimal risk of exposure or being caught. They will relocate, change their method of operation, vary the types of items targeted, and change their appearance and demeanor. These are your professional robber's, burglar's, and scam artist's. As many of them have said, their is nothing that they can't steal. No security system or device they can not beat, or circumvent. The only thing that alarms, locks and bars do, is delay their entry. The longer it takes them to defeat any security system the more likely they will be caught. The professional wants to know what items of value are at your residence or business. How easy will it be to convert non cash items to cash, and the lay-out and security involved. They will take up to several weeks to gather this information, if the value of the items are right. They will first look for a nice area, clean large home's, expensive car's. They will dress up as a jogger, as not to bring attention to them selves, and will jog when most people are leaving for work. They will evaluate the potential victim's according to, how they are dressed, expensive suit, shoes, watches, vehicles, condition of garage,cluttered or neat and orderly. They will begin their list of potential victims. Several days later, they will appear walking a dog. This gives them more time to check the area out. Verify security systems, if residence is empty or occupied. At this point they will re-evaluate their potential victim's, and cut their list down to several residence's. The next step is to gain entry to the residence to look at security systems, door's, locks and windows. Evaluate the interior of the residence, and if possible target high cost items and their locations in the home. To do this he may act as a door to door salesman, a neighbor looking for his lost dog, a person doing a local survey. They will appear as anything, that will not arouse suspicion and be in character with the targeted area. He will again evaluate his potential victims and decide which residence or business he will victimize. Many of these individuals do not see themselves as victimizing people. The victim's have insurance that will cover the items taken, they suffer no loss, just the insurance companies. The professional will now devise his plan of operation. This will include going into the area, entry, items to be taken or looked for. He will estimate the amount of time he will spend in the area, inside the target, and his escape. He will next servile the target in order to set the time and date to commit his crime. In this particular case the victim did not have an alarm system, the door locks were standard, and both husband and wife left the residence by 8:15 am and did not return until 5:30pm at the earliest. The professional hired a known and trusted individual to help him. They bought jumpsuits, an only sewed on a name tag. Rented a plain truck with a hydraulic system, hand trucks, and used the blankets from the motel room. At 9:00 am they drove to the residence, carrying a clipboard with a fictitious order form attached, with the victim's name and address filled out, to pick-up items. The professional approached the door, rang the door bell, waited just to make sure no one answered the door. He kicked the door in with little to no effort. Over the next several hours they removed all the furniture, paintings, jewelery and any other items of value, loaded it in the truck. During the loading process a neighbor approached them and talked with him for several minutes, and had no idea of what was really going on. They left the residence and went directly to their broker, sold him the goods and walked away with the cash. He checked out of his room, and drove out of town before 3:00pm. This professional was arrested after robbing a coin dealer in the parking lot of a coin show. Police went to his room and were about to leave when an officer noticed a gold coin on the floor under a chair. He received 8 years in prison got out after 41/2 years, with good-time. Approximately 6 months later I saw him back in prison. He received a term of 18 months for the illegal transportation of firearms. When he was caught he immediately plead guilty, as the courts had not received his prior record. Eighteen months instead of 11 years, a good trade any day of the week. When asked what his crime to arrest ratio was, he said, about 100 to 1. He plans to be caught once out of every 100 crimes he commits. He was arrested as an adult about 10 times. How many victims was that?

The second group, criminal's looking for a career. Usually, these guy's fall into the area of gang member's or want-to-be's. They are looking for a quick way to make money and are usually taught by a friend or another gang member. These guy's will do a little bit of foot work before, but not nearly the amount or attention to detail of the professional. Usually, someone tells them that this house or that person has this that and the other thing, and it would be easy to take. He will usually do a drive by of the area, just to see the residence, business or victim. His friend's or other's have already told him what's there, and the approximate times the occupant's leave the residence and return, and if the residence is usually occupied or empty and if they have dogs or not. That is the extent of the plan. They may park on an adjacent street, climb fence's to get to the residence. If there is a dog, they will bring a piece of meat with them. If the dog goes for the meat, they are in, if not they leave. They will stay away from potential victims that have any type of alarm system. If they can't pry the window open, they will break it and unlatch it to gain entry. Upon entry they will look for cash, credit cards, jewelery, small electronics and guns. If they can't carry it they will look for a pillow case to put it in. They'll leave, being careful not to be seen. They will keep what they want and usually sell the rest to friends or anyone on the street willing to buy it. These guy's ratio is about 20 to 1. They believe that the victims have insurance and that they have money any way, it really doesn't matter.

The third group, drug user's and spur of the moment thieves. These guy's have no planning, no thought process. They are opportunist's, they see an item in your car in plain view, they break the window and take it. They see your garage door open and no one around, they walk in grab something and leave. Sell it for however much they need for their drug of choice. These guy's are the same one's that will shoplift, cigarettes, alcohol, or any store item they can walk in, grab, and get out. In California for awhile, before the law making a petty theft a felony if the suspect had a prior conviction, shoplifting was the drug abuser's crime of choice. A year or less in county jail, no problem. They would use their wife, girlfriend her kid's, his kid's, anything it did not matter. When I worked as a parole agent, a parolee's wife called me the week before Christmas, told me where he was at, that he had dope and stolen credit cards. After we arrested him I asked the wife why she had called and wanted him arrested. She explained that he had started using drugs again. That last year he was out and using drugs. Prior to Christmas, me kicked in the back door, to make it look like a burglary, and took the kid's Christmas gift's and sold them for money to get drugs. She was not going to let him do it again. These guy's have a ratio of about 10 to 1.

The question now is, how to protect yourself and your property? You could spend $1,000.00's of dollars, which most of us don't have, or you can evaluate what you stand to lose, as compared to what your willing to spend. The cheapest way is to install lighting around your home. Night time burglar's don't want to be seen. Motion detector patio, and front door light's work well. Install automatic timer's on your TV and light's inside the house, make it look like someone is home. Clear bushes and shrubs away from windows and doors, don't give them a place to hide until they decide to brake in. Remember, your doors and locks are only as good as the molding around the door. I have broken open several door's looking for suspects and it is surprising how easy it is to kick in a door with a standard dead bolt. The longer the dead bolt the better, the more secure the area it's latched into, the harder it is to brake open. The cheapest and best way I have seen to secure a door, is to drill a hole into the concrete foundation in front of the inside of your door, and put a steel rod that is about 1/2 inch in diameter, and eight to ten inches in length. It has to be as close to the door as possible. The only problem is you can't use it unless your inside the house. A good quality security door is worth it's weight, keep it a light color it's more difficult to see inside the house. Patio doors and sliding windows, the only thing you can do is buy a cylindrical piece of wood about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter or a size that will fit snugly into the sliding window or door's track, cut it so that one end is against the metal frame of the door/window and the other is snugly against the window or door that slides. If you want to leave a window or door cracked, just cut the wooden rod shorter. Not to short, you don't want a skinny Meth-head to squeeze his way in. Again the problem with windows and patio door's is, all they have to do is break them.

Now you ask, Terry what do you have around your house. Well, that is not a fair question, due to my employment history, my work with gangs, and the fact that on several occasions criminals have let me know that they know where I live. That a present was left for me in my back yard, which consisted of a head and body of a cat that had been cut off, after the cat's death, and delivered via air mail, to my backyard patio door. I am a tad paranoid, but to answer the question. When I purchased my home they installed a security system on all exterior door's and window's. Inside I have motion detectors, that cover the living-room area and bedroom doors. I started having problems with a little want to be gang member that lives down the street, so I went on line and found an 8 camera outdoor security system, with a DVD recorder and back-up. The camera's have Infer-red system for fifty feet. Now I checked around and the same system would have cost me about $3,500.00 to $4,500.00 to have it installed. Now, I am not a do-it yourself kinda guy. In fact, every-time I use a hammer, I loose a finger nail and go thru a short period of extreme pain. With that in mind and the aid of my son, we installed everything with in a day and a half, and it works great. I also have a small dog, a Bichon Frise, he's very small but is a very good watch dog. His bark will wake-up the next door neighbors. I know what your thinking, here comes the sale's pitch. Nope, your wrong. Call up the security service's in your area and get a quote, search on line and get a quote. Then make an informed decision on what you want. The whole idea of security is to increase the time it takes a crook to get in and out of you home or business, and draw as much attention to him as possible either before, during or after.

Additionally, about 31 year's ago my home was burglarized. I lost several credit cards and two handguns. The burglar was my next door neighbor's son, a drug addict. Luckily, one of the guns was returned about 6 months later and the other hasn't shown up yet. The point is, it wasn't the credit cards I worried about. It was the guns, if they had been used to kill anyone, it would have been on my conscience forever. The biggest impact on me and my family was no longer being safe in your own home. It's like wearing someone else's underwear, it just doesn't feel right. It actually took me about two years before I felt safe in my own home. That is the reason I believe that burglary is and should be considered a serious crime, due to the psychological impact it has on it's victim's.

I hope this article will be of use and that you were able to learn something that will help protect your family and property.

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