Prevent Home Burglary With These Home Security Tips

A former thief shares the dirt on the home burglary game, including types of thieves and home security tips.
By Charles Young
May/June 1988
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Unfortunately, the chances of your home being broken into increase every day. Middle-class suburban neighborhoods may be among the most popular targets for burglars, but no home is immune.
ILLUSTRATION: MICHAEL STORRINGS


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Some "inside" home security tips on preventing home burglary from a former burglar. 

Prevent Home Burglary With These Home Security Tips

Imagine yourself returning from a pleasant evening at the movies. You pull into the driveway, happy, as always, to be home, and walk in the front door. Switching on the light, you stare in disbelief. No, this can't be right. The living room is in disarray; the place is a shambles.

Your house has been burglarized. A stranger has invaded your home, sorting through and taking your possessions, and the odds are that the perpetrator won't be caught. Nor is it likely that your property will be recovered.

Unfortunately, the chances of your home being broken into increase every day. Middle-class suburban neighborhoods may be among the most popular targets for burglars, but no home is immune.

I know. As a former burglar, I did my work in all types of neighborhoods across the U.S. One week I'd be in California, the next in Arizona, and then in Florida. It wasn't unusual for me to pull as many as 15 jobs a week, then take the goods into another state and sell them before they had a chance to hit the police "hot sheet," a regularly updated list of stolen merchandise. For quite a while I found burglary an easy way to make a living, simply because the owners of the homes I hit failed to use common sense. They probably didn't really think themselves immune. Instead, I imagine most of them just didn't take the time to consider their vulnerability. After reading this article, I hope you'll invest the thought necessary to safeguard your home. Believe me, the repayment, in terms of both time and heartache spared, can be substantial.

Burglars: A Field Guide

There are several common types of housebreakers that may, at this moment, have your home under consideration. Let me describe some of the more common varieties and a few of their methods of operation.

Transient Burglars 

This was my specialty. A thief of this type travels from city to city for the purpose of his (or her) work. He doesn't plan to stay in town for long, a week at most, so he needs to come up with a list of potential targets quickly. He'll probably begin with a map of the area, which he'll narrow down by focusing on subdivisions . . . particularly those with ritzy names and a golf course and community pool.

Once he's selected a likely development, say a Bedford Hills or a Bel Air, he'll visit the neighborhood, writing down names and addresses from mailboxes. A phone book provides the numbers for the targets. When the time is right, he'll simply work through the list, seeing which calls fail to bring an answer. (I've even gone so far as to have an associate phone a house at a set time when I would be at the window counting the rings, a sure-fire way to ascertain that no one was home.) If your neighborhood is hit more than once over a short period, the odds are a transient burglar is working the area.

Daytime Burglars 

These guys have to be pretty nervy. Not only does the daylight housebreaker have to make sure the home is unoccupied, he also has to avoid attracting the attention of neighbors. To do this, he'll employ such ruses as posing as a door-to-door salesman or driving a fake department-store delivery truck. It's frightening, but true, that he will probably know a good bit about you and your habits before breaking in. He'll know how many people are in the household, how many cars there are (and who drives them), and when each person leaves and returns. When he's ready, he'll make a quick call to be sure no one is unexpectedly home, then park his vehicle nearby, or even right in your driveway. He'll often gain entry through the side or back of the house, placing the items he wants near the front door, since that's the least suspicious exit.

Nighttime Burglars 

These housebreakers are very concerned about not being seen. Unlike the daytime burglar, who depends on people overlooking him, the cat relies on darkness and his ability to avoid detection. He can often look at a house and instantly judge if anyone is home, a skill honed while scanning as many as 1,000 dwellings a week. Many times he simply walks or drives through a neighborhood looking for the "right" house. Then, after knocking on the door (and perhaps looking in a few windows), he'll break in.

Petty Burglars 

These are the thieves who'll take anything, whether it can be easily sold or not. If you find your TV or stereo gone but your jewelry left behind, you've probably been hit by a petty burglar, more often than not a kid from your own neighborhood. Amateurs that they are, petty thieves often break windows to gain entry.

"Pro" Burglars 

At the top of his field, the pro can usually work day or night, and can often bypass an elaborate security system. Many times he'll actually be hired by jewelers or coin dealers to steal valuables from their own clients. If working for hire, he'll usually take only the specific items he's after. If he's free-lancing, jewelry is his most common target. He won't ransack a home, won't leave signs of forced entry; frequently the victim won't even know he's been robbed until he looks for the stolen item.

Charles Young, convicted after a cross-country burglary career spanning two years, will not be eligible for early release until September 1993. 


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