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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.