Thwarting Burglaries

There’s solace in knowing your home is your castle. It’s our sanctuary away from work and the place we ultimately seek refuge from the world’s encroachments. Home is where we invariably control the ingress of those outside of family and friends into our own little abode. Therefore, it stands to reason when someone has entered our home by force or otherwise to perpetrate a theft or some other nefarious act it is extremely disturbing. According to the currently available 2013 Department of Justice Uniform Crime Report stats, burglaries known to police occur approximately every 16.4 seconds and a known Larceny or Theft occurs every 5.3 seconds. Burglary is one of eight measured Part I Crimes or Index Crimes and invariably there is a rather high clearance rate. Burglars are almost always caught particularly if they keep perpetrating burglaries. A burglar may be operational for a fairly long period of time, but this largely depends on whether the burglar is a novice or professional and given their chosen targets whether it’s a home or commercial location. People with the proclivity to perpetrate a burglary merely seek out the opportunity, often towards people and neighborhoods they are vaguely familiar with.  Burglars will seldom take on a home or commercial property if the probabilities of apprehension go against them. So, if you are a homeowner or renter prevention begins by not unduly profiling or projecting the importance and appearance of your home, valuables and property. A burglary can occur at any hour, but most burglaries occur more often during the day, during times in which the home is unoccupied. Many burglars are very adept at being able to quickly project and size-up which home appears ripe for victimization. Burglars want to blend and be as stealth-like as possible but, are not opposed to breaking a window and/or prying open a door.  I recall an occasion when a confidential informant came to me telling me that he had an acquaintance who was wanting to perpetrate some burglaries. In brief, I gave the informant permission to travel with the prospective burglar under the following conditions: the source must not actually participate in the burglary beyond trying to pinpoint the place and time the burglary would occur, and the confidential source must agree to be electronically monitored, which happened. The informant was equipped with an Officer Protection Device (body bug) with live feed and an a miniature Nagra (Reel to Reel Recorder), the type of device that Hollywood uses to make excellent “pin drop recordings”. To make a long story short the two-people set out traveling into an adjacent county and neighborhood at the direction of the prospective burglar. You could clearly hear the individual declare, “turn here” or “pull into this driveway” or “there is no one home”. We later learned, these houses and inhabitants were totally unknown to the burglar. After pulling into the driveway you hear the person exit the automobile, walk to the front of the house, ring the doorbell and when there was no immediate response could hear the breakage of a window allowing the climbing in and exiting in a little over two minutes with an armful of booty stolen from the home. The yield from a typical burglary that is not well thought out typically has a rather low monetary yield particularly when you consider what the value of the item(s) are fenced for. For instance, a stolen 70-inch Smart TV that originally sold for approximately $1300 would sell on the street for approximately $100, give or take $25. Beware that doors or windows left unlocked usually serve as focal points of entry, so we need to pay special attention, knowing full well this would be the most likely breech if one were to occur. An easily accessible yard makes the back door and or windows of our homes extremely attractive to a burglar. Establish a good report with your neighbors and encourage them to contact you and or the authorities if they ever observe anything untoward at your home and offer to reciprocate. Also, if you are ever away only to return home and see that it appears someone has entered your home, retreat to a safe place and call the authorities immediately, allowing them to travel to your location and check everything out before entering. Burglars typically want to avoid complications with confrontations, but their desperation is surreal and to that end they can pose a special and significant threat if they sense they can be identified and or potentially imprisoned by their involvement in a criminal offense. Having years of experience in investigating burglaries I learned that upon arriving on and assessing the scene one could determine whether the scene was an organized or disorganized one and once determining what was taken could immediately begin developing a profile of the offender. The profile is likely to offer clues on the age range, if the defender was alone or accompanied and whether the offender lives nearby or was traveling, etc. I write about much of this in my book due for publication in 2018. None of this is a science but, merely an art.

In my training classes I’m often queried about the usefulness and reliability of intrusion alarms, I invariably say this is a personal decision one must make but, also believe it is desirable to have either an alarm or a dog and explain the benefits and detractions with each. Whether you have a new home or whether you want to make some retroactive improvements on your property I am a firm believer in ‘crime prevention through environmental design’ via CPTED concepts, causing your home to appear occupied and busy. Other preventive steps you can take is to make sure your valuables are in a safe deposit box or a secure, floor mounted and anchored home safe. Another safeguard is to establish a “safe room” and if your home presently has a “safe room” good for you. A safe room is for you and/or your family to seek and be reasonably assured of heightened personal safety. If you don’t have a safe room one may be economically improvised within your existing home. Note that whether you have a safe room or not you should practice a yearly family drill within your home emphasizing code words, sheltering in place, evacuating the premises, specific location to meet, accountability and weapon accessibility. In times of enhanced stress, it is important to be able to default to your highest level of training and muscle memory.

In closing, allow me to offer a brief checklist on safety for you and your home:

  1. Beware of social media and geo-fencing which can signify you are away and your whereabouts. Be careful of what you post on social media (Facebook, Snapchat, etc.). More importantly, if you are determined to post pictures of your vacation don’t post in real time. Wait until you return home.
  2. If on vacation or an extended stay away from home, contact your local police department and ask if they have a “house watch program” and inquire about the requisites associated with their program. Ask the police to conduct a “house watch” on your home. You most likely will be required to fill out a form disclosing emergency contact numbers, date and time of departure and return along with any other persons due at your home, in your absence etc.;
  3. Alert a trusted neighbor or neighbors when you plan an extended stay;
  4. Don’t telegraph unintended messages (i.e. boxes signifying purchases of electronics, appliances, items of value from your trashes, curbside pick-up;
  5. Utilize lights with timers and frequently change up settings;
  6. Record serial numbers and take photographs of valued items;

If you would like a security survey of your home or business or if you are interested in “target hardening”, please email me or request more information via this website.

For further information on personal safety, check out my “Survival in the 21st Century” training program listed on this website and request information on attending or hosting a class.