Burglars reveal how they choose their victims

Burglars, The Hot Mess Press

In August, I asked whether your home is an invitation to burglars. The idea was to encourage you to think like burglars to avoid break-ins. Since then, I have come across a survey conducted by the investigative team at a Portland, Oregon, news station. The survey involved the Oregon Department of Corrections and 86 anonymous inmates. They were all convicted for burglary, and the questions dealt with how they choose the properties to break into.

Burglars, car in driveway
Leave a car in the driveway

Burglars don’t like cars in driveways

Most of the participating burglars said a car in the driveway makes them reconsider breaking into that house. You will likely want to research anti-theft devices for your vehicle if you leave it in the driveway.

Burglars find open windows
Lock your doors and windows

Burglars often find doors unlocked

Many of the inmates said they often get into houses without breaking in. They get access to homes by merely opening unlocked doors or windows. Many victims of burglaries could have prevented it by remembering to check doors and windows before going to bed or going out.

Door, broken
Doors are easy to kick in

Burglars don’t mind kicking in doors

Inmates said they have no problem with kicking in locked doors. Although it is easy to do, it is not always successful. Property owners who swap the faceplates on their doors with those secured by three-inch steel screws make kicking the door in a lot more challenging.

Burglars, TV sounds
Leave the TV or radio on

Sounds of radios or TVs make burglars think twice

Like a car in a driveway, sounds of a radio playing, or the flickering of a TV screen make burglars move on to another house. Leaving your TV or radio on while you are at work might thwart a break-in. You might want to save electricity by fitting a timer to switch it on during peak times for burgling.

Door with knocker
Don’t ignore a knock on the door

Burglars knock before they enter

All the survey participants said they knock on the front door to check homeowners’ presence before they break-in. They will move on if you answer the door, so even if you are alone, you would be wise to answer. You need not open the door, but hearing your voice will usually be enough to make the burglars withdraw and find another vulnerable homeowner.

Burglars, security alarm
Alarms don’t scare burglars

An alarm system might not put them off

Although alarm systems deter some burglars, many said their routines of in and out in five minutes or less allow them to get away before law enforcement can respond.

Burglars, security camera
Security camera might deter burglars

Security cameras might be more efficient

In another survey of 57 inmates in New York, 37% said they would avoid properties with visible security cameras near doors. One of the burglars participating in the Oregon survey agreed that visible security cameras are deterrents.

Person walking dog
Vary your routine

Your routine might make you vulnerable

Burglars have spotters whose only task is to watch homeowners’ routines. Remember, they need only a few minutes to get in and take what they can. Therefore, even if you just take your dog for a 10-minute walk at the same time each day, you may return to find your home burglarized. A police captain in Cleveland says many victims say they were only out for 10 or 20 minutes. The only way to deal with this break-in risk is to vary the times you come and go. If you can’t, leave the TV or radio on. However, the spotter might know whether anybody is at home, even if you change your routine and leave the television on.

Social media, selfies
Be careful what you post on social media

Burglars find victims on social media

Be careful about what you post on social media. Even if your settings are private, they will find a way if they want to get your social media information.  If you post your vacation plans, talk about upcoming trips or post images and information about the fun you’re having, you could unknowingly invite burglars. You might return to find the burglars had just as much fun breaking into your home. You might also want to limit the photos you post of the inside of your home, which might encourage them to pay a visit the next time you go away.

Jewelry box
Hide your valuables

Will they find your valuables?

Burglars will look in all the usual places for your valuables. The surveyed inmates said they search freezers, stoves, cereal boxes and toilet tanks. However, they usually start their search in the master bedroom, living room and then the other places in the house. The better you hide your valuables, the less likely they will find it if they have only minutes to get in and out.

Dog, sleeping
is your dog a threat to burglars?

Your dog may not be the threat you thought

An Atlanta survey of convicted burglars revealed that seven in 10 burglars would not avoid a house where there is a barking dog. The same results came from the New York survey.

Garden, shrubs
Trim the shrubs

Burglars like privacy

If your house is the only one on the block with untrimmed shrubs and trees, yours will be the house they target. By trimming shrubs and trees close to the home, you might not be the first choice for a break-in.

House, bright lights
Burglars hate bright lights

Thieves love working in the dark

Burglars say they will steer clear of well-lit properties. Even if they know that you are not home, and not likely to return soon, the bright lights might enable neighbors or passers-by to see them breaking in.

To sum up, think as burglars do. This information is from the mouths of convicted burglars to your ears.

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