Confessions of a reformed burglar: How to keep your house safe
According to research from security company ADT, 94 per cent of burglars would avoid a house with a monitored alarm. Researchers spoke to over 100 reformed burglars and have discovered that homeowners are up against increasingly sophisticated burglars, with what seems to be a growing sense of entitlement. One reformed burglar recalls his experiences.
I* got into burglary as a result of being adopted into a gang at school as a young teenager, almost as a mascot figure – I was the cute one and they took me under their wing. Burglary tended to be more of a side line to complement drug dealing. We took it seriously, always operating in small teams rather than operating solo. A group of two or three is better both in terms of splitting proceeds – any more than that and your cut goes down – as well as operationally; to cover all the rooms in a house quickly, have enough eyes and ears to avoid detection, and enough muscle should there prove to be any trouble.
We had two priorities – we wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible, and avoid confrontation. So we’d avoid properties with monitored alarms and CCTV as that would cause us extra hassle. A couple of us would spend a bit of time scoping for a property that seemed like a safe bet, trying to avoid things that might increase the likelihood of getting caught – like outside lighting, or dogs and gravel driveways that might make noise and might draw attention to us. It was a great advantage when a house has trees or fencing that we can hide behind – anything to stop nearby neighbours potentially seeing us, although sometimes we would take the opposite approach and wear high visibility jackets to allay their suspicions.
We would target more prosperous, quiet, suburban areas for the best results. Properties which appeared to have poor security or be poorly maintained were considered easier targets. If an alarm looks old and rusty, you think it probably won’t work or you can take it out easily. We also worked on the assumption that if the homeowners didn’t care enough about protecting their houses to install a decent alarm, put up net curtains or use decent locks on the doors and windows, we were more entitled to break in.
It’s easy to see when people aren’t at home if you know what you’re looking for. If there are no cars in the driveway or if they haven’t bothered to redirect their post when they’ve gone on holiday, and it all builds up outside the front door, are all clear signs. People think it’s clever to leave their lights on when they’re away but they don’t think it through – if there’s a light on downstairs at 10pm, they’re probably watching TV. If it’s still on downstairs at 3am, it’s likely they aren’t at the property and just tried to make it seem like they were. Some people leave their curtains open when they’re not there – it doesn’t take long to see there’s no one on the premises.
On a good job, I could expect to make around £800, selling on high value items such as flat screen TVs, laptops and jewellery. I was greedy and I wanted money – it was as simple as that. Our hauls were also reinvested in drugs and weapons. It was relatively easy to find what we were looking for. People still hide their cash under mattresses and sometimes we’d find money hidden in sock drawers and cereal packets, whereas jewellery’s usually kept in the bedroom. We’d always take that as gold commands a high price and is easy to dispose of.
I eventually stopped committing burglaries after the arrest and imprisonment of a friend. We were on a job when an alarm went off. We all got in the van but he went back to the property to get something and was caught – his greed landed him in jail. I never went on another job after that.
I spent four months in jail for other offences which convinced me that I liked my freedom too much to continue down that path. In jail, everything is controlled down to when you can and can’t eat, so when I came out and felt free again, it changed me. I also have a young daughter and new partner who have helped me stay out of trouble.
The clocks went back last weekend and burglaries typically increase as the nights draw in. In order to avoid your home being burgled this Christmas, keep in mind that CCTV and monitored alarms are a major deterrent. Remember that burglars often have a professional attitude when targeting properties, so remember to take simple steps such as leaving lights on, leaving a car in the driveway when you are away, security lights at the side of a property, good modern locks and doors, and communicating the presence of a dog through a prominent sign, if you have one.
*John Smith is a pseudonym
For more information visit www.adt.co.uk
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