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Where Do Burglars Look In The House

12th August 2019

Now I don’t normally have much time for burglars. To be honest, as a locksmith, they are my nemesis. The Lex Luther to my Superman, the Riddler to my Joker, the Donald Trump to my reasonable human being. As such, I don’t tend to pay much heed of what they say. 

However, for every rule there is an exception. And that exception was a recent report I came across, commissioned by John Lewis insurance. This report, carried out in conjunction with an offender rehabilitation agency, interviewed a number of reformed offenders for the purpose of finding out the behaviour pattern of burglars, most notably the places they would target when breaking into a property.  This then informed the recommendations of the report when it came to the best places for householders to keep their valuables to help protect them.

Now in an ideal world, a burglar would never actually get inside your home. However, in an ideal world Maggie Gyllenhaal and Heidi Klum would be fighting over who gets to spend a weekend in an all-inclusive health spa with me, feeding me grapes and providing me with massages. And that’s quite unlikely to happen. Not impossible...but unlikely.  However, should all your security precautions be breached (I know you’ll have anti-snap locks, burglar alarms, security lights and lockable windows, right?), where are burglars less likely to look, according to this research?  Just promise me that if you’re a burglar reading this you won’t take note of the advice that follows. 

So, where are the best places NOT to hide valuables? Well, according to the research, drawers and cupboards in living areas and adult bedrooms are to be avoided as these are generally the first ports of call for your unfriendly neighbourhood burglar. Less obviously, pots and pans in the kitchen tended to also be one of the first places they would look. Any safes in houses obviously pique interest straight away, as it’s fairly clear that there will be valuables inside – else why would you have a safe at all? I’m not saying don’t get a safe, but if you do, make sure it is securely fastened to the floor or wall, and cannot simply be lifted out of the building. If it’s the latter, you’re basically giving the burglar a handy take away of all your valuables and even if there is a decent lock on the safe, they will have all the time in the world to get into it when they have taken it off site. 

When the ex-offenders discussed the places where they would rarely look, these consisted of within food packaging such as cereal boxes or pasta packets. They said they would be unlikely to spend time going through the kitchen cupboards, emptying out packs of foods as this was generally considered a waste of valuable time. One respondent to the survey also said he wouldn’t ever go into a child’s bedroom – a curious case of having some sort of morals, but not morals that stopped him from breaking into a house in the first place! For him, anything at the bottom of a toy box, or elsewhere in a child’s bedroom was off limits. 

When it came to the sorts of belongings that the ex-burglars would be interested in, the items that came up time and time again were documents such as driving licences, passports and bank statements. This is because they have the identity of the householder on it, and these can then be sold on to organised crime for the purpose of fraud.  Car keys were also a favourite item to steal – the ex-offenders said they would look for these in the hall and in kitchen drawers, as most people have a “bits and bobs” drawer in the kitchen which contains spare keys amongst other things. If you are leaving your house for a period of time, and have to leave your car behind, consider keeping your keys off site, or in obscure places like inside packets of rice and pasta which are less likely to attract a thief who wants to be in and out of your house as quickly as possible. 

The subjects of the research also provided some insight into how they chose which houses to target. Post on the doormat or protruding from letterboxes remained the most important deciding factor, along with parcels on the doorstep. The message from the burglars was clear – if you’re leaving your house empty, do not order anything to be delivered whilst you’re away as an unclaimed parcel is a pretty clear clue that no-one is home. 

In terms of deterrents, the response was pretty much unanimous amongst the group of ex offenders.  A security camera was the fixture that would do the most to deter them from targeting a property, even taking priority over a burglar alarm. Being recognised on film was one of the group’s main fears, as they also said a smart doorbell with a camera affixed would also make them think more than twice before attempting any entry. 

The classic light and timer switch combo was described as still being effective –respondents expressed the thought that they liked certainty over whether anyone was in the house or not, so anything that raised doubt in their mind was likely to put them off.  The most popular times to target houses remained either during the school run in the afternoon, or in the wee small hours – around 4a.m.  During these two windows they would assume the household would either be empty or asleep, and their break-in would be less likely to be disturbed. 

If you’ve just read this information and are thinking about breaking into a house, DON’T DO IT, and forget about everything I’ve just said. If, however, as I would expect, you are a respectable law-abiding member of the community, hopefully this has given you some food for thought for the future.  Now I’ll go back to treating burglars as my nemesis - the Norman Bates to my Mrs Bates. Oh, hang on, that one doesn’t really work..

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