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Tips From A Burglar

8th May 2022

In my downtime this week I’ve been watching the final series of Ozark which has just dropped (as I believe the kids say) on Netflix. No spoilers from me, obviously, but the last couple of seasons of this gripping drama have included a storyline about the FBI infiltrating the leadership of a drug cartel in order to try and achieve greater results and arrests down the line. The rationale behind this is quite clear – if you’re investigating drug cartels, who knows better how they work than the people within them. It’s the classic poacher turned gamekeeper tactic - a method as old as time itself. 

This got me thinking about my line of work. Now, I’m not the leader of a Mexican drug cartel (sorry to disappoint you if you were under that misapprehension), but when it comes to the security of homes and businesses I consider myself pretty well informed, with decades of experience behind me. However, I don’t have the first-hand experience of being a burglar – a fact which I hope my customers appreciate rather than hold against me. So my interest was piqued this week when I read about an ex-burglar who now offers tips on how people can protect their homes from criminals. Thankfully this burglar is now fully rehabilitated, having turned his back on his old life, but at the age of 58, and with nearly half a century of house-breaking behind him, I thought it would be well worth reading what he said about what used to make his life more difficult as a burglar. I’ll pick three tips out as examples.  

The first thing mentioned was CCTV. I’ve always recommended people get this if they can afford it, as it’s a fine deterrent. But in the article, the ex-con went further, and advised that neighbours work together when installing their CCTV to help cover each other’s houses. He explained that if each homeowner has cameras focussed solely on their drive and property, then burglars are able to get round this by stealing the hard drive of the system whilst breaking in to a specific house. However, if the cameras also take in neighbouring drives and properties, this makes it a lot more effective as a burglar isn’t going to want to break into several houses in order to take the hard drives from each property. They may well find it easier to move on to a different neighbourhood instead. 

Another suggestion that crops up in the article is one I’ve never mentioned before on these blogs, and that’s for people to invest in bolts for the doors of their living rooms or kitchens. You may have to weigh up security versus aesthetic pleasure here – not everyone will want heavy bolts on interior doors – but the point is a good one. If a burglar has found a weak spot and gained access into the kitchen or living room rather than via the front door, then by having these internal doors bolted shut from the outside, it prevents the burglars easily accessing the rest of the house. Yes, there is a chance they may resort to kicking the door down, but most burglars won’t want to do this as the noise of that will likely wake up anyone sleeping upstairs.  Whilst this tactic won’t prevent a burglary in its entirety, it will restrict the burglar to rooms where perhaps there aren’t as many valuables – I imagine few of us keep jewellery etc in our living rooms or kitchens. Another note here is that if you do hear a burglar trying to kick a door in, your very first thought should be to call the police so they can be on their way. Don’t try to tackle the burglar yourself – you don’t know how big they are, what weapons they might have, and at the end of the day, belongings can be replaced, but you can’t be. 

The final tip from this ex-burglar concerns where he usually WOULDN’T look for valuables. I’m conscious that by repeating this, then burglars might see it too and start looking there, but as it’s already been in a national newspaper, I think I’ll risk it. This chap said that if he had to hide valuables such as watches or jewellery he’d personally hide them in beanbags in children’s bedrooms. Burglars generally will give children’s bedrooms a miss, even in an empty house, as they assume the rich pickings are in master bedrooms used by adults. Burglars very rarely break into a house with the intention of stealing children’s clothes or toys, and if the house is occupied, they certainly don’t want children waking up and raising the alarm. So, odd as it may seem, especially if you have clumsy kids, a child’s bedroom may be the safest place for some of your valuables. 

 

Now I’m not saying we take the above tips as gospel – they aren’t official advice, but I do think it’s a useful approach to listen to people who used to do the very activity we are protecting against. Much as burglars are a scourge of my profession, they can provide good tips we may not have previously thought about. In the same way that computer companies often employ ex-hackers to test their software’s security we can use the knowledge of this ex-burglar to help tighten up the security of our own home. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve only got a couple of episodes left of Ozark and I need to find out the fates of Marty and Wendy Byrde and their family. For advice on anything lock-related, or to enquire about repairs or replacements, call 07990573857



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