And then fact-checked by a security expert, because we don’t trust nobody
The burglary numbers show that burglars love to burgle in December, when people are either away for the holidays and/or hoarding expensive, stealable gifts in their homes. In an attempt to help you protect your abode from these Christmas-killing scoundrels, I decided to ask some retired and imprisoned burglars what precautions they might suggest someone take to defend their precious goods from people like them.
It went horribly!
Several outright refused to speak with me; one informed me that I “have no idea” about “that life”; another was surprisingly helpful, until his “attorney advised him against doing this.” Which, honestly, I can respect.
Fortunately, the Allen, Texas police department recorded a lengthy video interview in 2015 with an incarcerated career home burglar named Michael Durden, and several retired burglars have also given anonymous advice about defending your home from burglaries on various internet forums.
So, I studied the video, scanned the forums and put together the most useful tips that these burglars gave to prevent others from being burgled. But wait! These people are, like, criminals, man. Can we really trust their advice? Maybe it’s a trap! Since another, more professional opinion was clearly important, I reached out to home security expert and Crime School podcast creator Chris McGoey for his thoughts on these defensive tactics. Get ready to stop some crime!
OWN A SHIT HOME
Durden and numerous other online burglars claimed that higher-status homes — ones that looked upscale, had nice fences and sported manicured front lawns — were their main targets, whereas crap homes were undesirable. “I look for settled homes, because people who are of a socioeconomic status able to afford a particular type of home usually have disposable income,” Durden explained during the interview. “From my perspective, they have jewelry or ready cash that’s available to be taken. Middle-class homes get hit less by burglaries just because of that.”
McGoey counters this notion, however, saying, “The crime rates for burglary are always higher in low-income neighborhoods.” Plus, letting your home go to shit is a ridiculous means of keeping burglars away. That said, if you have anything extraordinary flashy in front of your home, like a fountain made of gold or a brand new Tesla Cybertruck, consider being a little more prudent with your wealth to encourage potential intruders to go elsewhere.
HAVE A WIRELESS ALARM SYSTEM
Emphasis on wireless, because as Durden explained, burglars can easily cut the wires on less advanced systems. Fortunately, most modern home security systems are wireless, but you can expect to pay $15 to $35 a month for them. Durden also emphasized the importance of displaying stickers and signs related to your alarm system on both the front and back of your home, since he said burglars can usually tell when someone used a free trial, then quit paying. Moreover, he mentioned that investing in extras — like cameras and alarms that go off when glass is broken — can be even more of a deterrent. Still, he frowned upon high-up cameras, where burglars can simply duck down or wear a hat to avoid being caught.
McGoey, meanwhile, says the idea that burglars can reasonably shut off wired alarm systems is bullshit. “That’s a lot of nonsense,” he emphasizes. “Whoever’s giving you these tips doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about.” What the heck, Durden, I trusted you!
Nonetheless, alarm systems and alarm signs are likely to work: According to a study that involved interviews from 400 incarcerated men and women convicted of burglary, as many as 60 percent admitted to being deterred by alarm systems, so Durden is right on the money with this one, though he might have stretched the truth a bit (who’d have thought???).
GET THE MAIL AND EMPTY THE TRASH
Homes that appear to be vacant are easy targets for burglars, according to Durden, and forgetting simple chores is a sign that you could be on vacation. “People need to empty their mailboxes,” Durden emphasized. “People need to have their neighbors pick their older newspapers up from the lawn.”
Interestingly enough, while many people leave their front porch light on in an attempt to dissuade burglars from entering, McGoey explains that this often does the opposite. “You’re too cheap to buy a light timer,” he says. “It sends a signal that you’re gone if you have the porch light on 24 hours a day.”
OWN BIG, ANGRY DOGS
But only really, really mean ones. “Sometimes, there would be a dog, and sometimes I would go up the window and put my hand out just to see what the dog would do,” said Durden, who then added that small dogs were essentially worthless. If the dog is obviously aggressive, though, he mentioned that the thought of wrestling with it would often make him turn around…