Ex-burglar reveals stealing secrets: What are you doing to attract them?

A former burglar tells us what makes one house an easier target than another.

There's never really a down time for burglars, but this time of year can be especially enticing, because as families get ready for the holidays, so do would-be thieves.

No matter how expensive your house or the neighborhood is, they're out there lurking.

While some of this information may be new to homeowners, investigators say it is not a 'how-to" for burglars.

One detective told 12 News thieves are already using these tactics -- it's homeowners who need to be more aware.

“To know that you can break into a house and get the merchandise and do it again and get out of there within so much time, it’s an adrenaline rush,” said a woman we’re identifying as “Stephanie” for this story.

Stephanie, a former burglar who spent time in prison, says she now regrets that life and the choices she made and is trying to make amends by helping us help you protect your home.

She says keeping a would-be thief away from your home and possessions is all about making your house less of a target than your neighbors.

So, what could you be doing to attract thieves? We went for a ride with Stephanie to find out.

Statistics show most home burglaries happen during the day when most people are at work.

“Which one of these would stick out to you?” we asked Stephanie.

“Maybe that one or this one,” she said as she pointed to two houses on a street in east Mesa.

Stephanie said it was because there wasn’t a lot of activity on that part of the street, the homes looked empty and “the kid's bikes --they have more electronics if they have kids.”

Studies show 30 percent of burglars reported getting into a home through an unlocked door or window.

RELATED: We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes

Stephanie says her go-to was “mostly through the bathroom window,” which she says a lot of people forget to lock.

Or she says she and her accomplices would look for a door with less secure locks.

“Arcadia doors, you just lift it up and pull it over,” Stephanie said as she demonstrated with her hands.

In a recent survey of inmates serving time for home burglary, the vast majority said they’d look for homes that had a lot of trees or shrubbery to hide behind while they went in through a window or back door.

As for the front door, Stephanie says, they can scream “easy access,” as well.

“Like this house right here, see this house to the left?” she asked. “It has an old door. Those are easy to do."

By “old door” she means a regular door with a bottom lock and deadbolt. While deadbolts do add some extra security, even they aren't foolproof. Experts advise getting a deadbolt at least three inches long, making it more difficult to kick the door in.

“But if it has a screen door like this one, those are hard to get in to,” she said.

Security screens are a deterrent, along with a house that is open in the front, well lit, or has a lot of barking dogs or a big dog inside.

We also asked about people who leave the TV or radio playing, or maybe a car in the driveway.

Nope. According to Stephanie, none of those are big deterrents.

“Just because there's a car in the driveway doesn't mean that someone is or isn't home,” she said.

Stephanie says she’d risk it, but not without first knocking on the door to see if someone answered or made any noise.

Knocking on the door was also something every single burglar surveyed said they did before breaking in.

“Knock first, like three times,” she said, “and if they don't answer by the third knock we would just go in.”

Now with the holidays upon us, law enforcement agencies say there are even more ways to stand out to potential burglars.

“Usually we'd look for places that have the lights out,” Stephanie said. “People usually go to other people's houses for the holidays.”

And what about that big beautiful Christmas tree and piles of presents, some people like to put in their front window?

“They're advertising,” Stephanie said. “There's presents, there's cash, there's something. We’re going in, cha-ching!”

Once inside, it doesn't take long for them to get your stuff and get out.

“Two to three minutes, get in and get out, because most of the alarms are going to kick in within that time if they do have a house alarm,” she said.

Most burglars say the first place they’d head to is the master bedroom to look for jewelry, cash or weapons.

So, if an alarm system can't keep burglars out, what can?

One thing Stephanie says always made her think twice is the watchful eye of a nosy neighbor.

She says you should always make sure and let them know when you won't be home.

“So they can keep an eye on your house, because neighborhood watch does work,” she said.

 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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