"We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes"
November 11, 2016 5:47 PM   Subscribe

KGW of Portland, Oregon, sent questionnaires to 86 people convicted of burglary and currently serving time, asking how they picked targets, what they looked for, and how they carried out their thefts. Two notable points: they always knock first, and a car in the driveway or a radio or TV left on are big deterrents.
posted by Etrigan (69 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
If a home alarm system went off, what would you do?
Most intruders said they would leave immediately if a security alarm went off.

I'm stunned.
posted by davebush at 5:58 PM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of this song...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 6:09 PM on November 11, 2016


“NRA sticker on car bumper = Lots of guns to steal,” wrote one burglar.

The jokes just write themselves.
posted by 81818181818181818181 at 6:13 PM on November 11, 2016 [91 favorites]


The NRA bumper sticker thing just cracked me up.
posted by Xoc at 6:15 PM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wait wait wait, these 86 people got caught. What do the folks who never get caught suggest?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 6:20 PM on November 11, 2016 [102 favorites]


I used to sell security systems and this is all directly in line with what we were told during training, including the NRA thing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:25 PM on November 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


So glad I have a big black GSD in the house, and that I live on a busy corner.
posted by suelac at 6:31 PM on November 11, 2016


I just finished reading this book about a legendary burglary crew based out of Philadelphia, but who worked nationwide. Lots of insight into burglary and the surrounding mentality, plus it reads like a good thriller.
posted by jonmc at 6:31 PM on November 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


Wait wait wait, these 86 people got caught. What do the folks who never get caught suggest?

*dangling from the ceiling while holding a ruby the size of a baseball" Sorry, trade secret
posted by The Whelk at 6:32 PM on November 11, 2016 [78 favorites]


I've always thought security systems were the biggest ripoff. Pay a company $25-75 a month to mildly annoy a crook as he/she goes about their business.

Does the alarm company insure your valuables? Nope. Do they dispatch people to defend your home? Nope. Do they actually prevent your home from being broken into? Nope.

All they do is make noise, and dump the risk onto local police departments. Private profit, underwritten by Public Risk.

I've installed the jamb brace in every door of every home I've lived in for the past 11 years. I generally will add window locks and 3M security film on glass near a door.

I've come home to several attempted burglaries (muddy boot prints on the back door, crowbar marks on window sills), and can only assume I've given a crook or two a broken foot and a bad time.

And, haven't spent a dime on the bullshit scam that is the alarm industry.
posted by The Giant Squid at 6:38 PM on November 11, 2016 [45 favorites]


So glad I have a big black GSD in the house, and that I live on a busy corner.

I once gave a plumber my house key to let themselves in and fix something as I was stuck at work. He called to say he was done and I said "I hope the dog didn't bother you". He said "the dog is here?" She hid under the bed when he came in and stayed there the entire time. Completely useless. At the time I had a 75lb GSD cross.
posted by fshgrl at 6:48 PM on November 11, 2016 [40 favorites]


It's funny how we all hide things in the bedroom. I mean, how we hid things in the bedroom until we knew better.
posted by xingcat at 7:00 PM on November 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


This reads as kinda fake to me, unless there's a whole lot more information and nuance of the questionnaire that the news didn't report. For example, most burglaries are of businesses, not homes, so you'd have to screen that out. Plus, many if not most burglaries of homes involve people that are known to the burglar, so you'd have to screen that out too. And I have a hard time believing that anyone in prison would actually trust a survey that claimed to gather information anonymously to the point of admitting guilt and strategy, unless there were some kind of guarantee or kickback that it wouldn't be used against them (or their applications for parole).
posted by likeatoaster at 7:00 PM on November 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


As a professional burglar, I can tell you that our favorite targets are cars with bumper stickers that say "Lots of MOOLAH inside. COLD hard CASH. Our house contains plenty of SIMOLEONS. HELLA SKRILLA if you get our drift. A million MONEYS for you to STEAL"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:28 PM on November 11, 2016 [19 favorites]


One noted member of the profession had this to say: "Robble robble robble!"
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:42 PM on November 11, 2016 [41 favorites]


Car stickers like this let you know a when a single mother will be dropping off her kids at school on the way to her third job. And the redaction is kinda funny.
posted by adept256 at 8:19 PM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


likeatoaster: inmates LOVE telling war stories about their offenses, especially ones in for relatively minor offenses like property crimes. Ask any defense lawyer. Better yet anyone who got caught because their buddy ran his mouth to his celly and the celly figured "welp I don't even know that other dude this guy's always talking about so might as well throw him under the bus and see what the cops/DA will give me in return" (aka dry snitching, although this term has more than one meaning).

In prison, there's nobody else to talk to and nothing else to talk about.

Inmates running their mouth to any inmate who will listen (distinct from inmates intentionally informing on each other) is one of the main ways that prison officials gain intelligence to fight prison gangs. It's also one of the reasons for a lot of the vetting process that goes on among inmates before someone is allowed to join most prison gangs.

And if an inmate gets in front of a civilian who they think isn't going to turn the information over to the cops or protect their anonymity like a reporter, social worker, or volunteer (like me); boy howdy will they absolutely tell you all about their case, the other 3 charges that got dropped, all the other times they didn't get caught, and half the time they'll very obviously just make up stuff to make the story better.

Are there people at your job where all you talk about is work because the only thing you have in common is that you both work there and it's not like you DIS-like them but lol at the idea of hanging out with them outside of work? Now they are the only one you talk to because all the co-workers hate you and sometimes they beat the shit out of you. Also you can't go home at the end of the day because when your shift is over you and that person are getting locked in the bathroom until your next shift starts. There's one toilet, one sink, a bunk bed, and you take a shower every Sunday. This goes on for three years and then a reporter shows up.

It's irresistible, I think it's kind of human nature to have that need to have someone to talk to.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 8:22 PM on November 11, 2016 [60 favorites]


We knew this dude who left his keys in the DeLoren and his garage unlocked with cases of single malt.
I suspect a mixed metaphor death wish.
posted by clavdivs at 8:28 PM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also I get the bathroom analogy is an almost absurd over-simplification, but surprisingly I've had the most success with trying to explain prison to TED-talkin' tech-bros elsewhere on the internet with "ok so imagine some rando I pick out of a crowd is going to be locked in your bathroom 24/7 for the next 5 years and so will you." It's like you can see the lightbulb light up in their brain.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 8:32 PM on November 11, 2016 [23 favorites]


These letters are not "war stories." They are not descriptions of a specific crime. I suppose they might be evidence that the person is a burglar, but then again they are already serving time for burglary, so you knew that. I wouldn't say these people are dumb for answering the questionnaire.
posted by ryanrs at 8:39 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


We knew this dude who left his keys in the DeLoren and his garage unlocked

I sure hope he didn't leave a copy of Grey's Sports Almanac lying around.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:45 PM on November 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


81818181:

“NRA sticker on car bumper = Lots of guns to steal,” wrote one burglar.

The jokes just write themselves.


I know more than one person currently in prison for "gun-jacking" (in one case gun + car) open-carry folks.

Offender hangs out acting as if playing on phone, open-carrier walks out of store with shopping bags in hand/pushing cart, blow to head from behind, offender has gun (or gun+keys) almost before the open-carrier hits the ground, and offender gets the hell out of there. Eventually the offenders get caught (like many offenders do), but in the meantime it's that many more stolen guns floating around out there.

One of many reasons open carry is super stupid (and the people doing it as a form of mini protest/demonstration) doubly so.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 8:47 PM on November 11, 2016 [47 favorites]


I wonder how many of the scoffers in this thread have actually had their home burglarized? I have. And a lot of the stuff in this post really rang true for my experience. My home was burglarized by someone kicking in the side garage door, then the door to the house itself, in the middle of the day, in a subdivision on the edge of town with limited entry-exit roads (not actually gated, just one way in/out on opposite sides of the development). We could trace their path through the house, and our bedroom seemed to get the most attention. The cops who investigated said that they were probably focused on three things: liquor, guns, and cash. Speed seems to have been of the essence; they walked right past my wife's laptop (with the Apple logo on the lid) and also left her jewelry alone.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:04 PM on November 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


My mom recently returned home from a long weekend (pulling off my sister's wedding! As if she wasn't stressed enough!) to find that she'd been broken into and that all her jewelry and her big Apple desktop were gone.

Having worked in criminal defense, I know how to picture the perpetrators of certain crimes. DUI-having cocaine dealers tend to be white. People arrested for possession of less than 1/2 an ounce of marijuana tend to be black. People arrested for trespassing tend to be black, and homeless (it blows my MIND that a person is arrested for "trespassing" simply for walking across a parking lot that they don't own). But I don't think I ever worked on a case that was simple burglary, and I have no idea of the type of person, their ethnicity or milieu or education level, that carries out these acts. Literally cannot picture it. It continues to be a gray area in my understanding of the world.
posted by witchen at 9:24 PM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Let me add, as another professional burglar, that if you leave plates of delicious cookies outside the front door, I will not come barging in. That is really your best possible security. Please MeMail me once your security is set up. Thanks.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 9:31 PM on November 11, 2016 [15 favorites]


Does the alarm company insure your valuables? Nope.

A monitored system can get you a discount on insurance though.
posted by juv3nal at 10:26 PM on November 11, 2016


Or improve your odds at even getting insurance in the first place, in some neighborhoods.
posted by rokusan at 11:41 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


My house was burgled last year, just before Christmas. They were mainly looking for the furniture.

They had monitored my habits and entered Monday, late morning. I usually leave the gate open Mondays to let the garbage people in. Then my neighbor closes the gate at about lunch-time, and this time he could see something was wrong. We have a lot of burglaries and help each other.

They tried the front door first, but were unsuccessful, and then came in through the back door. They had a glass suction thing but it didn't work for them, and they ended up breaking a window and then opening the back door from the inside. They stole a lot of my furniture, and all of my pots and pans (????) and my nice tableware for special occasions.
They also stole my trailer for transporting it all.

They dropped a pillow from a chair. And the next many Mondays I stayed at home during the morning, and a grey car would drive up each time, see my car was there and drive off. Unfortunately, I never managed to take a picture of the license plates. It's really dark here during winter. The big dog barks like crazy when someone drives up, but I bring him with me most of the time, so while he makes me feel personally safe, he doesn't help protect the house when I am not home.

Now, the insurance company has made me get an alarm system with video surveillance as a precondition. It's expensive, but I like it - it also monitors the temperature and humidity of the house, and with an old building that is a very good function. Also, the extra expense of the alarm system is matched by a deduction in the price of insurance.
posted by mumimor at 12:42 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Leave a light on, but only the bathroom one. A burglar knows that the bathroom light could be on for a genuine reason at any time of the night, for any length of time. (I got that one from The Autobiography of Malcolm X).

Put up a dummy alarm bell box, but not one with a little flashing LED. Those ones look more fake. No light.

And any feedback on whether this one works: leave out 80-100 dollars/whatever currency in cash on the table? They're in a very jittery hurry, so hopefully they'll just grab it and consider that a successful job, and then get out before trashing your place or taking anything else.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:18 AM on November 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


They broke the window glass for entry the first time. The second time they crowbarred the door. I no longer consider my house a refuge from the world.
posted by mightshould at 2:43 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Had a near burglary when I was still in high school, in that I was actually there and interacted with the men. My calculus teacher had let class early that day (what a coincidence), so I got home the usual way, and had to using the toilet. Someone kept ringing the bell downstairs and then knocking for a few minutes. Well I was taking a dump and assumed it was probably just some advertiser, because we weren't expecting anyone or mail or anything like that, and as far as I cared, no one knew I was home early. I finally got downstairs to the kitchen (in order to use the front door), and suddenly I see movement in the backyard. There's a figure. I know something's wrong and adrenaline surges. But instantly BOOM the back door gets kicked down. Another guy, tall, in light blue vaguely construction worker's clothes, work goggles and handkerchief over his mouth. To this day I don't know why, but I went "fight" instead of "flight", crouching low and roaring at him, my face probably quite red and angry. His eyes widen, and runs off without making a sound, quickly gesturing to his partner who was outside in the backyard. They had come in through the backyard gate.

I called the police, etc., who came over after forever. On the phone I somehow regressed into a small child, prompting the operator to interrupt and ask: "Okay what do you mean by "bad men""? Etc.

I believed that I could have gotten my math teacher in big trouble if I said anything at school. He was one of the best teachers I had, so at the time, I didn't have the heart or sophistication to do anything about it.
posted by polymodus at 3:24 AM on November 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


From my experience talking with police, there are basically three types of burglar, being: professionals, who do their homework, focus on the valuables and tend to not get caught; junkies, who do it in the afternoon after waking up and before scoring; and kids opportunistically thinking there's some easy pickings.
posted by wilful at 3:30 AM on November 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I called the police, etc., who came over after forever.

That's the big secret the police don't want you to know. Unless they accidentally happen to be driving by at the time, they really provide zero deterrent to common crime like burglary. They are more-or-less note-takers after the fact. Your home won't be dusted for prints, and no one is going to check the local pawn shops. Your shit is gone and it will only be by utter, odds-defying accident that they're recovered.

Back in the day, my dad had a lot of the lights in the house hooked to timers that would turn them on and off at random intervals. Do they still make those? Seems like that would be a nifty function to add to those smart-light systems.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:25 AM on November 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


And any feedback on whether this one works: leave out 80-100 dollars/whatever currency in cash on the table? They're in a very jittery hurry, so hopefully they'll just grab it and consider that a successful job, and then get out before trashing your place or taking anything else.

A professional burglar will recognize this as a customary gratuity and endeavor to give you an extra good burgling.
posted by justkevin at 6:12 AM on November 12, 2016 [37 favorites]


Reminds me of It Takes a Thief, where former thieves break into houses on television and offer pointers on beefing up security. I'd love to see a sequel where real pro burglars come along and make short work of the measures they install.
posted by dr_dank at 6:28 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking "it's been a long time, but that's not what It Takes a Thief was about".
posted by bongo_x at 6:40 AM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


And then at the end, when the kid is trapped in the vault and he has his safecracking tools but if he rescues the kid they'll all know he used to be a crook but he does it anyway and the cop is there but pretends to not recognize him. Readers, I cried.
posted by goatdog at 6:59 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: Your home won't be dusted for prints

Actually, mine was, and some time later in a different city, the police there did so as well for a smaller-scale burglary in my apartment. (The burglar there was still in the apartment when I came home; I could hear him scrambling out the window, in the process destroying the blinds that cost far more to replace than the laundry quarters which were the only thing he stole, in the manner of smash-and-grab car burglars.) But that doesn't really mitigate your point; dusting for prints, a process that can be performed at leisure and without the threat of the criminal being present, is part of the security theater, as if they're going to correlate the prints with those taken from other break-in sites, try to deduce an MO and maybe even a pattern of crimes a la McNulty from The Wire, and endeavor to catch the burglar in the act or something. Maybe they really do that in better neighborhoods; I wouldn't know.

One thing that I'd like to add to some of the comments re: alarm monitoring systems is that it isn't necessarily about their being super-effective in generating a timely response as it is about their making your house a slightly less lower-hanging fruit than your neighbor's. (Ditto for my solution to the apartment break-in: since the burglar got in by jimmying a sliding window, I went to the hardware store, got some wooden dowels, and cut them to the length of the window grooves. That didn't turn my apartment into an impregnable fortress, but it did make this kind of break-in a bit more difficult, and it worked.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Earlier this year, some family friends got burgled. The police said the burglars were looking for cash, because they walked right past all the expensive electronics and went straight upstairs to the master bedroom, where they flipped the mattress and upended the dresser drawers before stealing some jewelry.

On the other hand, the Chinese immigrant was rolling with laughter for weeks and weeks afterward, because it was, like, the last week of January?

And the burglars may have done enough work to pick a time when the family wasn't home, but they didn't realize that the piles and piles of red envelopes they kept finding rubber-banded together and stashed in drawers were stuffed with THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF CASH FOR DISTRIBUTION TO FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND EMPLOYEES FOR THE LUNAR NEW YEAR.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2016 [58 favorites]


"Get a dog."

-red rudensky [fake]
posted by clavdivs at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2016


dusting for prints, a process that can be performed at leisure and without the threat of the criminal being present, is part of the security theater, as if they're going to correlate the prints with those taken from other break-in sites, try to deduce an MO and maybe even a pattern of crimes a la McNulty from The Wire, and endeavor to catch the burglar in the act or something. Maybe they really do that in better neighborhoods; I wouldn't know.

I don't think you're meant to think this is the plan. The plan is to keep the fingerprints on file (hey, maybe they'll match someone right off, but unlikely). Then if they happen to catch someone later, by some sheer luck, then if that person's fingerprints match other burglaries too, they can be charged with more than one offense. It's not "we're going to run out and investigate this," but I don't think it's pure theatre, either. It serves the purpose it's intended for.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


When our house was broken into the police came and took prints. They managed to catch the thieves later on and the prints showed they were responsible for a bunch of break-ins in the area. We got most of our stuff back too.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:34 AM on November 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Five years ago, while on vacation, my house was broken into. But we had moved out and it was for sale, and it was only furnished with rented staging furniture, which was stolen. They did steal a lawnmower, a vacuum cleaner and some spare ceramic tile, but since we were no longer living there and didn't have any of our personal items left in the house, it didn't feel like someone had violated our home. Our real estate agent took care or reporting it to the police and talking to them. Apparently, this wasn't the first time staging furniture was stolen, and given that the key was in a lock box for real estate agents, with collusion with an agent, it wasn't hard to break into the house since they had a key to use.

When we returned from vacation, in the garage I discovered spilled paint, and obvious fingerprints in paint on a bottle, as well as cigarette butts. Now, I didn't expect the Seattle police to do DNA analysis on the cigarette butts, but I figured at least they'd be interested in the fingerprints; they didn't even need to dust for them. I left phone messages for the detective who recorded the burglary and I went to the local precinct and left him a message. I never heard back. They apparently didn't care at all about finding who did it. If anyone in the Seattle police is reading this, in a plastic bag in the bottom of a drawer in my laundry room, I still have the bottle with the thief's fingerprints and the cigarette butts.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:53 AM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


jonmc: "I just finished reading this book about a legendary burglary crew based out of Philadelphia, but who worked nationwide. Lots of insight into burglary and the surrounding mentality, plus it reads like a good thriller."

The book is Confessions of a Second Story Man: Junior Kripplebauer and the K & A Gang
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wait wait wait, these 86 people got caught. What do the folks who never get caught suggest?
I had a great time reading Burglars On The Job: Streetlife and Residential Break-ins, which details a specific research project where they slowly built a network of contacts in the local community of people who break into houses, and interviewed them at length over multiple sessions. The interviewees are active burglars, currently free, some of whom have been caught in the past. Their reasons and modi operandi are varied and fascinating.
posted by daveliepmann at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


I've always thought security systems were the biggest ripoff. Pay a company $25-75 a month to mildly annoy a crook as he/she goes about their business.

When we moved into our first home, a townhouse in a complex where other friends lived as well, they asked if our unit had an alarm system. I said no, it didn't. They said "get one". I didn't listen, because just like you, I believed (and still believe) that they're a big scam. The two ground floor windows did have bars on them though, so we figured we were pretty secure.

The next spring, we were broken into while we were out. CD's, DVD's, and most of my wife's jewellery, but that's it. They broke the bars on the back window into the basement, and climbed in that way. Probably went out the front door when they were done. Insurance company replaced everything (well, except for the jewellery... She had to describe everything she had, none of which we had receipts for or photographs of, but the insurance company paid out 100% of the estimated value. She even called back a couple of times to add more things that she had forgotten... I'm still amazed the insurance company didn't think it was a huge scam).

This pattern continued at the strata complex for the next 7 years. New owner moves in, 6 months later they get robbed, then they buy an alarm system and monitoring contract. I found out after we moved out that one of the kids on our street was seen at one of the break-ins. He wasn't caught though, so never charged as far as I know. I still suspect the alarm companies were paying him to drum up business... Nobody with an alarm ever got broken into.

When we moved out we took the little alarm company sign that you stick in your garden near your front door "Monitored by XXXX". We've used that sign at two houses since, but we haven't bought an alarm system for either of them.
posted by Snowflake at 9:26 AM on November 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I've been burgled once. They entered through some poorly-secured windows in the washroom off the kitchen - windows I'd been begging the landlord to replace for months. They took the airsoft (i.e. toy) pistols in my son's and my dresser drawers, then apparently spent some time trying to break into a locking trunk I happened to have that I'd commandeered to hold old paperwork - they must have been working on that when I pulled into the driveway, so they grabbed a banana and a bag of chips on their way out the kitchen door. I was so grateful they hadn't spotted the $600 cash sitting on my dresser (waiting for the guy to come fill my heating oil tank, they didn't take checks or cards) that I didn't even care about the $100+ worth of high-quality air pistols.

So, anti-burglary protip: never leave the house!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:36 AM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


if they happen to catch someone later, by some sheer luck, then if that person's fingerprints match other burglaries too, they can be charged with more than one offense.

That would be cool, and I would have appreciated the police letting me know that that's how it would go.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:43 AM on November 12, 2016


Your home won't be dusted for prints, and no one is going to check the local pawn shops.

My home was dusted for prints and it was used to convince all of the perps to plead guilty. The police monitored the pawn shops and recovered quite a bit of what was pawned.

I found out after we moved out that one of the kids on our street was seen at one of the break-ins.

Bored and/or greedy teenagers commit a decent amount of breaking and entering crimes. They're in a prime position to know your habits and even a minor score is a pretty big deal financially to them.
posted by Candleman at 10:44 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Friends who were renovating an old house they bought were burgled for dome of the old fixtures in the place.

In the middle of the living room, one of the thieves took a dump.

The cop who took the report said to them "Yeah, that happens."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:16 PM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


a lot of the lights in the house hooked to timers that would turn them on and off at random intervals

Light timers are definitely still a thing. If you get the analog ones, the timing mechanism drifts the longer you let it go, so it's not entirely predictable either!

Bonus: when I lived in a shitty attic garret, I used one of these to turn on my space heater before I woke up and before I got home.
posted by cult_url_bias at 12:36 PM on November 12, 2016


likeatoaster: inmates LOVE telling war stories about their offenses, especially ones in for relatively minor offenses like property crimes. Ask any defense lawyer.

I am a defense lawyer.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:55 PM on November 12, 2016 [26 favorites]


I think living in a single family residence is challenging - you have to be on your toes all the time.

When we had our house, the thief kicked in the side door on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He must have been watching us as we had all piled into the car, with the dog, and had gone shopping a short while earlier.

The door was hidden from the street. He went straight to the bedroom, pulled up the mattress, found the precious starfish necklace, a wedding present from my husband, a ring and some small electronic devices, got a beer out of the fridge and left.

The cops said he was the type that only steals things he can put in his pocket and can then just walk away. Doesnt even need a car. Maybe he rode the bus there (near a main city drag.)

Those sliding glass patio/deck doors are a real source of breaking and entering, too. Thank God our dog was a really ferocious barker - like a crazy dog - and eyeballed the thieves right after they had removed the screen door and propped it up against the back of the house. From inside our dinette, Phoumi, barked himself sick and chased them away. Good boy!!
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 1:03 PM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was burgled once, in my first Chicago apartment, about 14 years ago. I was home sleeping in the bedroom of my tiny 1-bedroom apartment but didn't wake up. (One of the downsides of loving the greyhound dog breed is that greyhounds make terrible watch dogs. So although I had a dog, she did not alert me to the burglar's presence.) He had gotten in through an open window, which was a dumb move on my part considering I was in a ground floor apartment. There was some rotting food in the fridge that was stinking up the place, so I had left a window open a crack to get some fresh air in until the next day when I could find and clean up the problem.

I woke up in the morning and went to take the dog out for her walk. Noticed the door was shut but not completely closed and latched, but in my early morning sleepy state just thought my bf had not done a good job of locking up when he walked the dog at night before bed. I got back from walking the dog to find my bf outside having a cigarette and saying "The cat was outside." I was confused. How did the cat get outside? That's when I finally pieced it together - the screen from the open window had been removed, the unlocked door... duh.

They had grabbed my laptop computer (conveniently all packed up for them in my briefcase right by the door!), a fake leather jacket, and my purse which luckily did not have my wallet in it. Insurance pretty much made me whole.

I now have a monitored security system that I know works pretty well because I got a call and had to rush home from work when maintenance people entered my apartment without notice. Every month I wonder if it's worth the money but for now I'm still shelling out for it. At least it works via the internet so I don't have to have a landline phone.
posted by misskaz at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


In the middle of the living room, one of the thieves took a dump.

That is apparently incredibly common. The explanation I've heard is simply that they're so keyed up and scared, but it may also go more deep and Freudian than that.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:33 PM on November 12, 2016


“Private profit, underwritten by Public Risk.”
So very much THIS.

“I know more than one person currently in prison for "gun-jacking" (in one case gun + car) open-carry folks.”
It really burns me up that so many people think buying a firearm is the end of their responsibility.

I have dogs. You can’t be home all the time.

Buddy of mine had the nickname “Zippy.” Caught a lot of shit for it. Y’know nicknames.
It was a long time before we explained to anyone outside our circle how he got it.
He was allergic to dogs. Did a lot of traveling. Some break ins in his neighborhood. So he used to hang shark treble hooks from steel line at various lengths from eyebolts in the studs in the ceiling. He knew the placement and could navigate the place at in the dark. Put them up during the day.

He had a break in. Yeah. You can get a picture there. Kinda ugly. He came home, pulled out his knife and said “We can call the police, or we can ‘not’ call the police.” No one went near his place at all after that. I mean, no one. We hung out with him and we didn't like going to his house.

So “Pinhead” from Hellraiser eventually became “Zippy the Pinhead” and finally “Zippy” which (unfortunately for the unwitting) belayed what a vicious bastard he was. (He did have his good points tho)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:48 PM on November 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Discovered my truck was rifled overnight with a broken window. Just now I'm feeling fond of Zippy.
posted by wotsac at 3:48 PM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


When our home was burgled they took a wooden box full of mementos from dad's bedroom, including a few folded-paper packets of vibhuti, the magic holy ash the disgraced guru Sathya Sai Baba would produce (long story). Imagining the burglar trying to get high off snorting swami dust gave us a chuckle as we cleaned up the house.
posted by BinGregory at 1:15 AM on November 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'd also like to mention that I know the alarm monitoring business from both ends, both as a customer and as an overnight monitor for a company in the St. Louis area. The customer part was in the house that we lived in after the one that was broken into; the system was already in place from the previous owner, pretty easy to use and learn, only one false alarm that I remember, etc.

Working for the alarm company was another piece of business altogether. I was told that under no circumstance was I to ever deviate from the established order of things to do if an alarm went off (generally, call the home and maybe a few other numbers to try to contact the client first, then call the police). The reality was that there were some clients who were notoriously sloppy about procedure, including one old guy who had apparently been working for the family business since the Truman Administration and simply refused to learn the alarm code, the code word to verify his identity, or any other way of identifying himself, and we simply had to let it slide, even though, if it had been a real alarm, there was no confusion about who would end up losing their job over it. (This was in the middle of a recession.) And then there was the time when someone's house alarm went off, and one of the contact numbers read "Busch Stadium." I thought that he might be someone who worked in management, and I called the number; after a while, he answered, and I told him the situation, and he angrily replied, "I'm in the middle of a game, man!" As God is my witness, I had no idea who Vince Coleman was.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:47 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


no one is going to check the local pawn shops. Your shit is gone and it will only be by utter, odds-defying accident that they're recovered.

We were burglarized twice in one year, after living in our house for about five years (and six years since). One of the police officers in the first burglary absolutely went to a local pawn shop the day after the burglary. He came back to our house and showed me a Xerox of my high school ring, my mother's high school ring, and a ring my grandmother gave me. Absolutely no question that they were mine. And the pawnshop owner had already sold the stuff to a metals dealer for meltdown. One day after he bought them.

The cops did catch the guys who did it--mostly through the fence who had sold the stuff, who had left an ID with the pawnshop dealer the way state law says he has to, just as it says that the pawnshop dealer has to keep pictures (or Xeroxes) of the stuff they buy. We ended up getting about $900 in reparations through the court system. But I'd consider that pawnshop dealer just as complicit in the theft as the actual thieves.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:52 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, those thieves did leave me with a great story. One of the worst things they did was completely trash two decoupaged vintage train cases I'd made, ripping them apart (as if they actually locked) and leaving them in disgust when they found that all they contained was more art supplies. They got away with a good bit of my jewelry, my spouse's jewelry, and a jar of wheat pennies she'd been collecting for years. What we didn't realize until a couple days later was that they'd also made off with a metal toolbox from our bedroom closet, which contained . . . well, not that kind of tools.

The toolbox had been hidden under some cloths to keep prying children out, and neither of us even thought about checking on it after we discovered the burglary. One of the police officers (the one who brought me the Xerox of my jewelry) had mumbled something about some containers being ripped open outside our house and the contents being thrown around on the street. But the poor guy (we realized later) just couldn't bring himself to tell the nice ladies exactly what had been thrown around. I found that out from his partner, a much younger and brasher guy, the next day. I just lost it and both of us busted up laughing. Apparently they'd collected the stuff and held it at the police station. As funny as I thought it was, though, I couldn't ever bring myself to go there and pick it up.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:03 PM on November 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


As I was leaving this morning I looked at the window closest to the street and though 'I should really use some dowel or something to make sure nobody can just rock that open.'

And now this post is here.

Which means when I get home I'm going to find out I got burgled.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:04 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering whether where you live the monitored alarm is the only option. I have an alarm system which I rarely use even when we leave the house (that is, switch to armed), but which cost me a one-off 1200euros for the whole house (including motion sensors in all the right places, door-sensors, fire and water sensors). It has a GSM SIM card on a zero-prepay plan and alerts me to events - like break-in, fire, flooding and such. I decide whether a text message suffices or a call is warranted - and to which numbers.
There are alarm systems linked to a company (or straight to the police), but the rumour is that that is precisely how burglars know you are gone - if the company is crooked, it monitors your usage of the alarm and knows exactly when you are gone. The burglars come, the alarm goes off, they know exactly how long they have before authorities are informed and, eventually, arrive, and that's that. You get your insurance money, the company proves its worth, nobody gets caught.
posted by Laotic at 11:50 PM on November 13, 2016


It's funny how we all hide things in the bedroom. I mean, how we hid things in the bedroom until we knew better.

This reminds me of a recent story: $224K life savings in gold, jewelry and cash stolen from St. Paul home
Police spokesman Steve Linders said the woman had hidden the items in different areas of her bedroom because she doesn’t trust banks.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:59 AM on November 14, 2016


She hid under the bed when he came in and stayed there the entire time. Completely useless. At the time I had a 75lb GSD cross

Oh, yeah. I don't actually believe my GSD would protect the house -- although she does bark like mad when the mail is delivered -- but she's big, she's black, and she makes a ton of noise when she perceives a threat. Anyone who frequents my neighborhood knows there's a big GSD in the house.

They don't know she's crated 98% of the time I'm not at home (her house-breaking is not entirely solid yet).

But she works as a deterrent, I think, sufficient to push the burglars on to a perceived softer target.
posted by suelac at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2016


My house was broken into and my burglary reflects some of their comments, but not others.
Middle of day? Yes.
No dog at home? Yes.

But we also did a lot of things they say to do:
City house with lots of nosy neighbors? Yes.
Blinds open? Yes.
Lots of evidence of a big dog? Yes.

When the police arrived I ended up spending a lot of time in the front yard with an officer while we waited to the evidence techs to show up. He shared a lot of comments with me, some a bit surprising. Here is what he said, unedited and with no commentary.

*You are safer at home in a burglary if you have a firearm and know how to use it.
*If they saw something they liked but couldn't take it there is a good chance they will put some effort into coming back.
*However, if they didn't come back after a couple weeks they probably have moved onto other things.
*Neighbors will almost always ignore one big bang or noise, such as kicking a door in or the sound of breaking glass.
*Newest rage? One adult driving juveniles around to do the actual breaking and entering because the juvenile penalties are much lower than an adult caught for burglary.
*Most professional burglars hit a neighborhood for a few days until the heat is turned on, then they move to another neighborhood.

And the worst comment? If they want to burgle your house, there is nothing passive you can do to keep them out. They will get in.......
posted by lstanley at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2016


You know it's fine, sort of, to not trust banks but geez how about some basic security when you've got gold bullion and tens of thousands of dollars of cash hanging around. Those little safes for your gold bars are $50. A basic floor safe is a hundred bucks plus installation. Better ones around $500. A good size conventional safe is $1500 or less. Make the bad guys work for it. If nothing else I bet insurance doesn't cover $60K in cash that burns up in a house fire and a fire rated safe would provide some protection.

lstanley: " Here is what he said, unedited and with no commentary.

*You are safer at home in a burglary if you have a firearm and know how to use it.
"

Trying not to kindle a firearms debate but I'd take this with a grain of salt. Cops are just as susceptible to propaganda as anyone else. And they have a very biased viewpoint because of their job. In the US there aren't any good numbers on whether firearms help during a home invasion (not a burglary at this point) at least in part because the law prevents collection of data and this statement doesn't factor in the dangers associated with having a firearm in the home.

I think also it is important to realistically assess whether you are a target for "professional" burglars. Professionals aren't going to be interested in your TV or laptop or even most firearms. They are after easily fencable or fungible goods that provide at least a living wage. Those $10K dollar stacks of cash and one ounce gold bars.
posted by Mitheral at 11:07 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


An ex-cop once told me, when I pondered getting a gun and practicing enough with it to be able to shoot to only injure, that "shooting to injure" is extremely difficult with a handgun, and that if I wasn't prepared to shoot to kill I shouldn't even own one. So I don't own one.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on November 14, 2016


I've never been broken into, but lets face it, a house with two glass doors that can't be seen from the street simply can't be made secure without installing iron bars over them. I did lose a lawn tractor once, came home after a long weekend away, and the machine was gone from where it had broken down, a big hunk of plastic tarpage wrapped around and tangled up in the mower deck. Whoever ended up with it probably had to spend several hours fixing that and getting it working again -- assuming that it was fixable (one of the blades was clearly askew, probably a broken housing or bearing, not easy to fix on a zero-turn mower.)

I do keep a spare car in the driveway, leave a couple of lights on deep in the house, and am on good terms with the neighbors, who keep an eye on the place now when I'm away. Still, thieves suck.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:12 PM on November 14, 2016


« Older The Fellatio Modification Project, etc.   |   Shia LaBeouf Freestyles 5 Fingers of Death with... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments