Reformed Burglars Give Crime Prevention Advice

Hidden keys, open windows and Twitter all make life easy for a thief


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If you have a desirable car, keep your valuables in a bedside drawer and talk about your whereabouts on social media, then you fit the profile of the ideal break-in victim. That’s the verdict from the real experts: ex-burglars.

In the UK’s first research among reformed burglars, insurance company MORE TH>N reveals the targets and tricks of the trade that should be a wake-up call to every householder.

According to 90% of reformed thieves, household burglary is still an easy task that poses no real challenge – and all of those surveyed said there’s no such thing as an impossible job – but the new research reveals how householders inadvertently make their job even easier.

The majority of ex-burglars (68%) said they collected information about their target’s home and daily routine in advance of committing a crime. Hidden house keys (78%) – in obvious places such as under doormats and in plant pots – are the primary lapses that burglars will look for to make an entry. The other common mistake we make according to those in the know is leaving windows open (58%), especially during summer months when homeowners put a cooler house above security as their priority.

In addition to the above, criminals are increasingly embracing the latest social media trends to keep a track on potential targets. More than one in 10 (12% of the ex-burglars surveyed) said they would use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to easily pinpoint the whereabouts of a target and how long they would be away for.

A clue that a homeowner may only be out for even a short period of time – whether it is a post-it note on the door to an intended visitor or a Tweet that can be easily read by strangers – could be the essential information a burglar needs for a break-in. Time is a big factor in planning and conducting burglary and the research reveals a clean sweep of a home requires less than five minutes – according to 62% of ex-burglars.

The unique research commissioned by MORE TH>N Home Insurance also provides real and invaluable insight into the most effective forms of security. Almost half of ex-burglars (40%) said nosey neighbours made little difference to their plans. In fact, 28% said neighbours are more likely to pretend not to notice rather than ‘make a fuss’ and call the police. The safest form of security is the presence of a burglar alarm, followed by a dog or CCTV.

Other key findings include:

  • A third of ex-burglars (34%) believe homeowners keep their valuables hidden in bedroom drawers, 20% thought they’d be in a safe and 4% would check the fridge;
  • Car keys (34%) are the first items a burglar will look for; Bungalows (32%) and detached houses (30%) present the best burglary opportunities of all residential types, compared to flats (second floor upwards 4%) and semi-detached houses (2%); and
  • Leaving packaging of expensive new goods among the rubbish (20%) are other popular ‘adverts’ to burglars.

Former burglar-turned-Church minister Richard Taylor commented on the findings: “Homeowners should sit up and take note of these results, the importance of home security cannot be overlooked, yet surprisingly many homeowners fail to take even the simplest precautions to protect themselves. Basic things like being more aware, having a burglar alarm fitted and even getting a dog can act as deterrents to thieves on the hunt for an invitation.”

February 7, 2011

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