November 5, 2006
Your home is the one place you should feel the safest, but it can also be the place where you become a victim.
According to the FBI, a burglary occurs every 15.4 seconds across the country.
Are you doing everything you can to keep you and your family safe?
In this Special Assignment, News 12 consults an expert: a former convicted burglar.
Your home is your castle...and what may have taken you years to acquire can be gone in just seconds.
Meet a man we'll call Bob We've changed his name and distorted his face because he agreed to help us with our story only if we masked his identity.
He's a twice convicted burglar who used to make a living robbing other people's homes.
Call it redemption or even just his own way of giving back to the dozens of strangers he's victimized...either way, he's agreed to reveal his strategies.
But before we let him show us how he did it, meet Jimmy: a homeowner who's had more than his share of burglaries.
"Unfortunately you get used to it sometimes," he says.
He's had his home broken into not just once or twice, but four different times.
"You're being violated," he says. "This is your safe haven for you and your family."
After taking all of the precautionary measures he could think of, he's ready for a professional criminal to offer his advice.
"I'd be interested to find out what else I can do to make it safer for my family."
After both parties agreed, we let Bob get straight to work.
The first thing he does might sound a little strange, especially for someone trying to be incognito.
"I'd walk up and ring the doorbell."
He says if someone's home, he will make up a story and move onto a different house.
"Don't you want someone home, though, so you can find out exactly where their prized possessions are?" we asked.
"No, because then you put your life in danger."
So how does he get in, you ask?
First, he takes us straight to the back door.
"I'd go around back to a secluded area where no one would see me."
He's armed with no special tools or clever techniques...just a little fancy footwork instead.
"I'd take this door, put my foot up to it and kick it in," he said. "Kick it wide open."
"So would you say the deadbolt is useless?" we asked.
Bob says 90% of the convicts he knows used the same exact tactic.
"The door panel is so flimsy and light, you kick it and it cracks and comes right open."
Bob says installing a metal door frame is an easy fix.
Once Bob's past the door, he says he's got ten minutes to get what he can.
"I'm going to get anything that's new I can get money for."
And like any good thief, he's going straight for the big ticket items.
"I'm going to look for the master bedroom and get jewelry boxes left open, computers..."
He says the easiest way to prevent your precious metals from leaving the house is to make it a little more complicated for him, like hiding it in a good spot.
"The burglar isn't going to take too much time looking for it. He's going to go where everything's quick, in eyeball reach."
So what does it take to keep guys like him out?
It's a lot less complicated than you might think.
He says all you need are the help of some lights and a tiny little sign.
"I'd walk around the house and look real good. If I thought the house had an alarm, or lights come on when you walk around, I wouldn't even mess with it."
Lt. Tony Walden at the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says he sees about 250 burglaries every month, and the one security measure both he and the convict agree works the best is a high-pitched alarm.
"I don't care what type of alarm you get, but get one that has the loudest siren, because I've found that's more effective in running people off," Lt. Walden said.
And the same tried and true method that's worked for him all those years by simply kicking down the door also worked for a fellow criminal on none other than Bob himself.
"I had somebody kick my door in, load my stuff in my truck, and take my truck too."
Maybe the old saying 'What goes around, comes around' is true after all.
There are other things you can do to avoid being burglarized. Try to keep a car in the driveway at all times; it's the first sign someone's home.
If you can't do that, at least leave a TV or radio on while you're away.