Home Security Advice from a Convicted Burglar

After sharing some tactical lessons on how to protect your property in our Monmouth County career burglar post, we’ve decided to take a look at other documented cases of burglaries. By digging deeper into the minds of burglars, we can come away with some solid tips for preemptive home security.

In this blog, we will analyze an ABC News interview with a former professional burglar named Bob Portenier. Portenier, along with a crime prevention officer from Virginia named Ed O’Carroll, confirmed the effectiveness of some home security practices we’ve highlighted in the past. However, they expanded upon some of our ideas and shed light on some true “tricks of the trade.”

Portenier, who has a self-appointed “Ph.D in crime,” served eight years in prison for his burglaries. Upon his release from prison, he began writing a crime prevention column for the Topeka Capital-Journal and has been helping people improve their home security ever since. ABC News set up a test house for him to attempt to break into, and he got in by breaking the glass on a basement door. It then only took him 7.5 minutes to get inside, collect guns, jewelry, antique silver, electronic equipment and then leave. To aid homeowners, we have compiled a list of the most helpful tips that Portenier and O’Carroll gave to ABC News.

Get an Alarm

Portenier reiterated the importance of home alarm systems. In fact, Portenier told ABC News, “to me, the best insurance a homeowner can have is having a security system.” According to the Electronic Security Association, 90% of burglars said they want to avoid homes with alarm systems, and that if they did encounter an alarm, they would abandon the attack on the home.

Do Not Walk In on a Crime

As a homeowner, if you get even the faintest feeling that your home may have been burglarized, do not enter the home. According to Portenier, it’s extremely dangerous to enter a home when the burglar is still inside, because it’s impossible to know the state of mind he or she may be in. The burglar could be on drugs or desperate, which could result in injury (or worse) for anyone who crosses their path. Stay away from the home and call the police.

Find a New Place for Your Valuables

hide home valuables

The classic hiding spots for expensive items like jewelry, guns and rare items are considered “classic” for a reason. Hiding spots like the underwear drawer, night stands and under mattresses are usually the first places burglars look when inside of a home. Portenier says that time is too important to burglars, so if you place valuables in uncommon spots, the burglar will often give up after checking the common areas. Simply taking a small amount of time to think outside the box can save a homeowner from devastation.

Don’t Advertise Your Absence

When leaving a property vacant for a stretch of days, Portenier advises homeowners to take these seemingly insignificant but effective steps to create the illusion that someone is home. Keeping a car parked in the driveway, leaving the trash cans half-full, and hiring someone to mow the lawn and water any plants can seriously deter a burglar from targeting a home.

Strategic Fence Placement

Officer O’Carroll and Portenier actually disagree when it comes to fences in the yard. Officer O’Carroll says that a fence “shows ownership” and “tells people where they should and shouldn’t be.” The basis of his pro-fence argument lies in the fact that it makes it easier for a neighbor to notice suspicious activity if a burglar has to climb over a fence. However, Portenier sees it like this: while a fence is intended to increase privacy, it can also act as a shield for a burglar if he or she is able to get past it unnoticed.

Do Not Leave a Key Hidden

Portenier says that hiding a key under a rock or in a fake container near the front door is mistake. Usually the keys are a lot easier to locate than one would think. Instead, Portenier advises giving an extra key to a trustworthy neighbor that can be relied upon in times of need.

Keep Doors Locked at All Times

Unsurprisingly, Portenier recommends leaving the doors of a home locked all the time. He even says that if you’re simply working in the backyard, still leave the front door locked…because all a burglar needs is the slightest invitation to quickly slip in and out of a house.

Install Reliable Locks

Officer O’Carroll told ABC News that many people forget to properly secure their sliding glass doors. O’Carroll suggests getting a horizontal “charley bar” to place inside the track of the sliding doors. Many people simply place a ruler or a stick in the track, but that can be easily lifted out with a coat hanger.

Make Your Street Address Easily Visible

This may seem inconsequential, but making your address easily identifiable from the street can help in more ways than just home security. Officer O’Carroll recommends doing this to help police locate your home in case of a burglary, but this will also help with practical things like home deliveries and visitors.

This information from Portenier and O’Carroll allows homeowners to address any gaps in their home security. As they say, history is the best teacher and analyzing past burglaries can teach us a lot about protecting property properly. It’s significant that Portenier considers an alarm system to be “the best insurance a homeowner can have.” Take his word and contact your local security system provider to properly protect your home.

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