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I’m In Your House: A Look at Home Break-ins Through the Eyes of a Burglar

Burglar1“Give me enough time and I can get into anything” laughed “Johnny.” Johnny is a convicted felon several times over and specialized in burglary. Our paths crossed some time ago and it wasn’t until recently that he offered up the information that he had done several stints behind bars. When I suggested the idea of doing this article, he didn’t hesitate for a second. “Hell yea, I’ll do it!”, Johnny said. I agreed to not use his real name or give his current location. I told him that I appreciated his enthusiasm and also discussed with him the possibility that this article could not only help him alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of dealing with his past, but also perhaps shed light on how to prevent break-ins for home owners or prospective home owners. After it was all said and done, Johnny admittedly felt better about himself. “I just told you things I’ve never told anyone in my life. It felt good to get it off my chest. I hope people listen to what I have to say. I’ve paid my debts to society and hope I can be forgiven.” Johnny is currently in counseling and working on his GED. He has had no “run ins with the law” in several years. He also just completed a state funded program in which he was taught how to be a responsible father to his young son. I decided to ask him a few questions and just let him talk.

So how did you get started? Johnny- “Well, my first break in, if you could call it that, was when I was 13. Me and another kid walked into another kid’s house that we knew and stole his piggy bank out of the top shelf of his closet when nobody was home. After that, I started breaking into cars and then eventually homes. One time when I was a kid, we broke into a Frito-Lays or Hostess truck or something. We wiped that truck out man!” (laughs)

Care to elaborate on any tricks of the trade? Johnny laughs, “Yea, I guess so. I would get past ADT systems using a magnet. That’s how ADT works [with magnets], at least they did when I was breaking in. Knock out the top glass in the window and drop a magnet in between the sensors and then put some tape on it. Then open the window up and go in. Same thing with the door. After I dropped the magnet in, I could come and go as I pleased. I always tried to work alone. The more people you have the more chance of someone rolling over. But then again, if you have more people you can move more stuff and bigger stuff. I always looked for guns and jewelry. They were light and I could carry them pretty easy. I would typically hit the top dresser drawers first and then the nightstand. That’s where people usually kept their handguns and other stuff of value. Especially men. Women usually keep all their jewelry in one spot, like a case. So once I found it, I got everything. I always wore gloves to keep from leaving prints and I never touched anything that I wasn’t going to take. As far as dogs or pets were concerned, if I really wanted in there, I would take some raw hamburger and shove some Tylenol Pm or something in it. Toss it through the window and wait. Just make sure you don’t trip over him after you get inside. (laughs) At night I always wore black for obvious reasons. But if I did a burglary during the day, I would always wear nice clothes. People don’t suspect you if you’re wearing nice clothes walking around the neighborhood. But if your pants are hanging off your ass and you look like a hood rat, people take notice. If I did hit a house and had plenty of time, I would load up a city trash can full of stuff and then wheel it down a couple alleys. I’d leave it there until I could come back with a  van or something later that night.”

24587925What did you look for when deciding to break into a home? Johnny- “Availability. Was there anybody home? I wanted to get into the back yard so nobody could see me. So I wanted it to have trees or bushes. Something to give it the look of seclusion. I always looked for a way in and a different way out. A lot of times I just went to a basement door. People only lock them with a door knob lock. So I would just get in using an id card or something. A screwdriver if I needed. I would look for a house with newspapers piled up out front. Usually it meant they were on vacation or something. But also, I always knew what I wanted before I got in there. If I knew there was jewelry or guns there already, then that could be a deciding factor. Sometimes it would just be one of my boys calling me up and saying the guy down the street is gone for the night or something. Then hit it up. But there have also been times when I walked through the front door in broad daylight.” (laughs)

Are there any tips you could give people to prevent break-ins? Johnny- “Yep. Get some motion activated flood lights. Burglars don’t like those. Keep the place well lit. I would suggest ADT or something as well. But like I said earlier, if a burglar has enough time, he can get through anything. Keep your doors and windows locked. Also, if you have a business coming into your home, like an exterminator or construction guys or something, make sure after they leave that you go through and check windows and doors. I’ve pulled a few jobs where it was set up for me just like that. They would leave a window unlocked somewhere. If you go on vacation, stop the newspaper. Call and make sure. I would even call the police and tell them you’re going. They should send by a squad car every so often to make sure everything is okay. If you do leave, take your car keys with you. At least don’t leave them on a key rack by the door. I can have your car at the chop shop quick.”

Johnny continued with advice for internet age. “Facebook makes a burglar’s job a whole lot easier. Most of the places I broke into were people that I knew. Not family or good friends or nothing. But a friend of a friend who knows a guy etc…So how well do you know all your friends on Facebook? (laughs) Don’t tell people about vacation until you get back. Don’t check in everywhere you go. If I see that you’re checking in at Va. Tech before the football game starts, then I know I’ve got a few hours to work without a problem. If you post a bunch of pics of the inside of your house, then I can see the layout of the home and your possessions. If you have a gun case, anchor it to the floor if possible. Keep your guns in a case if you’re not home. Also, don’t put those damn family stick figures on the back of your car. It lets me know how many people live in the home, how many dogs I’d have to deal with etc…That’s just stupid.”

What should people do if they are home and someone breaks in? Johnny- “I never broke into a home with anyone there. But I know plenty of people who would and do. Some intentionally and some not. Keep your car keys next to the bed. You can always hit the panic button and set it off in the driveway. That would scare me off. I recommend getting a gun. Just the sound of  someone shucking a shell into a shotgun would make me run. Your stuff ain’t worth it to me. But if someone is in your home, then you gotta think they’re coming for you. Especially if you’re a woman. Keep your cell phone nearby to call for help as well.”

iStock_000013737291XSmall-e1362947856602I’ve heard people giving statistics about home invasions stating the possibility of a break-in while they’re home just isn’t high enough to warrant a gun. What are your thoughts? Johnny- (laughs) “I was always high when I broke in and looking for my next fix. Lots of people are like that. So they’re not thinking straight anyway. Plus, anybody who is breaking into a home knows they’re going to prison if they get caught. And if you are a repeat offender then you’ve got serious time hanging over your head. And on top of that, if it becomes a home invasion if someone is present when you get in there, that carries more time. So now you’ve got a dope addict who is facing prison time standing in your living room with you in the home. I would damn sure have a gun. You don’t know what people will do when faced with serious prison time. Or you could try to reason with him and say that stats show you shouldn’t be here right now. See where that gets you. You’ll get beat over the head. Or worse. Anyways, I hope all this stuff has helped you out. Thanks man.”

 

Paul Craft
Paul was born, raised in the historic town of Fincastle, Va (just outside of Roanoke). He lives on a registered “Century Farm” that has been in his family since 1906 in a house that was built in the 1790s. His farm has over 300 hundred head of cattle, 6 donkeys, 17 chickens and various other animals along with his dogs, Mike, Buster, and Loki. Paul is married and has three step-children. Paul graduated from Emory and Henry College in 2004 with a degree in Geography and an emphasis in environmental studies. Paul works as a Mental Health Counselor and is currently working towards his Masters Degree in Counseling through Liberty University and will soon be a Christian Counselor.

9 thoughts on “I’m In Your House: A Look at Home Break-ins Through the Eyes of a Burglar

  1. This is an excellent interview and very insightful. There’s a lot of good tips in here. I think “Johnny” can rest assured he’s helped make a few people a little safer with his openness and advice.

    However, I once again take issue with Paul on guns (no surprise here for anyone who regularly follows our blog). The question was presented incorrectly and asked only about having a gun in relation to the chances of having your house broken into. That is not the issue with gun ownership. If all a gun did in the house was sit there waiting to keep you safe from burglars, I would have no problem with that and would own one myself. But they don’t, and they are MUCH more likely to be used in accidental gun deaths, domestic violence against women and successful suicides than they are for protection. In other words, they make your house less safe (not less safe from burglars, but in an overall safety view) and that is what the pro and con of a gun ownership must be measured against and that is what shows the cons greatly outweigh the pros.

      1. I read through some of it. I don’t have time to get through it all, but I think I have a fairly good grasp on what the entire paper entails. The problem with the surveys is that it only details information from people that are willing to hand it over. I know that if someone called me up and wanted to know about my firearms for a study, I would simply hang up. As what I would assume most people with guns would do. Also, the part where they’re interviewing criminals already in prison, they’re only getting information from individuals willing to talk. Yes, criminals would target a home with guns in it. That’s why you put them in a safe. By the way, there are safes on the market now that read the gun owners hand print in order to open. This completely eliminates a burglar, child or anyone else from getting into the safe. Even if burglars wanted my guns, it doesn’t mean that I will get rid of them. If I drive a nice truck the chances of it being stolen are going to rise. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to drive a pos because I’m scared somebody will take it. I use guns all the time. I grew up around them. I was taught to respect them and how to handle them safely. I use them on the farm all the time. Whether it be to keep coyotes, bear, skunks, groundhogs, opossums or any other varmint I can think of. I use them for hunting to put food on the table for my family and friends. You might take your shoes off when you come inside. So do I. Except I have a rifle sitting there as well to fire on any varmints. You might put your keys on the table when you get home. So do I. Except I also lay the rifle on it when I come in from hunting. You might have an alarm clock on your nightstand. So do I. Along with a bible, loaded pistol and a box of shells. Its a non issue. My girlfriend and her kids are in the house as well. They all grew up around firearms. They have all learned to respect them and their capabilities. As a matter of fact, everyone in my home has their own weapon. So if someone breaks in, it’s 4 on 1. Her kids are 13, 16 and 19. The 19 year old is in college and doesn’t need one yet. The other two have their own. They don’t play with guns the same way they don’t play with knives or touch hot stoves. Like I said, it’s a non issue. We go shoot targets and make it a family event. So if I have grown up in a gun culture and use them as tools just like I use a screwdriver or a hammer, then why wouldn’t I use those same guns to protect my home? If they are stolen when I’m not there, then so be it. Insurance will cover it. At least no one was hurt. But if someone breaks in while we’re home, then myself and my family will have a chance. And I will kill an intruder. I am a law abiding citizen. I’m not giving up my guns because criminals want them and/or use them to commit crimes. I am an emotionally stable and level headed adult. I am not giving up my firearms because some people are unable to deal with obstacles in their lives and/or are mentally ill and choose to use a firearm as a means to commit suicide. I am a responsible gun owner who uses firearms safely and follows all safety techniques. I am not giving up my guns because some people’s negligence and irresponsibility lead to accidents. When kids fail math tests, we don’t throw away all the number two pencils in the building. So why get rid of guns because of criminal behavior or irresponsibility? Brian has lived in South Korea for several years now. I’m not going to look up a bunch of surveys and stats and then start telling him what he should and shouldn’t do over there. Because I’ve never been there, I don’t know his experiences or the culture. So I’m not sure why people who don’t live in a gun environment think that they know what’s best for me and my family. I have found though, that people who are scared to death of firearms are the same people who never grew up around them, fired them or owned them. Having a gun in the home is a choice and a right. I will not be a victim.

  2. A gun is a hunk of metal/plastic/wood. You can load it, put a shell in the chamber, cock the hammer and set it on your kitchen table. It won’t aim itself, hunt anybody down, accidently go off or kill anyone. Ever. Not without direct human intervention. Therefore, the responsibility lies in the handler. In trained and responsible hands it can be an extremely effective tool in protecting your home. In the hands of a careless and irresponsible individual, that same gun is an accident waiting to happen. You are correct in your statement that having guns in the home increase chances of gun accidents and death. There is plenty of evidence and statistics to show that. Almost all of which can be eliminated by responsible gun ownership. I do understand how the question could be rephrased though. Having looked it over several times I see that I should have explained it better to him. For what it’s worth though, I don’t think it would change his mind. I do hope this article helps people. I know it did with me. I’m getting ready to invest in a gun safe and a few other changes as well.

  3. “Guns always deter burglars if you’re home”…lol and when you’re not home, they make people want to break in and steal them. The irony is delicious.

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