How Do Burglars Choose Their Victims?

Burglar looking  through  a window at a laptopEver wondered how burglars choose their victims, or more specifically the homes of their victims? The answer is that it all depends on what kind of burglar they are and what it is they want to steal.[1]

Let’s break down the kinds of burglar there are and what you can do to stop them in their tracks. The four main ways a burglar will choose their job include the following:

  1. Look for vulnerable folks (elderly, those living alone, easy targets, etc.)
  2. Opportunistic (very little forethought or planning)
  3. Desirability of property (smarter criminals)
  4. Casing the property (usually over days or weeks before the break in)

NOTE: You can jump to any part of this post by clicking the links in the table of contents

Table of Contents

  1. The Art of Disguise (House Callers)
  2. The Opportunist Type
  3. The Calm and Calculated Types
  4. Avoid Being the Victim of Burglary
  5. Summing Up

The Art of Disguise (House Callers)

Burglars have been using the art of disguise for a long time now. The difference today is that people are savvier at spotting scams than they used to be. We’re also a lot more cautious about falling for the spiel of strangers at the door. Disguise is still a tactic that works, especially with vulnerable folks like the elderly. The crook may turn up at your door clutching a clipboard making out they are from some local authority. They will tell you that they need to read the water, gas or electricity meter, or whatever. Others arrive in work clothes, holding on to a few tools. This is to make them look like maintenance people of some description, perhaps looking for odd jobs.

These are all opportunistic burglars. They will try to gain access to a property posing as someone they’re not. They are criminals who tend to prey on the most vulnerable, or people and neighborhoods that they think are more vulnerable. Once inside, they discreetly steal valuable items when the owner isn’t looking. Sometimes it takes many hours or even days before the occupant realizes what’s happened. Oftentimes, burglars like this are desperate. Occasionally youths might do it for kicks or a dare believe it or not, but it happens. For the more desperate types, their mission is a serious one. They need the money, and need it quick. More often than not the reason for their crime is to fuel drug habits. Other times they may need money just to feed their family or to pay off a loan shark.[2]

The Opportunist Type

Although the previous burglar is an opportunist of sorts, there is a more opportunistic type that is far sloppier in their approach. These are the guys who choose their victims and their property on a whim. In other words, there is very little forethought into their crime. They are more of a ‘smash and grab’ type that just seize opportunities as they arise. They might pass a property and see an open door or window, have a quick look around, and if the coast is clear they move in. They’re also the type who might break a car window to grab some valuable left on display (click the link to read about how to prevent vehicle burglaries). Brute force is often a desperate action taken by this type of thief if they need to. Obviously they prefer soft targets, those being vacant properties with unlocked or weak doors and open windows.

These criminals have little time for better organized break-ins. Once they get hold of something valuable they know where to go to exchange it for quick cash or hard narcotics.[3]

The Calm and Calculated Types

The calm and calculated burglar takes time to choose their jobs. In general, their victims will be more affluent and therefore have a lot more to offer in way of valuables. The calm burglar may “case a joint’ for days or weeks in the lead up to the crime. They are careful and selective in the properties they burgle. This type invests time and energy into each crime and that means it has to be worth their while. They certainly don’t pound the streets in a slapdash fashion hoping to find something. They will have a keen eye out for desirable properties. They are especially interested in structures which are both attractive and vulnerable in some way.

Needless to say, this type tends to operate in more affluent neighborhoods. For these crooks, it’s not difficult to “read” a property. They will have a pretty good idea from the outside what kinds of things they might find on the inside. They will also see potential flaws in the property’s security that will help them to succeed. More often than not, they will know something of the residents and their daily schedules before they commit the crime.

Avoid Being the Victim of Burglary

It’s a sad fact that most people improve their home security after they have been broken into. It doesn’t have to be like this. You might also think you have a pretty good security setup in place too. Even so, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a security expert to help you secure your home. You might be surprised at just how vulnerable you are. I know I was. An expert is able to see things that you yourself may have overlooked. There are certainly measures you can take that will reduce your risk of becoming the victim of a burglary.

Aside from the usual burglar deterrents, there are some commonsense rules that unfortunately are not all that common. We can all get complacent at times and neglect or simply forget about some very basic security measures. Here’s a recap:

  • Hang net curtains up at your windows to obscure the view into your rooms (burglars love to peer through windows)
  • Make sure you lock all windows and doors before you go out. Likewise, ensure that all the locks on both doors and windows are adequate.
  • Hide valuables, don’t leave them laying around on display. Remove things like tablets, Smartphones, and other electronics from coffee tables and work tops when you’re out.
  • Use timers to work lights, TV, radios, etc when you’re out in the evenings. It’s important that your home looks occupied even when it’s not.
  • Invest in an outdoor security camera system. They are not that expensive anymore.
  • Buy a strong, heavy safe to store your most treasured possessions.
  • If you haven’t got a dog, or a scary dog to protect your property when you’re out, get yourself a dog alarm. Trust me, these are realistic and can prove invaluable.
  • Have precautions in place if you’re going away. Make sure there are no telltale signs that no one is home, like mail accumulating or food deliveries on the door step.

Summing Up

These are a few practical tips that should help you get into a good routine. As for the hardware security options, take a look at our articles on how to better protect your property and minimizing the impact of a burglary. We have pieces that look into the best home alarm systems, CCTV, and motion sensor lighting, etc.





About Mark Bickmore

Hi, my name is Mark Bickmore. I'm an Engineer, who has a keen interest in home security and keeping my family, property and valuables safe from burglars. This website was set up to help me explore the research, facts and myths about burglars and burglary. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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