Last night was the National Night Out annual event here in Midland, Texas. So this might be a good opportunity to listen to a career burglar and try to use that information to protect ourselves from people in his line of work.
This video is available for viewing at the Richardson, Texas, police website. Link. And it contains a brief biography of James, the burglar, as well as Q and A in which he describes how he did his job.
The introductory bio said he became addicted to heroin while serving in Vietnam. He returned to the States with a $400 a day habit, and he resorted to burglary to feed his drug dependency. The video said he was a 40 year old burglar and that he turned 21 in 1971. So that puts the recording date at around 1990. His hair looks a little long for that era, but maybe his long prison sentence locked in the style prevailing at the peak of his career. In any event, the tactics he described could still be in use today.
Now for some of the video highlights. He would follow a UPS delivery truck around and let the driver do the work of determining whether anyone was home. At that time, UPS drivers would leave a yellow card on the door notifying residents that a delivery had been attempted. So there was a notice right there on the front door announcing that no one was home. UPS drivers today are even more accommodating -- they simply leaving the package. James would love that.
At night he would look in residential garages and count cars. If there were two cars at night but none in the morning, that told him no one was home. He used a burglar's tool -- a pry bar especially for doors which would take the whole trim off. A dead bolt lock was useless. Quote:
You can put whatever you want in there, but you're really dealing with just trim and pieces of sheet rock, and the bar I use just collapses all that and without much of a vigorous effort.
People who leave their curtains open and lights on in the belief that it will deter burglars are mistaken, he said. All that did was give him a good view of what was available for stealing.
He didn't want a confrontation after he commenced the burglary, so he would bang on the front door to make sure no people or dogs were inside. If he went around back he would have a story ready in case someone surprised him. Quote:
I've had people walk out in the back yard and say, 'What do you want, what are you doing here?' And I'll say, 'My God, what are you doing still in your home? Don't you know we've got a gas leak reported here? Let me go call it in, what's your address?' And I'm gone. Confusion is what I try to instill.
He worked with a partner, and the two of them took six minutes to burglarize a house. They used sheets and pillow cases to carry the loot and keep it out of sight once it was in his pickup.
He said his victims were consistent in where they kept their valuables. Jewelry would be in a jewelry box on top of the dresser, in a bathroom closet, in the bedroom closet, under the bed, in the top dresser drawer, or sometimes in the bottom dresser drawer. Guns were kept under the mattress or in the closet.
The fence is an important person to a career burglar. James said he would go straight to the fence after stealing something. Quote:
My specialty is having the stuff sold and gone before it's even reported stolen. In that light, you, the thief, you're either good or you're bad. If you're good, you meet people at drug houses, uh, people in the business that, uh, if you're good, you go to prison, you do your time and you got no problems, plus the fact the number of people you meet in prison -- hey what are you doing? -- well, you know what I'm about. You get referrals. I mean, there's no problem about selling the merchandise. You'd be surprised, you'd be literally be surprised. I have a fence that owns five car lots. I have another fence that is a vice president of a very large dealership. Then again I have another one that owns a regular auto body shop. I have another guy who works, he does a lot of the buying for a very big store that's located in the Mexican barrio. And uh, a lot of my stuff goes to Mexico. The VCRs, the TVs, the microwaves, right across the line. ...
I will tell you this. When a number, identification number is scratched on a merchandise, it usually lessens the value of it ... on the fences end, because he has to deal with that.
The video concludes with his tips on how to avoid being burglarized.
Number one, close your blinds, close your curtains, leave the stereo on. The best protection you can have if you don't have an alarm is a dog. A burglar will not mess with you if you've got a dog. Now I say "normally," because I know I don't, and I've only seen a few guys that will mess with them. Like I say, your best protection is an alarm. The next best protection is a dog inside.
Your next best protection is concerned neighbors. People out there, you know, you live next door to each other for three years and you don't even know your neighbor's name. Uh, I can understand privacy, but to a point. I mean if people got together in concern, I bet they could curtail 1/3 of the burglars that are taking place just by involvement. If I'm doing a burglary and I see somebody walk out of a neighbor's house and look at me, I'm gone. Obviously I'm attracting attention, and that's not how it goes. When you get in a concerned neighborhood, you usually don't go back. You know, these people are on their job, you leave these people alone or you'll get busted.
If the embed doesn't work, watch "James, Confession of a Burglar," at this link.