There’s a post that has been going viral around Facebook recently. An investigative reporter with KGW news in Portland, Oregon was curious about what made burglars stay away from homes, or in the flip-side, what made a house an attractive target for a break-in.

So, he decided to ask some burglars.

The investigative team sent letters to 86 inmates in the Oregon Department of Corrections, all of whom were serving time for burglary. In the letters, the asked the inmates to fill out 17 questions related to how they would break into homes, what they would look for, what kept them away, and when the best were to commit the crime.

For the most part, it seemed that the inmates were honest and open in their responses, eager to prevent people from becoming victims and to give back to the greater community by sharing some of their inside knowledge. They also expressed great appreciation for the opportunity to do so.

In many ways, the responses to the survey were surprising, especially when the inmates offered opinions that ran contrary to conventional wisdom. In other ways, though, the responses enforced much of what police and security experts have been saying for a long time.

Here are some of the major takeaways:

Unlocked doors or windows were the number one way that most burglars said they broke into homes. If there was a forced entry, kicking in a door was preferred to breaking a window, as the loud banging was preferable to loud glass breaking, and broken windows come with the risk of getting cut.

Once inside, burglars said that they would look to steal jewelry, electronics, cash, credit cards and collectibles. One even said they’d look for guns to steal, and that an NRA bumper sticker on a car was a sure sign that there were lots of guns around to steal. Interestingly, the guns were seen more as a target than a deterrent!

Most burglars said they would start their search for valuables in the master bedroom before moving on to the rest of the house, but would check everywhere from the toilet tank to inside cereal boxes. If you’ve ever been the victim of a break-in or seen pictures of what it looks like, that’s why the image of a hurricane going through comes to mind.

Contrary to popular belief, the dead of night is not the typical time when most burglars would prefer to break into a home. In reality, the optimal break-in time was in the early morning or afternoon. A time when kids would be in school, adults would be at work, and nobody would be home for lunch.

While doing any kind of surveillance on the home in advance was somewhat less common (some said they did, others didn’t), knocking on the front door to check if anyone was home was nearly a universal practice. If anyone did answer the door, burglars would make up stories about looking for a lost dog, responding to a Craigslist Ad, or that they simply knocked on the wrong door. Some would even pose as a canvasser with a clipboard and a questionnaire.

As far as deterrents go, burglars said that pets wouldn’t bother them. A small dog, no matter how loud, was unlikely to faze them. A big, scary dog on the other hand, might make them think twice. A light being on or security cameras being present had similar mixed reactions. Some said those could be a deterrent, while others noted that security cameras likely signaled valuables inside, and lights on with blinds closed could actually have the opposite than intended effect, creating an attractive target. Big walls, fences, or overgrown bushes and trees that provided good cover so as to not be seen could also put a bullseye on a house, especially if it was a nice home where a nice car had been parked.

A vehicle in the driveway or hearing the TV or radio on inside were almost sure signs that somebody was home, which would serve as a deterrent.

Home security signs on their own deterred some, but didn’t bother others who, depending on the system, felt they might be able to disarm the alarm or avoid setting it off altogether. If a burglar ever did set off an alarm, though, they would almost certainly get out of there in a hurry.

In order to keep a house safe, these professional burglars suggested having a home be well lit with trimmed bushes and trees, visible security cameras, leaving the TV or radio on, leaving a car in the driveway, getting to know your neighbors who can help lookout for your property, and getting a home alarm system that works.

To learn about how to prevent burglars from entering your home contact Specialty Alarm Engineering today!