It used to be that a burglary would mean replacing the TV or VCR, but in recent times things have changed. Tablets, smartphones, and even your identity can be the items of choice for modern burglars. But rest assured that some traditional plunder still makes the list. So, what are burglars looking for when they break into a home?
Burglars break into homes with a purpose: to steal valuables and sell them for cash. To be effective, this criminal ‘business model’ requires a constant supply of high value and transportable possessions which are easily sold. In the digital era, televisions have become very large and VCRs and DVD players worthless, so neither are particularly appealing to today’s burglar. However, some more traditional items still hold their criminal appeal and, given enough time and access, some burglars may simply steal as much as possible. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the items within your home which are likely to fall into a criminal’s crosshairs.
Generally speaking, cash is still king within the criminal fraternity. It is difficult to trace, easy to spend, and removes the need for a middleman, or ‘fence’. If you leave cash visible within your home, not only will it be stolen during a burglary, but its presence may actually attract burglars and also encourage them to take greater risks in obtaining it. Keep as little cash as possible within your property and always make sure it’s stored securely and out of sight.
Watches and Jewelry
Watches and jewelry are often valuable, very transportable, and easily sold, which makes them a prime choice for burglars. In particular, gold, silver, and precious stones are easily traded on the black market and can be converted into cash within hours of being stolen. Due to this appeal, you should also take care not to advertise these valuables in public; aside from the risk of street robbery, you also run the risk of attracting the attention of professional burglars. Even relatively inexpensive items of jewelry are usually designed to appear more expensive than they are, and this effect is only enhanced when they are illuminated by a burglar’s flashlight. It is important to keep all watches and jewelry stored securely, but if you are fortunate enough to possess very expensive items which you don’t wear on a daily basis, the best place for them is a safety deposit box.
Computers and Electronics
Like most things, computers are getting smaller, and laptops in particular are highly-prized items for burglars. Unfortunately, laptops are not so small as to be easily hidden and by their nature are in almost constant use. So, do what you can to keep them out of sight, but make full use of the in-built security features and lessen the impact if your laptop is stolen. In particular, aim to limit the amount of useful information stored on your computer; tax returns, banking details and any files of a sensitive nature should be stored on a separate hard drive with an appropriate level of security, and in a different part of your home.
The cellphone market has exploded in recent years and the associated cost of individual units has increased exponentially. In addition, almost everybody has one and a family home could contain several. From a burglar’s perspective this meets the desirability criteria well: cellphones are valuable, transportable, and easily sold. They are also very easy to reset and, for the sharper criminal mind, contain a treasure trove of personal data which could be used for further theft, fraud, and even blackmail—consider the personal data (including text messages, images, and video files) stored on modern phones alongside a complete list of family and professional contacts. Always make use of the security features on your phone, and at the very least create a unique access code.
There are three types of keys you should be very concerned about if they go missing during a burglary: vehicle keys, property keys, and work keys.
Vehicle Keys – If you come home to find you’ve been burgled and your vehicle keys have gone, the chances are that they will be in the ignition of your car as it’s being driven away. However, if the keys have been stolen and your vehicle hasn’t, you will need to have the security reprogrammed or, for older vehicles, have the locks changed as soon as possible—the burglars may be planning a return to finish the job.
Property Keys – If spare keys to your home are missing following a burglary, you absolutely must have the locks changed at the earliest opportunity. This is also advisable if the police find no evidence of forced entry—your locks may already have been compromised.
Work Keys – If work keys are stolen from your property, you should report this to your employer as soon as possible. If your profession requires security clearance, informing your management should be high on your priority list upon discovering the theft. This early action will allow appropriate security plans to be activated and damage limitation conducted. Even if you work for yourself, always consider the possibility that obtaining keys to your place of work may have been the intruder’s primary aim in breaking into your property.
Although relatively rare when compared to items of innate value, the theft of documents does occur. Consider the rise in identity theft and online fraud, and it isn’t too difficult to understand their value to a burglar with high criminal IQ. Tax information, bank statements, credit card details, and even medical files should be kept securely, and cross-shredded if not needed. If your home is burgled and you find that documents are missing, take extra care to protect yourself against identity theft. Depending on what has been removed, inform your bank and other relevant authorities as soon as possible, and change all of your passwords as a precautionary measure. In addition, remember to inform the police of exactly which documents were taken; the crime report will then evidence and date stamp the security breach if further crime is thereafter committed in your name.
Bags, Laptop Cases, and Briefcases
There are two main reasons why bags, laptop cases, and briefcases might attract a criminal’s attention during a burglary. Firstly, they may contain other items worth stealing. Secondly, they are useful for carrying other stolen property without raising suspicion; a person walking along a street balancing several iPads, smartphones, and a laptop is very likely to raise suspicion and attract police attention. Somebody carrying a bag or briefcase filled with these items is not. As far as possible, keep such items stored away—don’t make things easy for the burglar.
It is a sad fact of modern life that substance addiction is on the rise, and this often leads to an increase in acquisitive crime. Moreover, it is no longer rare that premises known to store prescription drugs are broken into for that very reason. If you need to store prescription drugs within your home, keep them stored securely, take care not to advertise their presence and, if you have a serious condition, consider creating a separate inventory so that they can be replaced quickly if stolen.
Finally, let’s discuss firearms. If you own firearms and a burglar discovers them whilst searching your home, they will be stolen. Firearms attract a good price on the criminal market and they’re easily offloaded, so always keep them protected within a suitably robust gun locker.
If your registered firearms are stolen during a burglary, it is of paramount importance that you make attending law enforcement personnel aware as soon as possible. This is primarily because your weapon or weapons are now in criminal hands, which presents both a public and officer safety risk, and also because the firearms registered to you will likely be sold to other criminals, and potentially used in a crime. So, documenting the theft officially and protecting yourself against future investigation should be an imperative.
In conclusion, burglars vary in capability, intelligence, and approach, but they all have the same aim: to steal property and make money. All of your possessions are at risk if your home is broken into, but valuable and transportable items will be targeted first, and so should be prioritized in terms of protective security. As far as possible, keep any items falling into this category stored securely, out of sight, and do not advertise their presence to others.