Interview with a burglar

There is an idea out there that criminals are, by in large, idiots. Criminals can be extremely impulsive and regularly make news for doing incredibly stupid things…often when ingesting drugs are involved…but, to paraphrase Robert DeNiro’s character in Heat they aren’t all doing thrill-seeker liquor store holdups with a “Born to Lose” tattoo on their chest. A good many of them live closer to the edge of survival than the vast majority of law abiding people ever will. You can’t do that for long while being incredibly stupid.

The police department in Allen, Texas recently put out an interview they did with a career criminal specializing in residential burglary. It’s a gold mine in terms of understanding criminal motivations, resourcefulness, and the way they look at the world. This guy was one of the smart criminals, who had gotten away with plying his trade for at least twenty years.


Some things to make note of in this interview:

This individual worked as a personal trainer. In other words, he used a legitimate looking job as a means of getting access to neighborhoods and houses so he could case them for a heist. Criminals are predators, and predators are always on the hunt. He was mindful of how he presented himself and tried to blend in and look plausible enough not to raise anyone’s notice. Think carefully about who you allow to have a look inside your house and how much they get to see. I’ve seen bad guys case neighborhoods using Trick-or-Treating as cover. Anything is fair game to these guys.

People who don’t belong in your neighborhood ought to be treated with healthy suspicion. You don’t necessarily have to be best friends with your neighbors to know what they look like and what kind of cars they drive. If you’ve lived somewhere more than a couple of months you should be able to get a feel for what people belong there and what vehicles belong there. When an unfamiliar element shows up, it should raise your suspicion.

Many alarm systems can be easily defeated. They work on telephone signals and defeating them can be as simple as cutting the main phone line into the house. This is often much more exposed and vulnerable than it should be in most homes. A wireless system or wireless backup that works on cell phone signal, however, is a much tougher nut to crack because he has no effective way of cutting off the signal. If you don’t know how your alarm system functions, find out and make sure yours isn’t easily beaten. Note also that the systems he is most afraid of are those that connect directly to the police and guarantee a police response. The majority of alarm systems sold are managed by third party companies (ADT, for example) and do not guarantee a police response. The smart bad guys know the difference. Also note the mentioned utility of an alarm horn loud enough to alert the neighborhood to the break in.

He also discusses glass doors at length. Here again we are getting an insight into the differences between the criminal mind and the law abiding citizen’s mind. Glass doors and entry ways can be very pretty and used to create beautiful lighting in your home. They’re also a positive boon to a dude like this looking to take your stuff or at least get the advantage on you. Those pretty glass features stream information into the world and he’s looking to download the data. A house that’s streaming that information is more attractive than one where he has no easy means of seeing into the home. Your neighbor’s pretty glass door versus having a solid entry way with any ground level windows curtained, blinded, or otherwise blocked from view can be the difference between this guy trying their house over yours. Deselection in practice.

Take the time to watch this video and digest the information in it. The more you understand about how criminals think and operate the less likely you are to be a victim.





  1. The part about the cutting the wires to the alarm system is entirely false. Those system use keep-alive pulses. If you cut the wires, the system on their end is immediately informed and the alarm is triggered. The alarm is receiving a “don’t go off” “don’t go off” “don’t go off” pulses all the time.

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of this “interview” is staged and may not 100% reflect reality. It kinda reads as a script for exactly points the police dept wants to push.

  2. Agreed with the opening lines; in fact, it may be that those believing criminals are idiots, may be so themselves . . . . .

  3. Few jurisdictions permit direct connection to the PD from residence alarms, due to false alarms, so that specific advice is of little use to most readers. Anyone contemplating an alarm needs to do a lot of homework.

  4. It’s also trivially easy to buy a cell phone jammer these days. One powerful enough to stop a cell signal over a residence can be had for a couple hundred bucks.

  5. Thanks for posting this. Lots of good stuff to think about in here. For me, it’s worth keeping in mind that *this guy* (a burglar) isn’t really the guy I’m worried about. He has a tangible objective and puts a priority on NOT being seen/detected/leaving evidence.

    The home invader almost certainly doesn’t use the same calculus, and speaking as a ‘potential target’, I’m unlikely to know ‘which one’ this guy is.

  6. Post the transcript! A lot of us don’t have time to sit and watch the video.

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