Inside the Mind of a Burglar


Graph of burglary deterrentsClaire Nee is a forensic psychologist at University of Portsmouth and studies the mind patterns of a burglar; she has been studying and interviewing burglars for 20 years. Nee states, "By interviewing burglars over a number of years we've discovered that their thought process become like experts in any field, that is that; they learn to automatically pick up cues in the environment that signify a successful burglary without even being aware of it. We call that dysfunctional expertise" She goes on to state, "In the past, people thought of offenders as impulsive, indiscriminate, opportunistic- they didn't think they were very clever because they usually aren't well educated."

Nee conducted research in prisons, showing convicted burglars photos and plans of houses and streets. After gathering data and reviewing, several similar strategies emergerged. She coupled this data in with another project developed with Martin White of the University of Sussex. Six convicted burglars and six univeristy students were given access to a program developed by Amersterdam's Vrij University that lets users simulate a robbery. To further investigate patterns, Nee took the group of convicted burglars and group of students to a police safe house where engineers filmed the experiment. What Nee and her team found was surprising.

Nee found that burglars have a complex cognitive toolbox of advanced, automatic skills. Almost all of the burglars followed the same route, and stayed in the safe house longer than the students. They started at the master bedroom up stairs, looking for cash, jewelry, credit cards, guns, and a safe that was not bolted down. In bathrooms they looked for prescription drugs. They then worked their way down to the living room, forgoing the larger electronics in favor of small items such as IPads and laptops. Many burglars still abide by the old adage, "Cash is King".

One convicted burglar describes the experience, "The search becomes a natural instinct, like a military operation." Another convicted burglar states, "It becomes routine to concentrate on what's going on around you and where to find things, most concentration is on the risk of someone coming back- the search is natural"

According to Larry J. Siegel in this book, Criminology: Theories, Patterns and Typologies, "Professional burglars size up the value of a particular crime and balance it against the perceived risks. Many have undergone training in the company of older, more experienced burglars."

Burglars do have a chameleon sense when choosing what to wear as well. Blending in with the neighborhood, they wear clothes that do not draw attention. Often they dress with a sense of belonging in the neighborhood; a jogger in athletic sweatpants and shirt, a well-dressed suit and clipboard, or even an old lawn company uniform.

Burglars will also use the tools they have available to them. As Geoff Manaugh compiled information for his architecture website, he met a man who called himself Jack Dakswin. Dakswin, a reformed burglar, explained to Manaugh that he studied and used Toronto's city fire codes to map out building's interior structure and was able to deduce which floors in hotels were coded to be connected to alarms and which were not. Knowing this, is was much easier to go into hotels during conferences and get through floors to rooms with convenient escape plans without the worry of setting off any alarms.

Burglars look for small safes not bolted down, cash, jewelry, guns and credit cards in master bedrooms, and look in all of the obvious places such as dresser drawers, under the bed and mattress, and in the closet. Burglars also look for prescription drugs in dresser drawers and in bathroom cabinets. Most items located in the living room and bedrooms are left in plain sight, such as IPads and laptops.

Studies show that if burglars use a low conscious method and structure the same route once inside, and use environmental cues to assert if they continue the crime or not, home owners can use this to deter burglars. As Nee states, "That's likely to make them abandon the crime"

Studies confirmed deterrents included camera systems, alarm systems with a visible security sign, entry points that are visible, fence gates that have locks and narrow possibilities of escape routes, and automated lights. Most convicted burglars stated that camera systems and alarm systems were the two items that deterred them the most.

Calling a security system specialist will give you the best possible outcome in keeping your home or business from becoming another statistic. The knowledgeable security specialist can ascertain your needs, and find a solution within your budget. He or she can also access your home or business for any weaknesses that would meet some of the criteria that would be burglars look for.

Call Prudential Alarms today for a free consultation at (734) 365-8807 .

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