MORGAN PARK — Six convicted burglars shared their tricks of the trade with homeowners from Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park.
After a short talk about the 911 call center, Sgt. Maudessie Jointer brought six men convicted of burglary onto the stage. They are all at the end of their sentences and have been assigned to a work-release program.
Jointer asked them a series of questions about their past crimes and what they looked for in a home, vehicle or business that they targeted for burglary. Their brutally honest answers left many aghast.
Here are a few tips:
The best deterrent is a nosy neighbor. The panelists seemed to agree that they would often pass up houses on blocks where neighbors and children were out and about. For this reason, Jointer recommended befriending neighbors on all sides — up and down the block.
Having a dog will not prevent a burglar from breaking in. Mark, 37, said he simply let the dog out the back door when he burglarized homes. Dustin, 23, kept a package of hot dogs in his back pocket.
John, 46, said he'd sometimes steal the dog along with the homeowner's other possessions.
"He's goin' with me," he said.
All neighborhoods and areas are susceptible to burglary. Dustin preferred to burglarize rural farmhouses. Rob, 33, stole items from cubicles while people were away in meetings. Mark preferred upscale suburbs.
Almost all of the burglars worked alone ... and fast. Mark was the only burglar who worked with a partner, saying the pair could cover more square footage by working together. Everyone else worked alone, and all of them were in and out of the house in about five minutes.
Pre-surveillance or "casing" a house was common among the thieves. Several of the burglars said their crime was merely one of opportunity. This included Don, 28, who stole cars and was always on the lookout for an unlocked car — particularly one with the keys in the ignition.
But most said they did some type of homework before a burglary. Mark said he'd often pop the hood of his car and knock on a nearby door looking for help. If nobody answered, he figured it was probably empty.
Dustin said he'd watch Facebook for people to post the details of an upcoming trip. Then he'd break in while the family was away.
Some wore disguises ... but not a ski mask. Several of the burglars liked to work at night, so they wore black clothes. Rob wore a business suit when he stole items from office buildings.
But John was the most creative burglar, saying he had outfits that made him look like a UPS delivery driver, a construction worker and a mail carrier. He felt these outfits all made him look less suspicious when snooping around a house.
Master bedrooms are not a safe. Nearly all of the burglars said they would target master bedrooms upon entering the house. Lingerie drawers and nightstands tended to be treasure troves of cash, jewelry, guns and other valuables.
Man caves and garages were also popular places for thieves to find goods. But the bathroom might be the most lucrative, as prescription drugs fetch some of the highest prices on the street.
Alarms systems are often not enough to deter an ambitious burglar. Nearly all of the burglars said they'd prefer to steal from a house without an alarm. But having an alarm is not enough, since most of them would be in and out of the house before the police could respond.
John said he'd cut the power to the house once the alarm went off. And in some cases, he had inside connection with the alarm companies that would feed him an override code.
In all, the burglars agreed that a layered approach to personal security is best. It's not just about having an alarm or a reinforced door or a nosy neighbor or cameras. But if you have all three of these things, a burglar is likely going move on to an easier target.
"Your average burglar is an opportunistic burglar," said Torezz, 45.