In This Issue

Are you inviting burglars into your home?

July 18, 2012

Six flammable foodsBreak-ins spike during the summer months. Keep your home safe by following advice from those in-the-know—in this case, former burglars.

By: Ashley Weber

Summer steals don’t just happen in stores—they also happen in homes. Research bears testament to this sobering reality, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reporting that home burglaries peak in July and August.

“Burglars are a lot like the rest of us—they want to stay away from the cold weather,” explains Dr. Paul Cromwell, author of Breaking and Entering: Burglars on Burglary, a book full of candid interviews with former burglars, and a professor of urban and public affairs at University of South Florida Polytechnic. Cromwell notes that the average age of an arrested thief in the U.S. is just 17, so many of the summer criminals are kids on break. (Good news for anyone looking to outsmart a burglar, indeed.)

To outwit a thief, try thinking like one. Not sure how? Then check out these tips Cromwell collected from reformed burglars:

Got valuables? Then read this.

Most homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for expensive personal belongings like jewelry. (For ERIE Customers, any belonging with a value of up to $3,000 that is lost, misplaced or stolen is covered under a standard policy.)

But maybe you have items like furs, guns, art and fine jewelry that exceed that limit. If so, give some serious thought to taking out a Personal Inland Marine Policy. This endorsement will protect you in the event a burglar takes off with something extra valuable—or if you lose or misplace the item. To learn more, contact a local ERIE Agent and do the following.

  • Have your expensive items appraised. A proper level of insurance depends on knowing an items’ true worth, and only an expert can let you know that.
  • Make a point to have your valuables reappraised every five to 10 years. If there are any changes, schedule a time to update your coverage.
  • Do a thorough home inventory. The best option is filming all of your belongings—but logging information on paper or in a secure online system also works. When filming, pan over your entire home, stating when and where you purchased pricier items. Then stash the video in a secure, off-site location.

A former burglar tells all

Eriesense recently had the opportunity to hear from a reformed burglar* now serving time for her crimes. Here are her answers about why she led a life of crime, what made her target certain houses and what homeowners can do to protect themselves.

Why did you start burglarizing homes?
My goal was to sell the items for drug money; sometimes, drug dealers would just exchange goods for drugs.

What made certain homes an easy target?
A house with no garage—I could easily tell if a car was there. Also, a working-class neighborhood since the chances of people not being home was better being that many work during the day. A closed-in porch with easy access to a door and windows that weren’t too high off the ground made getting in easier.

What made you avoid certain homes?
Houses that had an alarm system sign in their yard. Also, houses close to other houses because you are more likely to be seen. Large dogs scared me away as well.

How did you break into homes?
Most of the homes had unlocked doors or open windows. If either were locked, I kicked down the door.

What things did you look to steal?
Checkbooks, bank cards, jewelry, laptops, flatscreen TVs, game systems, games and DVDs. Basically, anything valuable.

How did you make sure homeowners weren’t home?
I didn’t—I just planned an escape route in case they were there.

What mistakes do many homeowners make?
Leaving doors unlocked and windows wide open when they aren’t home. Also, glass doors make it easy to see if there are valuables inside—oftentimes, people just leave their prized possessions out in the open. People have alarm systems, but they don’t use them. Or they have the sticker on their doors to scare you, but nothing is activated.

What advice do you have for homeowners to protect themselves against burglaries?
Lock your doors and windows. Avoid glass doors and don’t leave valuables out in the open where they can be seen. Get an alarm system and use it.
*Name not used to protect privacy.

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