Want to keep burglars out of your home? We asked 53 convicted burglars for tips

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Summer vacation time is nearly here. Is your home burglar-proof?

CBS North Carolina reached out to 53 convicted burglars, currently incarcerated, and asked them: What makes a home an easy target, and what kept you out?

We also sent our Sharon Tazewell out on patrol with Senior Officer R.A. Lee of the Raleigh Police Department, looking for suspicious activity.

For example, we’ve all heard that leaving a light on deters burglars. But does it?

The burglars said lights inside the home didn’t stop them.

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“They try to get through a window, they may get cut and hurt themselves,” Lee said. “So, they’d rather risk kicking a door than breaking a window.”

But some will go through windows when the situation demands it. They also look for stashed keys, they said.

What are burglars looking for when they break in?

“Jewelry, cash, computers, anything small they can put in their pocket or pillow case and be gone,” Lee said.

Inmates said nothing spends like cash. One said he looked in the closet for valuables first. Another said he looked everywhere, from the kitchen cabinets and freezer to the vents and even the trash cans.

Lee said objects that hide the front door from the street help burglars.

“If we’re driving by and someone is trying to break into that house, all they’re going to do is duck behind that tree right there and we’d never see him,” Lee said. “The first thing I would tell them is to trim their trees down.”

Most burglars prefer the back door to the front door, Lee said, because passersby and neighbors are less-likely to spot them. But inmates said they typically knocked on the door before breaking in.

Most said they wouldn’t be dissuaded by a security sign, but would leave if an alarm went off.

Lee suggests installing motion lights. And officers always recommend surveillance cameras.

Economical cameras are now widely available for DIY installation. Many will connect to your smart phone. Some will even let you see and speak with whoever is at your door, even if you’re not home — but the person on your porch doesn’t have to know that.

Several months ago in Raleigh, surveillance video showed three men at a home before they appeared to realize they were being recorded and leave.

“We were alerted and saw footage on our security camera of people trespassing on our property and what looked like people approaching our door,” Janet Mobley said at the time.

She alerted police and neighbors immediately.

Lee suggests putting security cameras at the most used door, whether that’s a front or a side door. He also recommends putting one at the back door if there are enough.

“A lot of criminals use sliding glass doors because they’re easy to slide and get them off track. I recommend using a broom stick or some sort of handle so if they open it they can’t get it all the way,” Lee said.

He also suggests getting a dog.

One inmate said dogs made him think twice, because a barking dog attracts unwanted attention.

But one inmate wrote, “”IF I REALLY WANTED IN…ALARM OR DOG, I WILL BEFRIEND YOUR DOG OR KILL IT IF I HAD TO.”

If you go on vacation, Lee said, make sure your trash can isn’t left at the curb and have the post office hold your mail.

Click below to see two completed inmate questionnaires:

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