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October 24, 2014

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Former burglar offers tips to avoid being victimized

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The statistics

Burglary and theft are the two most frequent property crimes in Las Vegas. In 2012, police received 25,522 theft calls and 14,220 burglary calls. The next highest crime reported was assault, with 7,102 incidents.

Source: Metro Police

By his count, Tom has burglarized 100 Las Vegas homes and stolen dozens of vehicles, mostly Porsches and other high-end cars.

His haul in all those criminal acts?

“I dunno, probably tens of thousands,” he said.

For years, Tom was an expert thief, stealing jewelry, cash and other items from homes, along with the vehicles he took to the chop shop. He wasn’t a professional, but he acted like one, staking out houses and watching the habits of the people living in and near them.

“I was a very good amateur,” he said. “But I didn’t want to make a career out of it. I liked the thrill.”

Tom, who still lives in Las Vegas, never was caught. And he doesn’t steal anymore. He’s a family man. For him, crime was a few decades ago.

But he knows all the tricks of the trade, the devices that work best to protect homeowners and those that don’t.

The basics

The best deterrents are things that slow down a burglar. If Tom thought a job would take him more than two minutes, he wouldn’t do it.

“It only takes a couple seconds to get into the yard, a few seconds when nobody’s looking, a few seconds to get into the house,” Tom said. “Two minutes. Get what you want, and get out.”

Signature move

If your fridge has beer in it, and a burglar with Tom’s sensibilities breaks in, kiss the beer goodbye.

“I’d always take the beer,” he said. “Kind of my ‘eff-you’ calling card.”

What works

• Get a dog. A snatch-and-grab burglar isn’t going to take the time to see if he can put a watchdog to sleep by feeding it a hamburger full of sleeping pills. He’ll move on to the next house.

• Lock everything. Lock your windows and doors. Lock your car. At night, lock your bike. Locks have existed for centuries for one reason: They deter criminals.

• Put a wooden dowel in the track of a sliding glass door to stop the door from sliding. Otherwise, the doors can easily be pried open.

• Invest in video cameras. Tom said a good four-camera system costs about $150. Smartphone apps can connect your home surveillance system to your phone, and video can help police catch the criminal if your house is burglarized. “HD video is so clear, police who patrol the area can usually recognize who it is right away,” Tom said.

• Get to know your neighbors. Post details about suspicious activity on neighborhood websites and social media.

What doesn’t work

• Don’t hide cash in a freezer or refrigerator. Burglars know to look there. Closets and night stands also are common hiding places.

• Alarm systems are hit and miss. Tom said they never scared him much. He’d be gone long before private security company employees arrived.

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