Being a victim of a home burglary is always leaves a mark long after the police are called in and the insurance claim made. House break ins leave you rattled, paranoid and make you feel in your own home.
But no matter the scale of the burglary, you often question how the burglar gained entry and how exactly they new when to target your home.
Well, OurHood reporter, Hannah, had the the opportunity to sit down with a burglar and ask the questions you’re itching to know…
Today we’re talking to Robin, an experienced criminal, to find out things a burglar won’t tell you. Hi Robin. Could you start of by telling me about yourself and where you come from?
Hi Hannah. My name is Robin Pilfer. I’m a 24-year-old South African citizen. Growing up, my family never had much money. Mostly my grandmother and uncle raised me while my mother worked as a domestic worker more than 60km away from our house. I never knew my father and never asked about him either.
I understand that you dropped out of high school at a young age. what drove this decision?
I dropped out of school when I was fourteen. I never really liked school much. I wasn’t smart or good at sport so no-one really paid much attention to me. I left school because I wanted to make money. Money we never had.
How did you plan on making money?
I tried selling fruit with my uncle but what can you do with R80 a week? I was close to fifteen when I joined the local gang. They gave me R500 a week to pack drugs from a big bag into small, sellable packets. I was so good at my job with the gang I was soon promoted.
So this was your introduction to crime?
Yes, I committed my first serious offence three days before my 16th birthday. I held up a taxi on-route to the city. I made almost R3 000 that day; people have fancy phones and jewelry. R8000 in total but the gang took their share.
How did you then move onto burglaries?
I was one of their best muggers and was again promoted, this time to home burglaries. I was good at this too despite having no security training or background. I’m unemployed but I manage to make a living from house break-ins. I’ve committed over 100 crimes and only been arrested once. However, a lack of evidence couldn’t link me to the crime. I told you I was good.
So let’s talk about breaking into homes. How do you choose a target?
Well firstly, I won’t commit a burglary in my own neighbourhood. I don’t mind driving 10 -30 minutes from where I live.
Secondly, targets are not spontaneous, I’ll observe, plan, time and execute. I almost always have inside information. People often make it easy to gather the information I need.
What do you mean? Surely people nowadays are less trusting of strangers and have a keener sense of security.
I will plant a few “tests” that will give me all the information I need. People often overlook the details.
I look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
I love those flowers and fancy yard toys your kids leave outside. That tells me you have taste … and taste means there are nice things inside.
The decorative glass at your front entrance makes it easy for me to see if your alarm control pad is set.
What’s the common misconception people have about burglars?
Easy, they think we look like crooks! In fact, I do my best to never, ever look like a criminal. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard, an official badge or dress like a construction worker or a lawn guy.
And if I am caught, of course I’ll look familiar to you. I was at your house cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
People often wonder how burglars managed to get in. How do you do it?
I’d ask you if I could use the bathroom. While I’m there, I’ll unlatch the back window. People sometime forget set their alarms or lock their doors especially when they’re fumbling in the rain. I’ll be there, watching because bad weather doesn’t deter me.
You know that window you leave open during he day to let in fresh air; well it lets me in too.
I will also look into your windows to check out what you have. People love leaving their curtains and blinds open to catch the natural light.
I’m sure there is some noise associated with breaking into a house. But neighbours often say: “I didn’t hear anything”. How is this possible?
People are generally unobservant. I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbour hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go back to what he was doing.
However, sometimes neighbours react immediately and they have noisy dogs that alert them. Then I’ll get out as quickly as I can.
So once you’re in a house, do you a specific plan?
Of course, I’m a professional aren’t I? I go for flat screen TVs, gaming stations, laptops – these can be sold to anyone for quite a bit. I also go for jewellery and other small valuable I can quickly grab. I’ll even steal your safe if it isn’t bolted down.
What can people do to deter you?
Well I already mentioned nosy dogs and nosy neighbours. But I will also look for a sign if someone is home. If there seems to be activity inside, I’m less likely to break in.
So there you have it neighbours! Remember to always be vigilant and make sure your property is properly protected. Alert your neighbours to any suspicious activity on OurHood.
Your friendly neighbours at OurHood!
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*The above information is based on safety tips and research regarding burglars and do not reflect real life events. Characters and events are purely fictional and do not represent any real people.