The summer season is often the one with the most at risk of theft, probably because of so many people going away on holiday and the time we tend to spend out of the house to fully enjoy the summer, whilst it lasts. It is also a time of year when the worries of the winter just ended are sometimes left behind and, precisely for this reason, it is easier to believe the common myth “Well, if they want to steal, they’ll come anyway!” (See our serial blog), and so we simply close the door behind us and leave the house.
In reality, whilst it is true that one shouldn’t spoil the holidays by worrying too much, it is also true that understanding how thieves think and act, in addition to adopting some useful measures to stop them coming, can be decisive to ensure failure of the thief’s plans so that, on our return, we find the house just as we left it. The suggestions we are providing today are obviously useful at any time of the year.
« I used to spot my victims almost everywhere: at the bar, at the supermarket, on the street. And I began to follow them to see where they lived. Today it doesn’t happen anymore, but I still recognise who earns a good salary and therefore lives in a beautiful house».
These are the words of a professional thief who, in an interview reported in the Corriere di Parma, decided to reveal the “trade secrets”. Someone who knows how to steal is in fact able to collect information on the lives of the victims (daily routine, time of exit, time of return) without anyone having time to notice. The thief also said:
«It’s simple, you see them in the bar, at the supermarket or on the street, dressed well, with the right jewels and a Rolex on their wrist. Then you start to follow them. Believe me, no one has ever noticed. You take your car and follow them home, if you see that they do not enter the house immediately you play for time, taking a look also at the neighbourhood».
It doesn’t take long to study the area, their routines and habits and, precisely for this reason, it is hard to notice:
«For a while you wait around in front of the house to understand the comings and goings and above all who actually lives there. Five days, at the most a week, is enough, then you go into action. You know where they live, where they work, where they visit, their habits and routines».
“Successful” thefts are often preceded by a preliminary study. So let’s try to understand what the “warning” signs may be which indicate that surveillance by a thief is underway.
1. The unmotivated disappearance of a guard dog, as well as its poisoning, are possible signs that it has been targeted.
2. The triggering of a car alarm is a good way for a thief to check if neighbours are attentive to what happens in the neighbourhood and whether law enforcement is called or not. In other cases, they could empty the fuel tank to prevent the return home at the usual time and thus gain time.
3. Until a few years ago cold calls where there was nobody actually on the line were common, now it is often the telephone companies themselves who are disturbing. However, since the phone is one of the simplest ways to check if you are at home, if you do decide to have a landline it is always a good idea to answer rather than let the phone ring.
4. If you suddenly can’t open the front door because the key seems to be stuck in the lock and there are signs of tampering or unexplained wear and tear, someone may have already tried to get into the house. In these cases it is essential to change the lock and not forget to close the door. (Remember that the key can also get stuck for other reasons. For more details, we recommend reading these blogs, Part 1 – Part 2).
5. The presence of street lamps near the house which begin to work intermittently may indicate that someone suspicious is keeping an eye on the area. Thieves often unscrew the bulbs of the street lamps to be able to move around unnoticed. It is important to also pay attention to strange signs on the intercom, gate or door, as thieves often use symbols to communicate with each other and indicate that a house is easy to enter.
Here are some tips we suggest you bear in mind:
- Avoid trashing documents which contain bank details or sensitive and personal data without having previously made them illegible by means of a document shredder.
- Avoid “BEWARE OF THE DOG” signs when there isn’t even a dog, as it denotes weakness. Just imagine that a thief has been lurking around house for several days and has never seen a dog in the garden; he might obviously think that the fear of the homeowner is justified by the presence of valuables kept inside the house.
- Clear the mailbox of junk mail often to confirm to a potential thief that there is someone in the house.
- Always pay the utmost attention to people who enter the house, to prevent a thief from taking advantage of the opportunity to check what the valuables are and where they are located.