The statistics on burglaries can throw up some interesting facts, including this little nugget on whether the perpetrator was known to the victim. In 51% of burglaries the thief was a stranger, but in 49% the victim was an acquaintance of, or well known to the perpetrator. In fact, 31% of burglaries are committed by someone the victim knew well.
This is a surprising fact, and one which may make people wary of their friends and co-workers. While the vast majority of us won’t be associating with known criminals, there are casual acquaintances and co-workers with whom we might discuss our weekend plans, or mention that we hope our package is left in the porch while there’s no one home to sign for it. We’re not thinking that this information is anything other than small talk, but what it does communicate is exactly when our homes are empty. We might also be drawn into conversations by people fishing for information about our security arrangements and unwittingly let slip that we don’t have an alarm, or we don’t set it, or that our children are prone to leaving the house unlocked.
Other common topics of conversation can easily reveal a new purchase of a desirable electronic item, jewellery or designer clothes, or whether we’ve got cash stashed away at home for Christmas or a holiday. When you add all these snippets of information together a very detailed picture emerges, with all the information a thief needs to target your home when they know they won’t be caught, and to know exactly what they’re after, and even where it is kept.
It’s unlikely that our oldest friends have been playing the long game for years, gaining our trust and forming a meaningful relationship just to steal our new TV, but newer friends and co-workers may well be untrustworthy. Until you really trust someone don’t discuss anything that reveals when you’re away from home or any information about your home security and most valuable possessions.
It’s a horrible thought that someone we might have invited round for a cuppa, could go on to violate that trust and steal from us but it does happen. For this reason it’s wise to not leave any financial documents in sight or where they might reasonably be found, and to keep your keys and wallet safely stored somewhere they can’t be taken without you knowing. Some determined thieves will try to gain your trust so they can get invited into your house and check it over for suitability. We’re not saying you should distrust everyone, but it’s better to play it safe than to be over-trusting and end up regretting it.
People we know casually as neighbours, or from the local pub, may also not be entirely trustworthy. Be careful not to say anything in public that reveals too much about your movements and purchases, and if you’re going on holiday make sure you’re not visibly packing the car and talking loudly about how you can’t wait to get away for two weeks. Ask a trusted neighbour to open and close your curtains daily and to remove post from view, and use timers for your lights (or settings on a smart home system) that mirror your normal lighting patterns. A burglar may check you’re actually away before attempting a break in and while leaving a light on is good advice, if that’s the only light that is on and no others go on upstairs at bed time it’s a clear signal that you’re not actually in.
Your friends and family are surely not hardened criminals, nor are your nearest and dearest a big threat, but there are people you will quite happily chat with, who might use the information you give them to commit a burglary that could have been avoided with a little discretion. If in doubt about the intentions of these casual acquaintances then keep your cards close to your chest.