Op-Ed: Security Tips from a Former Burglar

Folks like you helped me earn a living for years. Many of you made valiant attempts to stop me. A few of you managed even to slow me down a little. Only a handful were able to actually thwart me outright, and that select few lived in paranoid lockdown, afraid of the outside world. Their loss, frankly. But the rest, all you wholesome American families living in nice houses with nice kids and nice Labrador retrievers, you were my bread and butter. And my friends, I like a lot of butter on my bread. Home invasion is a young man's game, so when the time came for me to hang it up, I never looked back — until now. Let my lifetime of experience guide you. Use it to build a safer home, to protect yourselves from guys like me. Make no mistake, they are out there. They are everywhere, and their bread is dry and butterless.

Let us begin.

The fancy sign sticking out of your lawn that says, "This property protected by Such-and-Such Security Corporation" is supposed to scare me away, right? Might as well put up a neon sign that says, "We own stuff worth stealing." Whenever I cased out a new neighborhood, those were the houses I targeted first. Most of the time the system isn't turned on anyway, not that it matters. With all due respect to the good people at Such-and-Such Security, their employees are sitting around an office somewhere playing FarmVille. When their computer registers a client alarm, they freak out and run down the hall to hide. I have it on very good authority that this is literally true.

Fido is your best friend. Fido loves you unconditionally. Fido is not — repeat, not — a guard dog. I've never once heard a dog bark while eating a pork chop, which is precisely why I never left for a job without one. Truth be told, I rarely went outside at all without at least a little raw meat in my pockets. Besides, no one who has a properly frightening guard dog has anything worth stealing. Seriously, it's uncanny. The lone exception is the drug merchant community. Side note to any fledgling burglars out there: Do not attempt to steal from the drug merchant community.

If mail is accumulating in your mailbox, then I know you're out of town. If mail isn't accumulating in your mailbox, then I know you asked a neighbor to come pick it up. Either way, I know you're on vacation. Boom, nailed. Nice fifty inch plasma TV you used to have. Get a post office box, and suddenly my job gets harder. Newspapers used to be a dead giveaway too, back when people gave a rat's ass about that sort of thing. These days, an accumulation of newspapers on the doorstep just means the residents are old, and robbing old people is wicked boring.

The one time you leave a door unlocked while you head to the store, that's when I'll open it. The one time you run an extension cord through an open window and then run to pick up the kids from soccer, that's when I'll climb through. The one time you leave your basement bulkhead door ajar assuming that no one will notice, that's when I'll totally be all up in your basement. The one time you switch off the booby traps on your skylight, that's when I'll make my move. The one time you leave a glass door unbarricaded, that's when I'll drive a motorcycle through it.

That fellow who rang your doorbell and asked if the man of the house was home, mumbled something about gas line repairs, then started glancing around nervously, laughing at nothing, and finally bolted away through the hedge into your neighbor's yard, all while conspicuously avoiding eye contact? Surprise! That was me. And I just scoped out the interior of your house without you suspecting a thing.

Is your house made of brick? Guess what, I know you probably have a bunch of spare bricks in the basement. That right there is money in my pocket. Stucco is no better, it has excellent resale value. The best way to go? Aluminum siding. Those long panels are a pain in the ass to carry. Believe me, I have tried many times.

Panic rooms may sound like a fantastic idea, with all that reinforced steel and high-tech surveillance equipment. What a freaking joke. In the business, we call those things "cubes of thievery and death and stealing." Installing one in your home is a one-way ticket to being robbed and murdered. Panic rooms sell for thirty cents on the dollar in the gray market, and removing them is child's play — all it takes is a bulldozer and some dynamite. The fence doesn't care whether you're inside or not. If you're lucky, you may only end up as a drug mule in Thailand.

Do you have an automatic garage door opener? Thanks for the invite.

Does your house face north? Ninety seconds to get inside.

Did you leave your house and go to work today? Dumb move, asshole.

I swear, you people are just begging for me to come out of retirement.

Jonathan Simon was a semi-professional burglar for fifteen years. He was arrested twenty-six times, resulting in four convictions on minor charges. Police never found him with stolen merchandise in excess of $100, and his purported victims claimed only damages to their homes. It's not entirely clear he ever successfully robbed anybody. His "very good authority" about security companies is a former auto-show model he went out with a few times, and he's misquoting her by a country mile. He was very insistent in asking to submit this column, claiming it would help with his parole officer.