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Reformed Thief Reveals The Tricks Of Breaking Into Homes   
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Given the recent crime figures showing that only a tiny proportion of house break-ins are ever solved, it felt somewhat reckless inviting a convicted burglar into my home.

However, forewarned is forearmed, I figured. And as someone seasoned in identifying easy ways to fleece people of their precious possessions, who better to advise me on security than one-time housebreaker Michael Fraser?

While Michael admits to breaking into countless houses in the past, he has spent several decades trying to make up for the sins of his misspent youth by advising thousands of people on how to protect their properties, approaching his work with a unique criminal’s-eye view.

Now divorced and a father of five children, aged 15 to 33, Michael lives on the Isle of Wight from where he runs his security advice business.

So is my home an easy target? Michael reveals the terrifying truth . . .


Living, as we do, in an end-of-terrace house means we’re lucky enough to have an alleyway — and, therefore, don’t have to trail garden waste and other detritus through our kitchen and hall.

The downside, unfortunately, is that it makes us more vulnerable to break-ins than neighbours with no rear access to their gardens.

Consequently, we have a security light which instantly illuminates anyone walking down the path, earning us a pat on the back from Michael.

However, while the bolt on our back gate has a good, strong padlock, the piece of wood it slides into is flimsy — a chunk of soft tree branch nailed on by my husband who, despite his PhD in philosophy, is very near the bottom of the class when it comes to DIY.

‘Anyone looking over the top of the gate would see that one good shove would easily break that wood and release the bolt,’ says Michael.

‘You need a much more solid piece of wood for it to slot into. That way, a potential thief would have to risk drawing attention to themselves, or even injury, climbing over the fence, something they are much less likely to want to do.’


Once in the back garden, Michael is horrified to find shovels, spades and rakes not neatly locked away in our enormous shed but propped up against the fence and walls.

Thanks to us, even the most opportunistic of burglars, who has left home without tools of his own, doesn’t need to worry as we have supplied a whole array.

‘Finding tools lying around the garden makes breaking in so much simpler, as a spade or shears can easily be used to prise open a door or window, rather than risk the noise of smashing glass,’ says Michael.

‘Plus, most criminals would avoid breaking a window or door panel, as there’s a high risk of cutting yourself and leaving behind traces of DNA, which could lead to their arrest.’

The slovenly way that TV aerial cables as well as the excess washing line hang loose down the walls also make us a target.

‘If you’re careless about such things, a burglar would question what other ways you might be slapdash and be more likely to try windows and doors in the hope they’ve been left unlocked,’ says Michael.


Peering through the rear glass door, Michael immediately spots something that many people, like us, keep on show in this, the beating heart of the home: a calendar.

While the fridge seems the obvious place to display it, this turns out to be a huge mistake.

Although I mostly work from home, our calendar includes details of days I will be out of town on jobs, leaving the house empty, as well as when we’re all away on holiday.

‘Many seasoned burglars would check a calendar for clues as to when might be a good time to break in,’ says Michael. ‘Even if the writing is small and the calendar some distance from the window, a determined criminal could zoom in and take a photo of it on their mobile and then enlarge the image for a better view.’

So, chillingly, even a thief who wouldn’t want to risk getting caught by breaking in when someone is likely to be home might easily do the ground work and return when we’re thousands of miles away on holiday.


While we are diligent about setting our burglar alarm at night and whenever the house is empty during the day (the yellow Yale box on the outside wall lets would-be burglars know what they’re up against), Michael says this is nowhere near sufficient to deter determined burglars.

The alarm was installed many years ago by a local handyman and, although it’s gone off a handful of times without explanation, it seems to have served us well.

However, the outdoor box which contains the alarm is so dirty that it’s clear the alarm isn’t serviced regularly. It is, therefore, likely to malfunction regularly and consequently be ignored by neighbours.

Once inside, even if the alarm had been triggered, grubby fingerprints around the keypad numbers used to turn it off mean that a thief wouldn’t take long to figure out the code.

‘An alarm is great in that it attracts unwanted attention, providing homeowners with peace of mind. But it’s essential to get a good one and have it serviced regularly,’ says Michael.

‘Also, remember to wipe the keypad after every use: even if there’s no visible dirt, burglars can figure out a code using a magnifying glass to check for fingerprints.’


Shamefully I hadn’t even noticed that the lock is missing from one of our front living room windows. They are painted shut and the wood has been the recipient of many a patch-up job over the years.

Michael points out that the lock’s absence, juxtaposed beside a matching wooden-framed window which is firmly bolted, is clearly visible to anyone walking past the house. ‘While few burglars would risk the attention they would attract breaking a window on a busy street like yours, they might try giving an unlocked wood window a push, while pretending to be cleaning or doing other work,’ he says.

Especially when one of my children has left an iPad or laptop on the glass cabinet, in full view of the street, as they so frequently do, despite my repeated pleas. People don’t have net curtains any more. Tempted though I may be to put a ‘Beware Of The Dog’ sign in the window, despite not having a pet, Michael advises against it.

‘A hardened criminal wouldn’t be put off by it,’ he says. ‘In fact they would be encouraged, assuming that, if you had a dog prowling around, you wouldn’t have an alarm set, as your pet would trigger the sensors.’


Our modern composite door — made to look like wood but designed with state-of-the-art inbuilt locks — can only be opened and closed using a key, as it has no handle.

Acutely aware of how essential it is to have a latchkey handy, meaning we can easily get out in the event of a fire, we keep one, ever-ready, on a hook by the door. While this provides an essential escape route for the family, Michael points out that it also makes it easy for a thief to get in, not least because everyone who visits, from tradesmen to grocery delivery drivers, is quickly au fait with our set-up.

‘Anyone who knows it’s there could stick a wire coat-hanger through your letterbox and use it to remove the key from the hook and just let themselves in,’ says Michael. ‘A high percentage of burglaries happen in houses where people have recently had work done, so it’s something police always ask about.

‘The tradesmen are unlikely to be responsible themselves, but may pass on information to burglars and then ensure they have an alibi at the time any break‑in happens.’ Michael’s advice is to fit a small wire cage over the letterbox on the inside, which would thwart any attempts to fish for both door and car keys left nearby.


Our first-floor bathroom window, the one most often left open to give it a good airing, is the likeliest entry point for a canny burglar, according to Michael.

Tucked away in the side return extension, it is hidden from sight to all but our immediate next-door neighbours. An agile thief could easily shin up the drainpipe and the opening would be wide enough for most to get through.

However, the sound of the huge array of lotions and potions unavoidably being knocked off the windowsill and into the sink would surely be loud enough to wake the dead.

Even so, says Michael: ‘The first thing any thief who got through the back gate would check is whether the bathroom window was open, as so many often are.’

Even during this heatwave, my husband and older children are now under strict orders: whoever is last to leave the house is responsible for ensuring all windows are firmly shut.


I love sharing photographs of our family holidays and weekends away on Facebook: days at the beach, dinners out and the kids splashing around in a pool.

Not to make everyone back home jealous, you understand, but it’s also a good way of recording memories, which pop up on my page as reminders in future years.

Michael, however, is appalled by these public broadcasts.

Not only am I advertising to my 200 ‘friends’ that we’re away and our house is empty, if they comment, or even just click the ‘like’ button beneath my pictures, their online ‘friends’ can also keep tabs on our whereabouts.

So, potentially, thousands of strangers are aware that our house is empty, should they fancy breaking in without the risk of being confronted.

‘I would never share my holiday snaps on social media, just as I wouldn’t get a taxi to take me to the airport, tipping off the driver, and anyone else he might know, that I’m away,’ says Michael.

‘Some burglars will specifically target those on holiday, jealous that they can’t afford one. So wait till you get back to post your photos.’
Source: Dailymail.co.uk

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