Neighborhood Watch Update

By Chuck Foster

Lakeport Cluster and the Upper Lake neighborhood continue to experience a low level of reported crime compared to the wider area. What is worth noting, though, is that in the area southwest of the high school there was a high number of thefts from autos between mid-January and early February. Just a reminder to make your vehicle an unattractive target (e.g., locked doors, no valuables in plain sight, and parked in a garage if possible).

As a homeowner, I think it is helpful to understand the circumstances that can lead to a home being burglarized. What makes a particular home an attractive target? Alternatively, what can a homeowner do to discourage a burglar? Surveys of incarcerated burglars can provide valuable insight. The following information references studies by KGW News in Portland (86 inmates surveyed) and UNC Charlotte (422 inmates surveyed).

Profile of the Typical Burglar
The average age of a burglar is 24 years old, with 13 arrests for various crimes. The majority reported that burglary was the most serious crime for which they were charged. The top reasons for committing burglaries were related to their need for alcohol, drugs, or cash. Cocaine and heroin were the illegal drugs most often used by these offenders.

Assessing a Target
Just under a third of the offenders reported that they collected information about a potential target prior to initiating a burglary attempt. Considerations included who lives in the home, what their weekday schedules are (weekends are too unpredictable), what they drive, is there a dog, is there a hidden key, and what time would the house be empty and for how long.

Burglars don’t want to be seen. They looked for homes with big fences and overgrown trees or bushes. Blind spots, older window frames, cheap wooden doors, and large trees and bushes or shrubs around the home were all desirable features.

Some burglars looked for indications of desirable items in the home. A nice car, a nice home, and security cameras implied valuables inside. Another clue might be an NRA sticker on a vehicle, indicating that guns were inside.

Attempting Entry
An optimal time for a burglary is a weekday morning or afternoon when adults are at work and kids are in school. Between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. was considered a desirable time window.

All of the inmates who responded said they would knock on the front door before breaking in. If someone answered the door, they would spin a story about being lost, having the wrong house, answering an ad on Craigslist, or taking some kind of survey.

Most reported entering a home through unlocked doors or windows or by kicking open a door. The breaking of glass is too loud and can cause cuts on the way out. Screwdrivers were the most commonly reported tool that burglars carried, followed by crow bars and hammers.

Once inside, burglars looked for cash, jewelry, electronics, credit cards, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and guns. The master bedroom was considered the best room to search for hidden valuables. 

Unacceptable Risks
Fortunately, burglars are deterred by a number of factors. Survey respondents reported that the following conditions would make a potential target less desirable:

  • Close proximity to other people (e.g., traffic, nearby walkers, neighbors, and police officers) 
  • The lack of a good escape route
  • Evidence of an alarm system. Some reported that they would leave the home immediately if an alarm sounded. Only one in five respondents claimed they could disable phones and alarm systems. 
  • Visible security cameras 
  • A big, loud dog; however, small dogs were not considered a deterrent.
  • The sound of a radio or TV on in the home
  • A car in the driveway
  • Lights on in the home
  • Good outdoor lighting
  • Trimmed bushes and trees
  • Neighbors who look out for each other and call the police to report suspicious activity
Not all burglars were discouraged by one, some, or even all of these conditions, but many reported that each one increased their risk of detection and apprehension. 

If you have an interest in becoming a trained guardian of our community, please contact Chuck Foster at

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