On March 23, 2019, the Washington Post published an article on a string of burglaries in Fairfax County that appear to be the work of a single, “skilled, professional crew.” Police believe this crew may be responsible for 23 burglaries in the County over the past six months, which have resulted in homeowner losses of close to $1 million.
Last year, we published an article that described the profile of a typical burglar. The source material came from two surveys of incarcerated inmates. If you recall, the main observations
were as follows:
- The typical burglar is 24 years old, has 13 prior arrests, and is motivated to steal to satisfy a drug or alcohol addiction.
- Just under one-third conducted advance surveillance on a potential target. What are the homeowners’ weekday schedules? Is it possible to enter and exit out of public view? Are there indications of valuable items in the home? Is there a large dog inside? Is there evidence of an alarm system and/or security cameras? Is there a car in the drive-way? Can a radio or TV be heard? Are lights on in the home?
- All respondents said that they knocked on the front door to confirm the home was empty.
- Entry was most often through unlocked doors and windows or by breaking open a door with a screwdriver or crow bar.
- The master bedroom was considered the best room to search for hidden valuables.
What we learned from last year’s article is that many burglars profile a home’s owners, assess the risk and reward of hitting a given target, and seek to avoid detection. The “professional crew” involved in the recent string of burglaries in Fairfax County used these same strategies to profile potential targets, steal high-value items, and, so far, avoid detection.
Allegedly, the crew has been targeting the homes of families of Asian and Middle-Eastern descent with the expectation that the homeowners are business owners and store large amounts of cash and valuables in their homes. The largest group of victims has been people of Korean descent. The police speculate that the burglars surveil homes and conduct online searches to identify lucrative targets. In all cases, the perpetrators entered through a back door during the late afternoon or evening when homeowners were not home. In one case, the burglars ransacked the bedrooms and a closet in the foyer. So far, burglaries have occurred in Vienna, Great Falls, Fairfax City, Oakton, and McLean.
Apparently, the burglars have had a very successful strategy, and they have used the methods described in our earlier article. If, as expected, one crew is behind this crime wave, they have stolen, among other things, gold jewelry, safes, cash, designer handbags, and gold coins. Just three homes accounted for $800,000 in losses.
So, how do we deter both professional and amateur burglars from invading our homes? We simply lower the attractiveness of the target and increase the risk of detection. Strategies include the following:
- Lock windows and doors
- Increase the length of the screws securing door-lock strike plates
- Evidence of an alarm system
- Visible security cameras
- A big, loud dog or a large water bowl visible from the front door
- The sound of a radio or TV
- A car in the driveway
- Lights on in the home
- Good outdoor lighting
- Trimmed bushes and trees
- Newspapers and packages picked up daily
- Eliminate indicators of valuables in the home (e.g., NRA sticker indicating guns likely present)
- Neighbors that look out for each other and call the police to report suspicious activity