ABC 4 Utah wants to help you protect your home. So, we sat down with a man who went to jail for burglarizing homes and we spoke to police and a home security expert to find out what all of us can do.
Josh Clawson says "There were times I went into places and... you grab a laundry basket and fill the laundry basket... a little personal safe that was in one of the drawers. And I took a couple TVs. And that was it."
Clawson got away with most of his home burglaries, but the law eventually caught up with him and he spent five years in prison. He has been out 11 years, no longer steals, he's a contractor and a family man. Clawson agreed to talk to us as as way to try to make up for his past and to help home owners learn how burglars think and how they can stop them before they strike.
Clawson says most burglars "go in and fill it up as fast as they can fill it up." He says in a matter of minutes a thief can load up your valuables and be gone. Clawson says many home owners make it too easy for home burglars. "I think a lot of time people don't lock the door behind them." "They leave a window open for ventilation." And he says when people do things like buy a safe - they don't make it safe. "They have bolt holes in them - bolt them down. No one is going to take the time to pull that up. Especially when you are trying to get in and out."
Clawson says too many people also believe their neighbors offer protection. "You put it in a laundry basket and throw a sheet on it and who is going to think or care if somebody is taking a load of laundry to the car?" And he says people make it obvious they are not home, by posting their vacation on Facebook or leaving the same lights on or off day after day. "Don't get into the routine of leaving a hall light on every week." He adds that valuables, like jewelry, are so often in the same place no matter whose house you break into. "People are not going to go through a jewelry box. They are just going to take the entire jewelry box."
So, what can we do to better protect our property and reduce our risk? First, Clawson says you need to understand sometimes a burglar will just "...pull in the driveway like you belong there. Walk around back like you know what you are doing. Open the back door." The former home burglar says some homes are easy targets. "Put it in a laundry basket, put a sheet on it. Put it in the truck and drove away."
Corey Green - with Total Protection home security - wants to prevent your home from being an easy target. "This security system is nice because it is going to cover all my doors and windows. So, if someone approaches my house sirens are going to off. This unit is going to call a central station it's also going to send me a text message."
And police say those texts messages can help them respond and catch the burglars in the act. Lt. Justin Hoyal with Unified Police says "There's a lot of things out on the market today that will help people get alerts and then they can call us and we can get over a lot more quickly."
A security system can't stop every home burglar, but Green says it's one of the best deterrents. "If you have yard signs, window stickers, someone sees you have an alarm they go bother someone else." And if you add cameras - both Green and Clawson say you just added another layer of protection.
Clawson says "That would deter me. I would probably just keep walking." And Green says "Even if all that doesn't stop someone - it should move them along."
But the noise doesn't just need to be from an alarm. I asked Clawson "If you come to a house and you hear TV or music - is that a deterrent?" He answered, "If you heard a TV, definitely. Because most people don't leave a TV on if they're not home." The former thief says most home burglars do not want a confrontation. So, a home owners best defense is making a the bad guy think someone could be inside. "In the back of your head you are going to think is somebody there? And today, you don't know if that person has a gun either."
And Clawson says - right behind someone - is something - specifically a barking dog.
"That's a definite deterrent. Especially if you can hear a dog. That draws attention to you."
Bottom line: The expert, the officer and the former thief say - you can reduce your risk - if you make the thief believe he's increasing his risk. Green says "Every little thing makes it so they are a little less likely to break into your home. Everything you do is helpful." And Clawson says "Anything out of the ordinary, anything that is a deterrent - I believe really works."
A good alarm system can start at $200 with $30 to $50 monthly monitoring fees. Experts say you pay for what you get, but even if you spend $20 dollars on a couple security signs and beware of dog signs that could help protect your home.
Below we have included a home burglary check list:
Securing your home and your valuables:
1. Invest in a Security System: Especially the ones with cameras and text alerts. If someone breaks in you can possibly get police there before they leave.
2. If you have a dog, make sure you have signs telling people you have a dog.
3. Make sure you "lock it down" and turn it on. Locked doors and windows can stop a "crime of opportunity". And an alarm doesn't work if you don't arm it when you leave.
4. Turn on a TV or a radio when you leave the house. Yes, it is a small waste of electricity, but that noise could make a burglar second guess.
5. Don't share on social media. If you are going out of town - don't tell the world. Share your photos after you come home.
6. Hide your jewelry. Instead of actually using a jewelry box - put your really nice stuff in a shoe box and when you leave home put it a child's closet or under a child's bed. Most burglars go straight to the master bedroom and don't search shoe boxes.
7. Hide the cords to your valuable electronics. Laptops and iPads need to be charged and when the cord isn't there - the thief may not take them.