The first minute is spent finding a way out, in case you return. If they came in through a broken window, they will be looking for keys left in doors / cupboards, to open a door, preferably a back door / patio door, to be able to get out quickly.
If they climbed in through a smashed window, we want them to have to climb back out, through that window at speed, increasing the chances they will cut themselves and we will have blood to analyse for DNA. That is why they are looking for keys.
If you have a wooden front door, they will put on the door chain. If you return, you won’t be able to get in. You will be confused and rattle the door, wondering how you put the door chain on. That is enough notice for the Opportunist to leave immediately. If you come back, they never stay, but always make off immediately.
Once they have established a quick exit, they start to search. The Opportunist will never have been inside your house before. They start, upstairs, with the master Bedroom, upstairs.
They begin with any jewellery boxes on dressing tables and whatever is inside the bedside cabinets.
They remove a pillow case from the bed and just start putting things inside. It is rare for them to search through jewellery, they don’t have time, unless they know the owner will not return, in which case they tip it out onto the bed and search through, for the most valuable, real looking items.
As a result, nothing of value must be left in either of these places. You know your house best and where you could hide something, which would take the Opportunist more than 5 minutes to find.
You may have a loose floorboard under a rug, a kickboard in the kitchen which can be removed, something only you know about. My aunt had full length curtains in her living room and attached a pocket, made of the same lining material to the back and dropped her jewellery in that. No-one would every have found it.
If you do hide your jewellery / valuables, you must tell someone you trust, in case something happens to you ! AND - you must remember where you have hidden it !!!!
Next, they will check out wardrobes and suitcases, on top. Many people, have had safes built into the base of wardrobes, as the depth is suitable, to take a safe. Thieves know this. A safe, is only as secure and the material into which it is set. Wardrobes, are generally made of MDF and safes, can be levered out. If you have a safe, it must be properly imbedded - and no-one must know you have one.
We have had leather jackets, designer clothes and shoes stolen as well as valuable perfumes / after shaves.
Asian 22 / 24 carat gold wedding jewellery, is a real problem. Generally it is only removed from banks and kept in the house when there is a wedding or other big event. These are usually well publicised so people know it will be there. Houses are not built to have such items inside securely. If it is in the home for a few days it must be really well secured.
Chests of drawers will be searched. The opportunist starts with the bottom drawers first and throws the contents across the room. Underwear and clothes will float across the room, jewellery, watches, money and valuables, will make a noise, separate out and be easily found. Always remember - the thief is not cleaning up and doesn’t care how much mess they make, their only priority, is speed.
Separate out your jewellery. Keep to hand, what you wear all the time. Costume jewellery can be left out. Rarely worn valuable items and most importantly, sentimental items, must be well secured. As a general rule, you will never get it back if it is stolen. Sentimental items may have little financial value and cannot be replaced under insurance. It is often the little value sentimental items, something inherited, given by your children, which causes most concern, as it can never be replaced and financial Insurance compensation, cannot compensate you for the loss.
Hide those items most carefully. We generally recommend storing it in the loft, as you don’t need to access it frequently. In the last year, we have only had about 1 burglary, where the thief accessed the loft. It is a dangerous place for a thief. If you return, they are trapped.
I have mentioned several times - if you have valuable watches, these must not be stored, in their presentation boxes, with instructions and receipts. With these things, they can easily be sold to reputable dealers who will give them a good price. Rolexes and other valuable watches, have much less value if you don’t have the box and it increases the chances that it is stolen. We record all stolen valuable watches, with the ‘Safer Gems’ newsletter, which is circulated to all jewellers.
Photographs of jewellery / watches. A photo of you, at an anniversary dinner, wearing your jewellery, is not sufficient. If we recover jewellery, you will have to prove the items belong to you. Think about how you would identify your solitaire diamond engagement ring, from the thousands of others out there. You can easily photograph your jewellery, with your mobile phone and email the pictures to yourself and keep them in your inbox. Take a photo from above, looking down on the item. 18ct rings for example, do not stay round for very long, as the gold is so soft. Take off your rings and look. That shape could, if overlaid against a recovered ring, help identify it as yours. Details of the hallmark helps - that gives the year of manufacture and gold content. Look at the claws. If you wear rings together for any length of time, one side generally shows evidence of wear / scratches- photograph that unique damage, it will be unique, to your item
If you have ever had any item cleaned, or valued by a jeweller that would help. You may not be aware that generally, jewellers photograph most items, when you take them in. It is to protect themselves, in case when they give it back, they say it has been scratched / damaged. They have the photos to show the condition when it was brought in. If watches are repaired, jewellers sometimes mark the inside of the back cover. So - if you have had your jewellery in a jewellers, ask them, in case they have this detail and good photographs / descriptions, of your items.
Think about photographing other valuables, at the same time - it only takes a few minutes. Make a ‘set up’ and do everything that is valuable and might possibly be stolen. This would be really useful, in the case of a burglary - but fires happen and then listing valuable items and proving value, can be a nightmare.
Think about a short video on your camera, of all your contents. Start from your front door and do a video walk through, of all rooms. It can help after a burglary, as it can sometimes take months to establish exactly what was taken. In the case of a fire, it can also be invaluable.
NEXT Bedroom. If you have children, it will be their bedrooms next. They will have Xboxes, play stations, laptops, video / computer games etc.
Then the thief will start downstairs - having only a few minutes left. If you have an airing cupboard, the thief will pull everything out, as people hide items between the towels / sheets.
The Ground Floor: The first room targeted will be the kitchen. Thieves will empty out all the kitchen cupboards, swiping everything across the room. Imagine the mess. They will be looking for tins containing cash / keys. Fridges and freezers, will be emptied, as people hide jewellery amongst the frozen peas.
Decorative Boxes on kitchen walls to hold keys !! These must be removed immediately. Particularly, if they contain labelled Neighbours’ keys - ‘Mr. Smith at No. 5’, ‘Mrs Jones at No.27’, ‘front door’, ‘back door’, ‘spare car keys’ etc.. All keys, must be hidden, where it will take the thief more than 5 minutes to find.
Car keys must be particularly protected, particularly spare car keys. If the thief finds these, they are likely to take those and your car on the driveway. They will also be able to load larger items into the car and drive it away.
If the car is not there, having the spare keys, they could return to steal it. You will have to have the keys changed to prevent this. That is an expensive business.
NEXT Room is your study, or the place you keep paperwork. They want - cheque books, pension books, building society / credit card / bank account, statements - passports - anything that can provide evidence, to copy and steal your identity. These items are really difficult to hide, as often there is a lot of it and it is bulky. Perhaps, there is a way of storing and hiding it, in a garage / basement / loft.
Old documentation: It is not always necessary to shred it, when disposing of it, but it must be torn into pieces, to prevent anyone using those documents, to create bank accounts and other fraudulent transactions.
The Opportunist Thief will not be doing this, but they will know someone, willing to buy these items from them. Identity theft is massive. Don’t make it easy.
Last room will be the living / sitting room. Often, people have valuable items on display. They will fill up the pillowcase / or a sports bag, if they have been lucky to find one - with whatever they can pick up.
Often, they will put the items stolen into a plastic supermarket bag, to keep them dry and hide them, near the property - perhaps in a hedge, or behind those roadside electrical boxes, for collection later. You may have returned and called the police, who will be carrying out an ‘Area Search’, for anyone looking suspicious and the thief cannot be caught with anything on them, which could tie them, to the burglary.
Thieves generally won’t travel to burglaries in their own cars, they chose to travel around, using public transport. It is safer to come and go on a bus, where they are unlikely to be searched.
Call the police if you see anything out of the ordinary. You may not know exactly what you have seen, but something drew your attention. Rely on your instincts, they are there for a purpose, to protect you and our brains, are really good at protecting you. Just go online at the TVP website and fill in an intelligence report - information that we may find useful. We had a case several years ago, where our Area Co-ordinator in Maidenhead, was walking home and a car sped out of a side road. He thought it was so suspicious, he wrote down the index on his hand and when he got home, phoned it through to the police. We looked it up and said thank you, but it didn’t appear suspicious. Several hours later, the owner of a house in that road returned home, found they had been burgled and phoned the police ! We already had the index of a car, which may have been involved - brilliant !