The thought of someone breaking into your house is sickening. Imagine a stranger wandering around YOUR home picking up YOUR valuables. As homeowners, we want to know what the burglar is thinking, and the best way to protect ourselves and our families.
It’s nearly impossible to know what a thief is thinking unless you are one. For nearly 20 years, Michael Shayne Durden burglarized and ruined people’s homes and lives around Dallas and Collin counties. He sat down for a jailhouse interview and reveals everything about what his perfect home to break into looks like and what you can do to stop it.
Michael Shayne Durden
Michael Shayne Durden is looking at 20-30 years in prison for his criminal past. He’s been in trouble with the law dating all the way back to 1991.
He was finally locked up in 2015 for breaking into a house and stealing thousands of dollars worth of property. He’s now making it his mission from jail to ensure that every property owner knows how to protect their home to the best of their ability.
He Feels Guilty
I guess it’s taken a few years in jail for Durden to reflect on his life. He realizes that he’s done more harm than good and wants to try to be a positive force from behind bars.
He says that the pain he feels behind bars comes from finally being sober for a long period of time. The information that he gives in this interview is stunningly effective and gives us a perspective like never before.
It Starts With The Neighborhood
Durden says that when he’s in the planning stages of looking for a new house to rob, he looks for specific neighborhoods.
If you live in a middle-class community, you could be in luck. He says that if you’re a serial thief, you’re probably going to be targeting houses that cost a lot of money. This is common sense. Where there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of disposable income.
Looking For Fences
He says in the interview, “from my perspective, you look for families with a certain socio-economic status. With money comes disposable income, which for me means that they’ll probably have jewelry and cash laying around.”
He says that he’s looking for well-kept homes, specifically with nice fences. They aren’t cheap. If you can afford a $10,000 fence, the inside of your home is probably packing some goodies that a burglar is going to like.
What Keeps Him From Going To A House?
I know what you’re probably thinking he said, but let me tell you, it’s not just a security system. A lot of big houses have security systems.
It’s so easy to go beside a house and cut the wiring so that there’s no electricity flowing into the house at all. Durden says that there are now wireless cameras that help to protect from being able to be turned off, which is something to look into.
Too Much Effort
He says that to beat the wireless system is nearly impossible. It’s a lot of effort for a burglar to have the tools to beat that camera. The effort alone would be enough to drive most burglars to the next house.
Durden says that letting someone know (by putting it on your front door) that you have a wireless security system is a big step to deterring any potential burglars.
What About Dogs?
When asked about dogs being a deterrent, Durden says that sometimes they can be but not always. He says that a big mistake people make is assuming that their dog is going to automatically attack someone.
That isn’t the case most of the time. He says that another big mistake is having a huge glass window near the front door that allows people to basically see everything inside of your house.
The Dog Will Look For Other People
He says that good burglars will use dogs to their advantage. Dogs know that they aren’t the alpha of the house. Durden says that he would go to the front door, knock, and wait to see how the dog reacts.
The dog will always look to go get someone else to open the door. If the dog goes to look for someone, that usually means that there’s a person home.
Not The Deterrent You Thought They Were
Durden says that small dogs aren’t a deterrent, no matter how aggressive they are. If there was a big dog, he would stick his hand to the front door window to see how the dog would react.
He would always carry spray around with him that could paralyze an aggressive dog for the amount of time he would need to grab and go. All in all, dogs might not be the big house protectors you may have thought they were.
The Nosy Neighbor
Durden says that an active neighborhood matters. He can’t count the number of times that he entered a neighborhood to scout it out, and saw a consistent amount of people walking and talking on front lawns.
He event went as far as to applaud the Neighborhood Watch program which actually works to deter potential burglaries. The thought of being confronted by a neighbor is the worst case scenario for a burglar.
Get To Know Routines
It’s important to get to know your neighbors, and let your neighbors know you. Yes, sometimes they’re annoying, but they can be the difference maker if anything were to go wrong.
You should know their routine, and they should know yours. That makes it easier to spot anything weird going on in the other yard. Confrontations, or even activity near a house, will almost always be enough to keep away the thieves.
Thief Vs Home Invader
“I’m not a home invader. I don’t go into houses to tie people up and steal things. I’m a thief. I’m not proud to say that. I don’t want to come in contact with anyone, especially someone who can later identify me.”
It may seem weird, but sometimes your best defense against someone breaking into your house is the merit of the people that surround it. The reality is, you can’t be home all the time.
What Is It About The House?
This is where it starts to get very interesting. Durden talks about what is the initial draw to a house. He says if you go into a poor neighborhood and the yard isn’t well-kept, he thinks that they don’t have the money for the up-keep. That’ll turn him away immediately.
But, if he goes to a nice neighborhood and the yard is unkept, that’s usually a tell-tale sign that the family is gone.
If you’re going on vacation, it’s imperative that you have your neighbors get your mail. One of the biggest signs that someone is gone from their house is a clogged mailbox.
Durden also lays out that many burglars will stroll around on trash day. If you don’t have your trash out on the front lawn, it probably means you’re not home. These break-ins are very well thought out and calculated.
Durden would scout his houses on foot. This allowed him to be more precise and less sketchy. He would mask himself as a jogger so that he would have an alibi in case he got questioned by someone.
He would park his car one mile away from the house because he knew that it would only take him a few minutes to get to his vehicle after he broke into a house.
Front Of The House
When asked about what he looks for in the front of a house, he mentioned visual pathways. I had talked about it before in this article, but he means windows and views into the home.
He wants to be able to see if there are any lights on in the home. If he notices that the lights aren’t on, he’ll walk up to the front of the home and knock on the door.
Looking For The Shadow
He’ll knock and knock and knock to make sure that no one is home, to the point that he would even annoy himself.
He looks for shadows and reflections from people who could be in the home, but afraid to go to the door. Durden says that it’s important to keep a light on even if you’re not home. But, don’t put the light on in the front room. It’s too obvious.
Keep The Light On
He says that you need to put the light on in the center of your home, like in the living room or some other room where people could conjugate.
You shouldn’t want the light to be easily seen, because that usually means someone is lingering in that room. Even if he doesn’t see a shadow from the center room, it will still make him weary as to whether he should go in or not.
Look Into Buying A Timer
Durden says that you can buy timers which are huge deterrents. They’re pretty cheap, but could help you get rid of a potential burglar.
The timers can turn on lights every thirty minutes, or even turn on stereos. Most thieves have scouted out your home at least a few hours before they enter. So, if you have a timer turning on and off your lights when you’re not home, that’s perfect.
Don’t Be Afraid To Report Someone
One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they’re afraid to report someone being suspicious. Durden says that the number of times he could’ve been reported, but wasn’t because people were afraid to ruffle feathers is crazy.
If you see someone lingering around your neighborhood that shouldn’t be there, don’t be afraid to contact the police. It’s a minor inconvenience for an innocent person, but it’s a major deterrent for a burglar.
If you know that you’re not going to be home for a few days, communicating with your neighbor to put their car in the driveway is important.
It seldom happens, but Durden says that seeing a vehicle in the driveway can be the easiest deterrent. If your neighbor is willing to park their car in your driveway while you’re gone, or you can get a ride to the airport from someone else so that your car stays put, that can be a difference maker.
If Someone Suspicious Is Knocking At Your Door
Durden gives some great advice for anyone who is scared to open a door if they think someone suspicious is there. He says to pretend like you’re on the telephone.
Yell, “just a minute, I’m on the phone” and that will almost always make someone with bad intentions retreat from your house. He says that it works wonders whether you’re a home invader or a thief. The idea that someone else is on the other side with a direct line to the police if something bad happens is crucial.
Points Of Entry
There are a few points of entry to the house that many people need to be wary of. The small bathroom windows that look like they couldn’t fit a person absolutely can.
Durden says that the ignorance of people who don’t alarm those bathroom windows is the reason many burglaries happens. Durden is 5’10, 215 lbs and says that he can fit through almost any bathroom window you put in front of him.
You’re just asking for someone to sneak into your house if you have an open doggy door. Durden has snuck through a door that was intended for their medium-sized puppy.
He outlines the fact that he wouldn’t be able to get into these small windows or dog doors if there’s a bar in blocking. It can be as simple as obstructing the window space that will stop someone from coming in.
Pay The Extra Money
There’s no point of having an alarm system if it doesn’t make a loud enough noise. Yes, some of the alarms will go straight to the police station, but, there’s an option for an outdoor alarm too.
Durden says that it’s ridiculous people will pay for a good alarm system, but not be willing to pay enough to have an outdoor alarm. If your neighbors can hear it, they might be able to get a license plate or a facial feature.
The Time Limit
If you’re a successful thief, like Durden, you’re only going to be in the house for around 5-7 minutes tops. This means that the chances of someone coming home are VERY slim.
He also doesn’t have a lot of time to rummage through the house. Most will go straight to the master bedroom. So, if you can keep the master bedroom clean of any expensive jewelry or cash, you might be able to make the burglar think there’s nothing else to grab.
The Overlooked Room
The next stop for Durden once he’s in your house would be the office. A lot of the time, the office is home to a work credit card or a personal credit card.
Not only that, but people will leave their financial records which can be easily manipulated. Durden says that the office is probably the most overlooked room in the house for the occupants, but not the burglars. It’s the second stop.
So Where Would He Keep It?
Durden makes note that if you want to keep your jewelry safe, you should probably keep it in the garage. Don’t put it in the fridge or in another room in the house.
Put it in the garage and hide it in a toolbox. Most burglars are looking for easy, expensive stuff they can carry with them. The garage has a lot of bulky items and it’s usually too chaotic to spend time looking through.
Keep Your Windows Shuttered
Durden’s number one tip to keep your house safe was to shutter the windows. All of them. Don’t get lazy and leave small bathroom windows un-shuttered because those are the biggest targets for a good thief.
You don’t want your alarm system to be visible from a window or a door. If a burglar can plan out exactly how he or she is going to disarm your system, you’re making their job easy.
Stickers On The Front Door
The most important tip to keep your house safe is to ensure that you have stickers or signs on your front door.
The sticker needs to say that you have your alarm system up to date. Thieves want to be in and out of your house in the easiest way possible. If you can someone show the burglar that it’s not going to be smooth sailing if you try to break in, you’ll succeed.