Burglars, cops share tricks of the criminal trade in Park Ridge
Maudessie Jointer of the Chicago Police Department talks to Park Ridge Alderman Joe Sweeney during a March 13 meeting on burglary prevention. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2013 10:08AM
PARK RIDGE — When people want to know how to keep their homes safe from burglars, they turn to local police and other law enforcement agencies.
But during a March 13 Town Hall meeting, Park Ridge residents got some home-safety advice from an unexpected source: the burglars themselves.
The “Keepin’ It Real” burglary presentation was organized by the Park Ridge Police Department, Chicago Police Department and the Illinois Department of Corrections. Chicago Police Officer Maudessie Jointer and four convicted burglars offered insights into burglary strategies, debunked myths and answered audience questions.
And while much of the information wasn’t particularly reassuring, residents appreciated what they heard.
The participating inmates served out most of their sentences and are currently participating in a work-release program. For legal reasons, Jointer didn’t give out their full names and no one was allowed to take pictures of them.
While the inmates were convicted of the same type of crime, the details varied. Tim broke into houses at night. Ron worked with partners and stole during the day. Danny went into foreclosed homes and stripped them of anything of value. Kenny broke into cars.
Much of the presentation was devoted to addressing misconceptions about burglary deterrents. For example, burglars won’t necessarily avoid a house where the lights are on — after all, lights allow them to see better. Unless they are specifically trained to guard against intruders, dogs can be distracted with treats, they said. And most fences aren’t tall enough to provide obstacles. In fact, they can do just the opposite.
“A fence can actually help (the burglar) out,” explained Tim. “Once you’re in, you got this nice 5-foot fence blocking the view. People (on the street) can’t see a thing.”
Nor is an alarm system always a deterrent. Ron described how he and his partners did “dry runs” where they tripped the alarm and waited to see how quickly police would respond. The average response time, he said, was 12 minutes. Given that the inmates said they would need an average of five to seven minutes to pull off a burglary, that was more than enough time.
So what could prevent burglaries?
“Know your neighbors,” said Jointer. “Even if your neighbor is a jerk, you need to know them.”
That way, neighbors will be more likely to realize when someone doesn’t belong, he said. They would also be more likely to call the police if they hear someone breaking in.
Video cameras could help, as long as they aren’t noticeable and hard to reach.
”If you don’t have a nice camera, if you have one of those big, bulky ones, it can be taken care of,” explained Tim.
He also said that motion-sensitive lights are a deterrent if they are mounted somewhere a burglar can’t reach.
Inmates advised hiding valuables in places that were inconspicuous or hard to reach – an air conditioning vent, a toilet septic tank, etc.
And even taking simple precautions can help. Danny recalled that when the inmates were driving to Park Ridge he realized many houses would make for tempting targets.
“You need to close your damn windows, close your curtains,” he said.
The presentation also touched on what happens to stolen items. Many of them wind up sold at flea markets and anyone who inadvertently buys them can face criminal charges. Joiner cautioned that anything with serial numbers or other identifying markers removed is probably stolen.
When Danny was asked how he was able to enter foreclosed properties to steal items of value, he explained that a bank employee simply gave him the keys, causing audible gasps from the audience.
“I thought it was very helpful,” said Park Ridge resident Leslie Wolf of the presentation. “I think we feel like we live in a bubble and we don’t think it would happen to us. I think more people need to hear this.”
Did the presentation make her feel less safe?
“No,” she responded. “It made me more aware.”