Posted in Today I learned

Lessons from “The Burglar”

Photo by Kay Ingulli on Unsplash

I really enjoyed Thomas Perry’s 2019 mystery novel The Burglar. In a nutshell, it’s about a twenty-four year old woman who steals for a living. When she breaks into a house and discovers the scene of a murder, she finds herself involved in a much bigger crime. Though fiction, I learned much about what to notice as I am walking around my neighborhood.

No one will notice you if blend in. The protagonist, Elle, made sure she looked like someone who lived in the neighborhood she was casing. If it was an upscale area, she made sure she wore nicer workout clothes. Even if the residents didn’t know her, they wouldn’t really worry about her presence as she went for a morning run.

What makes someone in my neighborhood stand out? If I see someone walking around wearing a suit, a dress, or a company polo shirt, they are going door-to-door. I take notice of a car driving slowly by, pausing in front of houses or undeveloped lots. But anyone in shorts and a t-shirt, walking a dog, blends right in.

There are signs that no one is home. Two or three newspapers in the driveway are a giveaway that someone is away. A few cards in the front door left by the door-to-door salespeople announce the same. Lights in the house on at unusual times during the day could be a sign of extended travel. No trash can on the curb on collection day? Someone is on a trip. A family loads suitcases into the back of their car? That house will be unoccupied for a while.

Some houses are easy to get into. As Elle ran through neighborhoods, she noticed who had security cameras or door and window alarms. She noticed windows that were not entirely closed. Some windows were behind bushes or in fenced-in yards. Second story windows were often not alarmed or closed. Louvered windows were not hard to enter. A home with a large dog might have a large dog door that she could squeeze through.

In the story, she’s good at picking locks. But it’s always better to be out of sight if that’s how you’ll enter a home.

She knew what was worth taking. Once inside a house, she passed over art, TVs, computers, and other items that were harder to sell. Cash was the best thing to take and she knew exactly where most people kept cash. Jewelry was OK, but it better be really valuable because you would only get pennies on the dollar for its worth. Guns might be worth something, but since they are usually registered, they are hard to sell.

I have no aspirations of breaking, entering, and taking anything that’s not mine. I’m just fascinated by what you can learn simply by watching. And I am much more aware of who is watching me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s