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Strategies That Burglars Use To Case Rural Houses

Strategies That Burglars Use To Case Rural Houses

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Living out in the country often means much more privacy than in an urban or suburban household.  If your house is out of view of your neighbors, curtains can remain open and you can go about your business without any questions asked. Most of the time, being out of the prying eyes of busybody neighbors is a huge benefit to rural life.

That lack of visibility, combined with an opioid crisis in many of the most rural populations, leads to a lot of opportunistic petty theft and burglary. On the rural email bulletin in my town, there’s a notice at least once a week that a house was burglarized. Thankfully, the attempts aren’t often sophisticated and they’re usually desperate attempts at a quick buck than well-though-out break ins.

It’s always quick theft of small items. Inside the house, the medicine cabinet has been rifled through, and any small electronics that were in sight have been taken. Gas cans and chainsaws are often taken, too.

How does it happen so often? Persistence and a plausible excuse to come to your door.

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Some excuses are more plausible than others. When a middle-aged man comes to your door selling packs of M&Ms, he won’t make it more than a few houses before someone takes his license plate and notifies the police. A search of that man’s home then turns up a pile of stolen items.

Other techniques are more subtle.

Repair Men

It’s not uncommon for repair men to get lost looking for a house, especially on poorly signed rural routes. These days, you can order a magnetic car door sign and put it on any truck or van to pose as a repair man. “Tony’s Appliance Repair” can drive up to your door, knock and if you happen to answer, they just must have the wrong house.

To seem more plausible, all they need is the name of one of your neighbors, which is easy enough to find by looking at a neighbor’s mailbox or peaking at the address label.

If it’s a repair shop you’ve never herd of, make sure you check with your neighbor and see that they actually needed a repair. Better still, without letting them in, mention that your fridge is acting up and ask for a card. If they stutter and don’t have a number or a card to give you, make sure you take down a good description and a license plate number.

Lost Pets

Every animal owner knows it’s heartbreaking to lose a pet, and we tend to have a lot of sympathy for others whose beloved dog has gone wandering. In reality, if someone is at your door looking for their lost dog, it should be one of your neighbors, not someone you’ve never met.

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Take their name and number and let them know you’ll call if you see their pet. Quietly note their plate number for yourself. The next day, you can give them a call and see if they’ve found their pet. If they were really looking for their dog, you can offer sympathy and condolences, but if they were casing your house, you’ll likely get a fake number and checking up is a good idea.

Accusations of Stolen Items

This method is a bit more aggressive than the other two. With lost pets and repair men, they’re hoping you’re not home when they come to your door. Our neighborhood recently had a group of people going door to door looking for empty houses, but also targeting elderly citizens home alone.

Strategies That Burglars Use To Case Rural Houses

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The first person would knock, and if someone that looked “vulnerable” answered they’d say that their computer or phone was stolen and that they’d tracked it to this address. The burglar would be aggressive and confrontational, demanding to come in and look for the stolen item.

If you let them in, or they pushed their way in, they’d lead you on a wild goose chase through your house, digging through your things and keeping you flustered with accusations. All the while, another person or two entered the house and quietly took any visible valuables while you were arguing with the first person.

This happened to a number of elderly people in our community, most of whom did not know they’d been robbed until they heard a story about the burglars being caught in the local newspaper. They finally hit the wrong house, where the elderly woman was not home alone, and her son came to her aid and confronted them.

Counter Measures

By far, the best counter measure is to know your neighbors and your neighborhood. Strong communities help stop crime together. In addition to a strong community, a few well-placed trail cameras are a good second line of defense.

Place at least two cameras on your property. One that’s obvious — that lets the person know you’ve got their picture if they come to your door. That’s a great deterrent, but an obvious trail cam can be disabled given enough time. A second camera, hidden from view in a tree or up under the eves, is a good double insurance policy.

What other ways do thieves case rural homes? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. We moved to rural PA. A mistake…what we found was very nosy neighbors, plague of drug use and burglary is common. Our neighbors literally would watch when we left and shortly after a known person with history of burglary , would pass by SLOWLY. Paying particular attention to cameras. Never advertise gun ownership, its a burglar magnet.

  2. We’re semi-rural, but the problem with drug-funding theft seems confined to a “corridor” on either side of a main highway. The urban druggies drive through, scouting for burglary targets, but don’t seem to want to stray too far from the highway. They’re not confrontational, tending to strike outbuildings, garages, barns in the early morning hours — even if the homeowners are home.

    We’ve got the cameras, but also installed some transmitter-style driveway alarm sensors that “see” the doors of the outbuildings. When triggered, the sensors make the base unit beep (two beeps for sensor two, etc.) alerting us of some activity. Thus far, it’s only been raccoons or other four-legged varmints. But, if it was the two-legged variety, we’d be alerted before they could break the lock.

    I recommend the sensors.

    — Mic

  3. A couple of good sized dogs that bark when someone gets close to the house is still the best deterrent as far as I am concerned. Even if they are not attack dogs, the vast majority of people will looking to get in will go find another place.

    • Wrong. Big dogs mean big rewards left in the house, usually very easy to pick up as the owners assume they are safe because of the dogs. And dogs are waaay easy to “destroy”. I speak from experience: in my semi-rural community, only those houses keep being burglarized.

  4. Here is my remedy for theft that I heard is used in some middle eastern country. First offense: chop off a hand. Second offense: chop off second hand. I recommend a really dull machete.

  5. Not that it will deter all, we have no trespassing signs, no solicitation signs, and ‘forget the dog, worry about the Mom’ signs on our property. We do not advertise if we are armed or not. And as an aside, our dog thinks everyone who comes to our house is there to visit him, so IDK how much help he would be….but dogs are usually better judges than we are….

  6. The line about leaving the curtains open is foolhardy. That just helps anyone interested to be able to look inside your home when the lights are on and see your computer, television, and any other valuables as well as getting an idea of who lives there.

  7. Bring your dogs in a t night. Former CEO of Kanawha Charleston Humane Society told me the sheriff of Kanawha County had detected that home invaders and burglars were neutralizing outside dogs as a preemptive striker prior to returning latrer to do their evil acts, also. Also, dogs have an instinct called ‘Denning’. Denning means they feel more securies inside a house because they sense the walls and doors of the house they occupy keeps them safe from evil-doers, too. Also, dogs bark mmore accurately when they are inside, too. It’s insecurity that makes outside night time dogs bark too much, also. If need be, put these same dogs in an inside crate at night and let them outside in morning, too. The dog is the radar , you are the flak gun.

  8. I have a sign that says, “we don’t dial 911” let them figure out what that means.
    Also, we have the alarm that lets us know when someone is on our property, looks like a birdhouse.
    Had to get a security system as well and post signs advertising them.
    Have a fake camera that has a red light on it that runs by batteries.
    Keep radio on talk station when not home, with some lights on.
    Added extra lights around all buildings and entrances.

  9. I’ve heard of thieves using Google Earth to scope out houses to burglarize. Unfortunately technology makes it easy to find out about access, visibility, gates, proximity to neighboring houses, etc.

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