How to Think Like a Thief and Save Yourself

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

I’ve been receiving emails from the building manager regarding other tenants who have been robbed this past week.  We live in a gated community, in a quiet neighborhood, yet burglaries still happen.  I’ve written about this subject before, but the issue has surfaced yet again.  One tenant’s car was stolen right in the parking lot by our building, and another unit got broken into in the middle of the day.

Building management assured everyone that they will change all the entry codes,  but that really does not stop anyone.  I have observed other cars that wait until a tenant goes through the gate and enters the premises right behind them.  Same with foot traffic:  vendors and pizza delivery personnel simply wait until someone uses their security pass and simply walk right in.  We all need to be on guard and learn how to think like a thief.

Crime is everywhere

The quicker you accept this fact, the safer you will be.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a crime spree at a well known park not far from where I live. News reports started coming out that joggers had been mugged, and a female jogger was sexually assaulted before being robbed at one of the park’s restrooms. These incidents all happened during the day.

I was talking to my friend Jim (yes the same one who had a shooting in his building, but has since moved to another apartment) because he frequently runs in that same park. He said, “They won’t get much out of me, I only carry my keys and cell phone.”

A few days later, the two robbers were caught. And do you know why they were robbing people at the park? Because these thieves wanted cell phones! They said it was an easy and quick way to make some money. Even though cell phones may seem like “not much” to us, they were exactly what the thieves were looking for.

Normal people see things a certain way, but thieves see things differently.

How to Think Like a Thief

What attracts their attention

Even if you think your stuff is not valuable, there may be something that attracts their attention:

  • Your purse looks fat and heavy, therefore it must contain a lot of goodies
  • You have bags in the back seat of your car, therefore, you must have gone shopping. Nevermind that you might have bags full of containers for recycling back there; having someone break in your car will be mean expensive repairs whether or not you have something valuable.
  • If you have shiny jewelry, you may attract their attention. Yes, your jewelry might be fake, but surely you have a wedding ring or a nice watch that will have some value.

Opportunity – Don’t make it easy for them

  • I pay attention to people around me at the park, and the majority are not paying attention to their surroundings. Many joggers have their headphones on, talking on the phone or listening to music, oblivious to everything.
  • Thieves will take any opportunity presented.


  • Some thieves create a distraction to send your attention elsewhere. When I was 10 years old, I had $15 Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket. I was at a store, choosing the ice cream flavors, when someone dropped a bunch of coins. I looked over and helped out, and when I got done, I went to buy my ice cream. I reached into my pocket and found all my money was gone. Tough thing to happen to a kid, but it was a lesson learned.

Crime in the premises if often perpetrated by people known to tenants

  • Burglary is often committed by people who are familiar with the area, or even acquaintances of neighbors or tenants.  If they see an opportunity, they will take it.
  • Vary your habits or schedule if possible.
  • Never leave your car doors or front door unlocked. So many neighbors don’t bother to lock their doors, or secure their belongings such as bicycles until they get robbed.
  • Leave lights on, a TV or radio on to make the unit seem occupied.

Trust your gut and act on it

  • The first victim at the park felt he was being followed but did not look behind him. Before he could act the two thugs were already pointing a gun at him demanding his stuff
  • If you get that weird feeling something is not right, trust yourself and do something right away.

Thankfully the crime spree at the nice park is over, but the apartment thefts are still ongoing.  I have asked management to improve our locks or at least allow tenants to make door improvements but I have not heard any response.

Try to think like a thief and see what makes you vulnerable. Doing so may keep you from becoming a target.

© Apartment Prepper 2016



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  1. We live in a gated apartment complex, we always see people following tenants in when they swipe the gate cards, can’t do much about it because the gate closes too slow to stop them; I haven’t asked management yet if they can speed up the closing time.
    Consider adding a simple door alarm, it doesn’t have to make a call to the police, just be loud enough to attract attention; could be the difference between losing everything or just what they can grab quickly.
    We also have the “privacy locks” that you can only lock or unlock from the inside, we use these when home just in case someone who shouldn’t have copies of the keys got them somehow.
    That’s all we’ve been able to come up with for now.

    1. Hey Pierce, Good idea about those installing those simple door alarms and privacy locks. Thanks for the comment!

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