Seven mistakes that raise the risk of theft

Burglar looking at laptop through window

Being a victim of crime is never your fault. If you are a victim of theft, then the only person who could ever be held to blame is the criminal themselves. However, there are a number of very common things many of us do out of habit that could make us more likely to be targeted by criminals, so it's worth being aware of the seven common mistakes that put you at risk from theft.

1. Opening the window
In hotter weather most of us will throw open the window to let the breeze in. The trouble is that many of us will leave it open when we wander into another room - or even when we leave the house. Almost a third of all burglaries are the result of someone leaving a door or a window open - and then forgetting to close it when we wander off. The summer is the peak risk, so if you want to stay safe you need to remember to close the window, and to fit catches on all your windows that prevent them being opened more than a crack.
2. Leaving the key in the lock
It can be difficult to know the right thing to do to stay safe. Most people lock the front door when they are at home, but many will leave the key in the lock so they can find it in an emergency. Unfortunately, this is as good as an open door to a burglar. They may be able to turn the lock through the letterbox, or hook the keys through the letterbox and open it from the outside. Essentially leaving your key in the lock is roughly as secure as leaving the door unlocked.

3. Leaving curtains open at night
In 2011 a burglar was told to write a letter apologising to his victims. Instead he decide to write to them, explaining that as far as he was concerned it was their fault, because they had left their curtains open when they went to bed, so it had been easy to spot that nobody was around, and the house was safe to target.

4. Putting your phone in your back pocket
Most people check their phone so often nowadays that occasionally they slip it into their back pocket without thinking. The trouble is that according to the Metropolitan Police this is one of the key places targeted by pickpockets. They say you should keep it in a zipped pocket, ideally in a bag slung across your body where you can see it at all times.

5. Checking your phone at the station
The Metropolitan Police warn that thieves will target the areas around tube stations, because when people emerge and get reception, they will often check for messages, or make a call. This offers the double-whammy of someone not paying attention to their surroundings, and showing thieves exactly where they are keeping their phone. It's best to keep walking, find a secure spot, and then check your phone.

6. Leaving your gadgets on the train table
It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security on the train, so we get all the things we need for the journey out of our bag, and place them on the table. British Transport Police warn that criminals will commonly enter the train and wait until it is just about to leave the station, before snatching items from the table and jumping off the train.

7. Falling asleep on public transport
If you're stuck on a train for hours, it's easy to find yourself drifting off to sleep. Unfortunately, if you have any luggage with you, this offers a perfect opportunity for a criminal to lift your luggage. The British Transport Police say it's best to avoid drifting off, but if you can't, it's vital to keep your possessions in close contact to deter thieves.

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Seven mistakes that raise the risk of theft

In May, Paul Robert Benson, a 24-year-old from Lurgan, stole groceries from his local supermarket. He might have got away without being identified, if he hadn’t decided to wear a Manchester United top with 'Benson 22' written on the back.

The judge sentencing him to 12 months probation said that he might as well have had a neon sign on his back.

In January, Scott Tinsley, a 38-year-old from Cobridge in Staffordshire, was jailed for 40 months after admitting burglary.

He broke into a property in the middle of the night, took electrical items, and put them in a garden a few doors down. However, he then started feeling a bit peckish, so he popped back to the property to make himself a snack. Then he promptly fell asleep - and was discovered by the homeowners in the morning.

In September 2014, a drunk burglar in the Chinese city of Suqian, talked himself into a corner.

He broke into a fifth floor flat on the mistaken assumption that it was empty, and was quickly caught by the owner’s ten-year-old daughter. When she asked what he was doing there, he decided his best defence was to say that he was Superman, and was about to fly back to his secret headquarters.

She told him to prove it, so the burglar stripped to his underwear and jumped out of the window. He told police from his hospital bed that it had seemed to make sense when he was drunk.

In July 2014, Stewart James Wright, a 37-year-old from Middlesbrough, thought he’d stumbled across the perfect crime.

He saw the door open at a student house, so wandered in and simply picked up their 42-inch-TV. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't really thought through his getaway plan.

He’d travelled to the area by bike, and was stopped by police cycling along a nearby road, trying to balance the TV on the handlebars. He was on bail at the time for stealing a bike.

In June 2014, Jamie Neil, a 41-year-old from Bethel in Cornwall, was jailed for robbing a petrol station in St Austell.

His plan to disguise himself by putting a plastic bag over his head would have worked better if he hadn't chosen a completely transparent one.

In June 2014, Nigel Ball, a 52-year-old from Wakefield, was found guilty of stealing a fish tank from a pet shop. He was caught after going back to the store to buy fish to put in it, and when staff asked him what sort of tank he had, he pointed to the type he had just stolen.

He had to complete a form with his contact details in order to take the fish, so police tracked him down to his home where they found the stolen tank.

In October 2013, a man from Perth tried to rob a corner shop, and was foiled by his trousers.

He took the till, and tried to run away with it, but his trousers were so loose they kept falling down. In the end he was forced to drop the till so he could hang onto his trousers. In the confusion he also dropped his knife and a pair of gloves, and a police dog used them to track him down. He was jailed for three and a half years.

In February 2013, a man in the Washington suburb of Laurel concocted a flawed plan to rob a bank.

His big mistake was failing to bring a bag, so he dropped the cash on the floor. He stopped to pick it up and put it in an open umbrella. Unfortunately for him, while he was held up collecting the money, the police deflated the tires on his car.

He tried to escape on foot, but slipped on a patch of ice and banged his head: at which point he gave up.

In January 2008, a man from Louisiana decided to rob a seafood restaurant. He forgot to take a disguise, so he picked up a bucket that was lying nearby and put it on his head.

The slight drawback to his disguise was that he wasn’t able to see, so he kept blundering into thing. He also had to keep lifting the bucket up to see where he was going. The security camera was therefore able to glimpse his face, and the man was identified, arrested and charged.

In September 2011, a woman from Manchester tried to steal several hundreds of pounds worth of booze from Asda in Oldham.

She loaded up the trolley, and walked out of the shop without paying. She managed to get to her car and load it up before staff caught up with her.

Sadly for her, when she jumped in the car to make her getaway, she realised she had run out of petrol. She was caught trying to push the car into the petrol station.


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