Now that the Covid-19 restrictions have finally ended, businesses are reopening, and many people are returning to their places of work. Some people regret their ability to work from home, but many others are glad to return to their workplace. 

One group is especially glad that people are returning to workplaces and businesses are reopening – burglars. 

While some burglars hit homes at night when people are sleeping, many home burglaries are committed during the day when the residents are at work and not at home. But most burglars prefer to hit businesses at night when they are closed.

I discussed burglary, known as the “Silent Crime,” with Richard Stellacci, a retired New York police captain. 

I served in the U.S. Navy with Stellacci on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War. Stellacci, an affable and funny guy from the Bronx, shared many experiences with me on the carrier and on liberty in the wide-open city of Olongapo in the Philippines. I still have fond memories of our time there.

I connected with him through Facebook, and then we called each other and swapped old sea stories and talked about what we’ve been doing since we left the aircraft carrier so many years ago. 

My old shipmate told me he was a retired police captain, having served 25 years in the Putnam County, New York Sheriff’s Department. He rose through the ranks from deputy sheriff to captain. With our common interest in crime, we discussed his police career and his many experiences. During one of our discussions, I asked him about burglary.

I noted that working as a newspaper crime reporter and columnist over the years, business and residential burglary victims have told me about the outrage they feel when they discover their homes and business have been trashed and their equipment and money stolen. They feel personally violated.

“I handled a lot of burglaries, from commercial businesses to residential homes,” Stellacci told me. “A lot of the victims had the same defects and made the same mistakes, such as forgetting to set their alarm. I always told business people that if you have an alarm system — use it!

“When that alarm goes off, does it just make noise, or does it go to a local police agency?” Stellacci said. “Check it every once in a while. Call your police agency and tell them you’re running a test.”

Stellacci offered more of what he called basic, common-sense advice:

Make sure your doors and windows are securely locked. Burglars are going to look for the easiest method of access to your business.

“Install solid doors,” Stellacci advises. “Don’t get those balsa wood doors where I can punch my way through. If you make it difficult for a thief, he’ll look somewhere else.”

Stellacci also suggested that you illuminate your business, inside and out.

“If a police officer can see into your business, that’s a benefit to you,” Stellacci explained. “Especially have a light over where your money is — your cash register, your safe, whatever. Have that in plain view from the street where a police officer can see inside. If you have a safe, don’t put it in the back room. Put it where we can see it from the window. If it is in the back room, all a burglar has to do is break in the back, and he’ll have all night to break into that safe. If the safe is in the front, he won’t have that much time.”

A burglar can break in pretty easily if one has cheap locks. The harder the locking mechanism, the less chance a thief will rob you, Stellacci noted. He will look for a place with an easier lock to break in.

“Burglars like to work in the dark,” Stellacci explained. “Burglars are normally chickens; they don’t want to deal with anybody. That’s why they rob at night when nobody’s there. So keep your place well lit, and that will keep them away.”

Stellacci recommends that business owners illuminate their businesses in order to discourage crooks from committing a robbery or an act of vandalism. A well-lit business also helps the passing police officer observe if anyone is committing a crime on the property. Stellacci also recommends that business owners install a high-quality surveillance camera system.

I mentioned to Stellacci that I know of some businesses that place their cameras directly on the employees rather than on the customers and potential robbers, because they are more concerned with the employee stealing. 

“When that’s the case, I tell the owners that they ought to install another camera,” Stellacci said.

With the Covid-19 restrictions and precautions ending, many people are glad to be returning to work. 

Especially burglars. 

Paul Davis is a Philadelphia writer who covers crime.

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