Property websites are putting more information in the public domain then ever before and smart burglars are using this to their advantage. To demonstrate, I will put myself in the shoes of a technology savvy thief and take you through the process of planning a burglary using only online information. I am looking to achieve the following:
1. Select the London borough that gives me the best chance of a completing a successful haul.
2. Choose the perfect road within that borough
3. Narrow the search down to a single house.
4. Decide upon the best access point for the break-in.
5. Plot my route through the property and to the valuables
6. Plan my getaway
As you follow the process consider your own property and how much information is available about it.
Which London Borough do thieves love best?
Working on the theory that expensive properties tend to contain expensive contents I kick-off by selecting the 10 London boroughs with the highest priced property. This is a great starting point but I am going to need more detailed information on the individual boroughs to set up a filtering process, and the National Census borough profiles gives me just that. Every 10 years civil servants visit all the properties in the land and ask the occupants a series of questions, several of which relate to their property and wealth. These are some of the statistics available on each borough:
- Percentage of owner-occupied properties – people that own their own property tend to have better stuff than tenants.
- Percentage of population employed – occupants are more likely to be out during the day.
- Number of people per hectare – over-crowding can make access and escape difficult.
- Percentage of households with 2 or more cars – a wealth indicator; nice bonus.
A bit of time spent poring over the profiles tells me that I should focus my efforts on the borough of Richmond upon Thames.
How Google Maps helps me to rob houses
The next step is to use satellite imagery to scan the borough for roads that contain large expensive properties that are well positioned for access and escape. These are some of the features that I’ll be looking for:
- Roads that back on to open spaces
- Roads containing primarily detached properties
- Proximity to a main road (for a quick exit)
I can see immediately that there are several large open spaces in the borough and many are surrounded by roads which house large detached properties. A few more minutes searching and I have what I believe to be the perfect road (the cul-de-sac to the right of the picture). As you can see in the screenshot below it fulfills all four of the main criteria
How to select the perfect house
What I need is a property that will reveal more of itself as I search. Recently sold properties have 2 distinct advantages; there is lots of data available on them and they tend to be filled with lots of new stuff. I start by compiling a list of the properties which have sold in the target road in recent years. Next I download the title plan so that I can plot the sold properties on my satellite image.
Now that I know which properties are which I switch to the birds eye view on the mapping software and take a good look at the front and rear elevations. This is invaluable information for planning access and escape. Of the properties that have recently sold just one of them is in what I would consider to be the most desirable part of the road i.e. backing on to open space. So we now have our target property.
How I choose my access point
As my target property was sold in recent times it was likely to have appeared on the website of at least one of the local agents. The internet archive allows me to go back in time and view those websites as they would have looked just before the sale date. In no time at all I have details for my target property. I instantly recognise it from the close up birds eye view that I have.
Fortunately the agent has provided a good quality picture of the rear of the property which shows me that there are three pairs of double doors. The internal picture confirms that they are of modern uPVC type. This is good news as most uPVC doors can be sprung with a crow bar in a few seconds without making much noise.
Route to the valuables
Most estate agents use floorplans these days; particularly on the larger style houses that I have been targeting. The plan on the right is of my target property. It is very comforting to study a plan of the property in advance as I will want to be in and out as quickly as possible to minimise the chances of being disturbed.
The master bedroom would be my first port of call as that is the room most likely to contain valuables such as jewelry and expensive watches and I can see on the floor plan that it is located to the rear of the first floor. I would probably look in on the study on my way up to see if there was a nice laptop to be had.
How to plan the perfect getaway
The satellite images have already shown me that my best exit route will be through the back garden and across the park where my partner in crime will be waiting to collect me on the busy road. The only imponderable was the height of the boundary at the end of the garden but the agent’s shot down the garden from the master bedroom has cleared that one up. The low hedge at the end of the garden will not pose too much of a problem.
The picture also tells me that there are double doors with a Juliet balcony to the master bedroom. This is a nice bonus as if I were unlucky enough to be caught in the act I could be out those doors and in to the garden before the owners even got upstairs.
So, Job done. I have the perfect house, in a well located road in a wealthy area. I have been able to plan the best entrance point, my route to the valuables and an emergency escape route in case I am disturbed. It’s almost enough to tempt me over to the dark side.