Confessions of a Burglar

With a break-in every 15 seconds, heed this ex-con's tips to protect your home -- and yourself.
9:29 | 05/04/13

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Confessions of a Burglar
and david muir. Tonight, we're spilling the beans, rather, they are. All of the professions we come in contact with on a daily basis what they really think about you. And in case, how they target you by robbing your house. There's a home break-in every 15 sected. What you're about to find out could keep you from becoming one of those statistics. So, in a profession not exactly known for telling the truth, deborah roberts got a reformed felon to make some true confessions about burglary 101. Reporter: Burglars have their own slang. A weekend job? A vacationer. And open window heist, easy money. But whatever they call it, skilled thieves like chris patterson rob someone, somewhere every 15 seconds. Easy enough. Reporter: But today, patterson isn't taking valuables. First thing I'm going to do is make sure I got a way get out of here and make sure nobody is home. Reporter: He's giving you a valuable lesson. People make it so easy for burglars to victimize them. Reporter: Convicted four times and now on parole, patterson's trying to clean up his life. So, he agreed to strap on a camera, break into this house and give up all his secrets. All kinds of good electronics down here. Wow. Reporter: So, let's be clear. You're not burglarizing houses anymore. No, absolutely not. Reporter: You're not a danger to me or anybody else out there? No, no, absolutely not. The only reason I'm talking about this is because I don't want it to happen to people. It would be great if other people didn't have to go through what my victims went through. Reporter: If those victims only knew. Sometimes I would drive for two, three hours. Reporter: There were things they could have done to keep the berg lars at bay. It had to be perfect if I was going to risk my fre Reporter: Turns out a home robber is as choosey as a home buyer. Anything here look enticing? To patterson, some houses just scream, "rob me." And other, not so much. So, his first tip, a security system is worth it. Especially if it has cameras. In fact, some can even beam live video of a break-in as it's happening. Two people in the house. Oh, here comes another one. Reporter: So, a homeowner can call the cops. Ma'am, it's okay. Officers are surrounding your house, they're not going to get away with anything. Republican but get this. Patterson says still robbed plenty of homes protected by alarm systems. How? Because owners are often too lazy to turn them on. Half the time, it's not even armed if there is one there. Reporter: Not even armed? Really? On the flip side, here's something that's always on. Beware of dog signs? Not going near it. Reporter: All you need is the sign. You can skip the actual dog. Automatic no-no. Reporter: So, if that's what turns him away, what attracts him to your home? This one is completely obstructed. No way for anybody to see what's in the front. Reporter: Good thing? Great thing. Reporter: Privacy makes his job oh, so much easier. The same privacy that you think, oh, I love the privacy of having my backyard and not having people look in, I walk through the gate to your backyard, I go, oh, I love the fact that you have these beautiful shrubs up, I can do my job without anybody seeing me. Reporter: You may already know burglars look for a full mailbox to make sure no one's home. But you you might not have considered patterson's tip number two. Don't blap on your facebook page that you are leaving for vacation. Huge mistake. Reporter: Burglars are actually checking out social media? One of the hottest trends out there. You just have to set a time to pick it up. Reporter: As for getting into your home, you may be helping a BURGLAR WIENOUT EV KNOWING IT. Reporter: See that small window air conditioning unit? What people don't realize, it doesn't matter if you screw them in, they can be pushed in with no effort whatsoever. Reporter: Another no-no, leaving home repair equipment, especially ladders, in your yard. You might as well roll out a welcome mat. This is a perfect house to burglarize. Reporter: Put it all together, and finally, this former theech has found his dream home. When burglars look to rob a home, this is what they're looking for. Lots of fences, lots -- Reporter: Glad he likes it, because it belongs to a "20/20" staffer who agreed to let us break in. With cameras romming, we turn patterson loose. He walks confidently right up to the front door, in broad daylight. People don't always know their neighbors. They don't know their guests. They don't know if you're supposed to be there or not. Make sure that no one's home Reporter: Once she's she's sure the house is empty, he heads to the backyard. Perfect. Screen was laying on the ground and you can see the window was unlocked. Reporter: So that was an invitation. Yes, you might as well have said, here, have anything you want. Reporter: In no time, he's taking that open invitation. Now, I'm going to make sure all the doors are unlocked in case I need to get out of here quickly. Reporter: We put him on the clock. Are you feeling a time pressure? Are you trying to get in and get out as quickly as possible? I wanted to get in and out as fast as possible but wanted to do a good job. Reporter: And this homeowner, like so many of us, he says, makes it a snap. It doesn't matter race, nati nationality, income bracket, age, almost every single person puts things in the exact same place as the next one. Reporter: Up to the master bedroom. First place I like to check. Common knowledge to all burglars, master bedroom first. That's where the jewelry's at. Exactly what a burglar's looking for. When I opened her top drawer, she stilled it from front to back with jewelry boxes and backs of jewelry. Much like I suspected, she's got all of her jewelry in the place, altogether. They group it together. But if it's easy for you, it's easy for me. Reporter: So, if you cherish your rings and bling, listen to tip three. Stash those baubles in a plain shoe box and hide it in an unlikely spot, like the kid's room. You're not going to go in the kid's room? Probably not. It's the box that givens it away. And it being easily accessible. Reporter: It's been five minutes already. I have to keep moving. Reporter: Next, he searches for prescription drugs. These days, they're worth their weight in gold. Cash and joins anywcoins anywhere. Always have to check the drawers. Reporter: And the mother load? Video games in the living room and computers and small electronics in the den. What kind of electronics? Iphones, ipods, digital cameras. What I want is something I can move right away, because I don't want to hold onto any stolen merchandise. I want to make sure I get the laptop. I know I can move quickly. Reporter: Which leads to tip four. Don't leave the cords and chargers attached to your electronics. Store them separately. Patterson says it's sure to frustrate a thief. A lot of times, people don't realize how valuable those things are. Without the cords, you can't sell it. Reporter:13 minutes since he broke in, patterson walks away with a big haul. Worth at least a few thousands dollars, he says. Make sure I close the door on the way out. Reporter: His preferred getaway? Believe it or not, walking out the front door. I'm out of here. Reporter: Nobody in the neighborhood is noticing you walking out? No. Usually people don't even notice. I waved at neighbors driving away. Reporter: You are breaking into their neighbor's home? Absolutely. Reporter: Might as well had a bow on it. I would have had something to unwrap when ingot home. Here's maybe the most important tip for you, because it involves your personal safety. Could anything be more frightening than walking into your house and realizing you've been robbed? Well, yes. Waking up in the middle of the night and realizing the burglar is still there. What's the best strategy? Take a look. A dark night on the california coast. Jessica coakley was visiting from out of town, staying with friends. Very normal evening. All said our good nights. Reporter: She falls asleep on the coach. Her purse and suitcase on the living room floor beside her. She had no idea she was about to experience the scare of her life. I woke up and there was a person standing over me. Reporter: She couldn't see much, but she realized the man was an intruder, wearing a ski mask, holding a baseball bat. For most people, the initial reacti would be to scream. But my initial reaction was survival. Reporter: Her survival technique? Laying back down and faking she was going back to sleep.Y heart was racing the whole time, I remember actually thinking, I don't look like I am falling back asleep because i must be breathing so heavily. But -- he must have believed me. Reporter: The burglar grabbed her purse, but left her alone and eventually ran out the door. Jessica, who works for disney's corporate global security, wrote about it on the company website. The reason I was able to have that kind of reaction because i think about things ahead of TIME. Reporter: Our reformed thief, chris patterson, says he was smart. Burglars are as scared of a confrontation as you are. What if you get to the house, you discover somebody is in the house? For me, I would leave immediately, because I don't want them to see my face, i don't want to be identified. If I was the homeowner, I would definitely not try to stop the burglar. Do not risk your own health or your family's safety for some stuff. It's just stuff. You can't be replaced. Next -- confessions from the

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"9:29","description":"With a break-in every 15 seconds, heed this ex-con's tips to protect your home -- and yourself.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/2020","id":"19106837","title":"Confessions of a Burglar","url":"/2020/video/confessions-burglar-19106837"}