5 Ways to Avoid a Break-In: Confessions of an Ex-Burglar

Paroled thief Chris Patterson took "20/20" inside a burglar's head.

ByABC News
May 3, 2013, 11:39 AM

May 3, 2013— -- intro: Every 15 seconds, someone is ripping off a home in the United States.

Someone like Chris Patterson. Patterson, who is on parole, has been convicted four times for breaking into homes. He's trying to clean up his life, so he agreed to share his inside knowledge to keep homeowners safer.

"It would be great if other people didn't have to go through what ... my victims went through," Patterson said in an interview for "20/20."

"People make it so easy for burglars to victimize them."

Here are five inside secrets and tips from Patterson on how to avoid getting burglarized.

Watch the full story, and get more of Patterson's secrets, on "20/20: Confessions" SATURDAY at 10 ET.

quicklist:title: Invest in a Security Systemtext: They're worth it, Patterson said, especially the ones with cameras. Some can even beam live video of a break-in as it's happening so a homeowner can call the cops.

quicklist:title: Turn It On, Einsteintext: Patterson said a burglar alarm alone was no guarantee to keep him out.

"You are obviously looking in the window, peeking through the glass in the door to see if there is an alarm box and if it's armed. ... Maybe half the time it's not even armed," he said.

Even if you are just going for a quick jog or down the block to pick up milk, that's plenty of time for a burglar if you don't arm the system, Patterson said.

quicklist:title: 'Beware of Dog' Signs Worktext: "That 'Beware of Dog' sign? Not even going near it," Patterson said. You can even skip the actual dog. The low-tech, small and cheap sign is effective enough.

No burglar wants to deal with a dog and so won't take the chance -- and probably will avoid the neighbors' houses, too, Patterson said.

quicklist:title: Don't Blab on Facebook When You're Leaving Towntext: Burglars check out social media, too, Patterson said.

"It's one of the newest, hottest trends out there. If they have already said they are going to be gone … you just have to set a time when you want to go over and pick it up."

quicklist:title: Camouflage and Stash Your Blingtext: "I have done a lot of homes, and it doesn't matter the race, nationality, income bracket, age. Almost every single person puts things in the exact same place as the next one," Patterson said.

If it's jewelry, it's likely lovingly organized in boxes and bags in the top drawer of a dresser. Instead, put jewelry in a plain old shoe box and hide it elsewhere, like the kids' room, Patterson said.