Former 'Cat Burglar' Reveals The 6 Things She Looked For When Choosing Which Houses To Rob

Some of the very things we think are keeping us safe are signals that a house is ripe for the taking.

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For many of us, it's among our greatest fears — our homes being broken into and our stuff stolen. But many of the things burglars look for are the very things we think are keeping us safe.

Despite the fear-mongering many of us are often fed, your danger of being robbed or suffering a home invasion is pretty low. Property crime rates, including burglary, have been declining for decades and are now 75% lower than their peak in the 1980s.


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Still, they do of course happen — and only 13% are solved each year. So how do burglars choose their victims, and what can you do to avoid being one of them?


A former burglar shared 6 things a burglar might look for when choosing a house to rob.

TikToker Jen Gomez is a former cat burglar who spent 10 years in prison for her burglary career. In a recent video, she shared her method for choosing her marks and identified six things a burglar might look for when choosing a house to rob.



1. Different kinds of homes based on the weather

"If it's bright, beautiful, sunny, I [would] try to find places that are more isolated, more desolate, where the houses are further apart," Gomez said. 

This is because "people are outside… they're looking out windows and they're just paying attention a lot more." So the more isolated the house, the fewer eyes keeping tabs.


Bad weather, on the other hand, widens the net considerably. "If it's raining, drizzling, just sprinkling even a little bit ... that's the best of the best," she said, because people aren't out and about, they're not looking out their windows, and they're less likely to investigate if they hear or see something outside.

2. Time of day

Contrary to popular belief, most burglaries occur in broad daylight, and Gomez illustrated precisely why. "I was waking up at 5, 5:30 to start getting things in order… [because] the majority of people, unless you're a stay-at-home mom, will be gone out of the house by 8:00." 



She also factored into her day the fact that some people come home for lunch. "So between eight and eleven — prime time," she said. Then she would take a break from 11:30 to about 1:30 and launch her "second round" until about 3:00.


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3. Houses with a security or alarm system

This is perhaps the most counterintuitive thing on Gomez's list. A study at the University of North Carolina found that 60% of burglars opt to choose another target when they see that a home has some kind of security system.

But Gomez shared another perspective. "I felt like people that have alarms will likely have something that they want to protect," she said.

And the advent of home security systems that contact police on your behalf surprisingly made this easier for Gomez too. The high number of false alarms meant that over time, police became less responsive to calls, so "until the alarm company makes contact with you, the police are not coming out there," Gomez said. "And I knew that."


4. A low window

This one's probably obvious — it made it easier for her to get in and get out as quickly as she could. It also made it easy for her to use the type of tools that many professional burglars use to cut and hammer holes in glass.



"Once I had all of those tools, I would have to make sure that there was a window somewhere that was low enough to where I could … kind of step over without getting hurt, and then be able to get back out," Gomez said.

5. Homes that obviously had pets

"I absolutely needed to see some evidence of there being an animal in the home," Gomez said. Why? "Because then I knew that the motion sensors for the alarm system were likely off."


"People that take pride in their homes and their lives and their pets, usually have a sign on the door that says, in case of fire, please rescue my cat. Please rescue my dog," she said. So she'd actively seek these stickers out when scoping for places to rob. 

6. Houses with high fences, gates, and lots of landscaping

Another counterintuitive criterion — fences and gates keep us safe, right? But for Gomez, they provided the perfect hiding places she needed to execute her burglaries

Better yet, was a house with gates or a fence that "back up to, like, a main road … a cul de sac, something like that" because they make it easier to flee the neighborhood. 


6 Things A Burglar Might Look For When Choosing A House To RobPhoto: micheile henderson / Pexels

She'd also look for elaborate landscaping because it both provides hiding places and signifies that the house's occupants are likely wealthy and have good stuff to steal. "I was trying to get the big head honchos, okay, the real, real upper class," she said. 

According to Gomez, she's reformed now. "I absolutely feel an insane amount of remorse and regret for everything I did and everybody I did it to," she said.


Now, she likes to talk about her former life in the hopes that "maybe it'll help somebody." Given how surprising and counterintuitive some of her tips are, she just might.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.