For Ferguson at least, alarm systems weren't a deterrent. In fact, he specifically looked for homes that had them.For one thing, he said, they were turned off more than half the time. He usually could check out the system because of what he describes as a chronic security company mistake: "They put the alarm box where I can look in the window and see it."
Another mistake, according to Ferguson: Most two-story homes have no alarms on the second floor -- where many master bedrooms and most jewelry boxes can be found.
"If you don't have an alarm on a second-floor window," Ferguson said, "and there's a tree or ladder or anything, I'll crawl up and go through the second-floor window and never, ever set the alarm off because I don't even have to go downstairs."
When all else failed, he could avoid the system by taking apart a window rather than opening it. Once inside, he was careful to avoid motion detectors.
"If I do go in your house and you got an alarm system, I never step in a hallway and I never step in a doorway and I check for sensors," he said. "To get from room to room, I kick holes in the Sheetrock."
If the alarm went off, however, Ferguson always fled. Often, he said, the police would pass him walking down the street, his pockets stuffed with jewelry, as they sped to the home.
"They would just ride right by. I would jump on the city bus and go back across town."
One Burglar's Wish List
Here's what burglar Anthony Ferguson looked for:
A well-maintained home and yard. "If someone keeps their yard lookin' really nice, that lets me know that person right there has the quality house I'm looking for." Ferguson said he also looked at such things as fresh paint and nice porch furniture.
Cover. It could be bushes, shrubs, trees or a tall wooden fence close to the house where he could hide. "The houses that are more in the open, that don't have cover, are the ones that don't get hit."
Toys and flowers. Because he was a jewelry thief, Ferguson looked for signs that a woman lived in the house.
Open or broken windows. "And it doesn't have to be a bottom-story window. It could be a second-floor window, and people leave a lot of second-floor windows open."
An alarm system. "I basically don't hit houses that ain't got alarms. The houses that got the alarms, you know, 'Hey, there's something there.' " (Police say most other burglars are deterred by alarm systems.)
Here's what made Ferguson think twice: Nosy neighbors. "If I see a neighbor looking out the window, nine times out of 10, I'm going to leave."
Television or radio noise. "A lot of houses have been lucky I didn't go into them because I hear the TV or I hear music and it makes me think someone is there."
Covered windows. "If the blinds are closed, it gives the impression that someone is there. That puts a little fear in you."
Dogs. Ferguson has burglarized homes with dogs, but said they make it more difficult. "When a dog barks, people start looking out their windows to see why the dog is barking."
Copyright (c) 2006, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.