By Mike Rush
St. Louis (KSDK) - "They very carefully took the trim off of this window," said Robert Welker, pointing to the window on a door someone recently used to break into his rental house. "When somebody breaks into it, uninvited, it's pretty unsettling."
The crime is unsettling and unsolved. Welker suspects whoever burglarized his house came from outside the community.
But Richard Wright finds, in many cases, burglars "seldom really venture all that far from their place of residence."
What does he know? Well, you might say Wright wrote the book on burglary.
"Burglars on the Job" came out years ago, but he believes because so many people are touched by burglary, interest in his findings continues today.
"This seems to be the book that refuses to die," said Wright.
In part, no doubt, because Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and his co-author wrote the book based on interviews with 105 active burglars.
"In some cases, interviewed on the streets right here in St. Louis, Missouri," said Wright.
The number one take-away from the candid conversations with the criminals was, "the extent to which people actually may have had some familiarity with the person who burgled their house."
Not friends or neighbors, but maybe gardeners, repair or delivery people.
"They're looking for any kind of sign of occupancy, so things like newspapers out in front," said Wright.
As well as dark houses and empty driveways. But Wright says a significant finding is burglars also listen for you to tell them if you're a good target.
"One of the things I noticed a lot was you get people saying things like, 'well, you know, I was working in their house and I heard them talking on the phone and they said, yeah, we're going on vacation for two months.'"
Wright says on the top of the burglars' wish list are guns, jewelry and cash.
To find those things once they're in your house, Wright says often times the burglars' number one stop is the master bedroom, bedside tables.
And the rooms they're least interested in are your kids.
"If you really don't want to lose something, put it in the kid's bedroom," said Wright.
Overall, the burglars Wright interviewed were non-violent and not remorseful, like the guy who broke into houses only to re-arrange the furniture.
"And he said to me, I know those people are still wondering what I took. Then he leaned forward and said and I didn't take a thing," said Wright.
In his experience, Wright says one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to be careful who you share your plans with, or talk about them around. That includes posting that you're on vacation on Facebook.
Some other tips from the Burglary Prevention Council include:
-always lock your doors and windows.
-use timers for lights and televisions to give the illusion you're at home.
-have someone collect your mail and papers when you are away