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13 tips to become a burglar’s nightmare

Proactive police officers can prevent burglars from wreaking havoc in a community

One active burglar can wreak havoc in a community.

“It was a burglar’s nightmare.”

This is my favorite lede to any newspaper story written about any arrest I ever made. Throughout my police career, I loved apprehending burglars. It was especially sweet when done without the aid of a call or an alarm.

I will begin by saying that you should answer every alarm call and suspicious person call with determination, caution and strong tactics, as you will apprehend burglars at some of these.

To improve your odds of making an arrest and stopping a burglary, here are 13 ingredients for the recipe to becoming a burglar’s nightmare!

1. Desire

The most important ingredient is desire, which turns a squad car into a “prowl car.”

When you are not running call to call and have some serious patrol time, tell yourself, “There are burglars working. Now I must find them.” In a blink, you become a cop on a mission.

2. Know the Good and Bad People and Crime Patterns on your Beat

Know the good people on your beat. They can be a constant source of information and assistance. Know your hours of the business on your beat, and even the schedule of late night cleaning crews.

Become familiar with previous burglary targets on your beat and the modus operandi of the burglars. Successful burglars become repeat customers. Additionally good burglars often exchange targets like good cooks exchange recipes.

Know the repeat offenders. There is an advantage to knowing criminals and their history on sight. Strive to remember the people you arrest who you know you will meet again.

If you do this, there will come that night when you are on stealth patrol checking businesses and you spot a nervous-looking man stepping out of an alley dressed in black. You will instantly have reasonable suspicion because you will recognize him as a repeat-offender burglar coming from a repeatedly targeted area. Now that is burglary bingo!

3. Realize the Power of Eye Contact

Veteran cops know of the unspoken communication that takes place when a police officer and a suspect make initial eye contact. It can trigger the drawing of a weapon, headlong flight, ditching of evidence/contraband or all of the above. Possess the tactics and skills to overcome these challenges.

More often eye contact will inspire “the look” – it is as if suspects are trying to become invisible. They often look straight ahead. It even looks a bit painful. “The look” alone does not constitute reasonable suspicion for a stop, but it should inspire you to take a second look.

4. Make Many Contacts and Become a Master of Legal Terry Stops

If you increase your contacts, you increase your odds of success.

During prime time for burglars, make vehicle stops for moving and equipment violations. Stop bicycles at night that have no lights. (They are often the speedy and silent transportation choice of many criminals.)

Master identifying when reasonable suspicion exists for a Terry stop, and when additional reasonable suspicion justifies a pat-down frisk for weapons. Embrace the Terry stop as an invaluable tool given to crime fighters by the Supreme Court, but use it correctly or we may lose it.

Make sure you base every contact on solid legal grounds. You develop credibility within your local criminal justice system by making hundreds of solid arrests. One bad arrest will damage this credibility.

5. Take Advantage of Plain View On Every Contact

Scan and identify the significance of what is in plain view during all contacts. If you do not, you will not know what you are missing until it hurts you, or worse.

6. Have an Open Mind

Keep an open mind on every call. Ask yourself on every contact, “What’s happening here?” Be observant and master how to apply the rules of arrest, search and seizure.

7. Know Your Tactics

The deliberate pursuit of criminals requires you to own the tactics needed to safely arrest and control dangerous criminals. Call for backup in a timely manner!

8. Identify Furtive Movements

Pay attention for furtive movements and understand the follow-up legally allowed when they occur. WATCH THE HANDS!

9. Develop Great Street Interview Skills

It pays to train in and develop personal street interview skills that help you read body language, detect deception and obtain incriminating statements.

10. Be Polite, Prepared and Pay Attention During Every Contact

They say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so be disarmingly polite. Lose the bad cop routine.

However, pay attention and be prepared for sudden flight or resistance when a criminal realizes, “This polite cop is onto me!”

11. Know What Burglary Tools Are

Most states have a statute that allows the arrest for possession of burglarious tools. These statutes allow proactive officers to arrest burglars on the way to the burglary.

12. Remember Burglars Can Be Caught During Daylight Hours

Burglaries do happen during daytime. Be sure to pursue wanted suspects you know are repeat-offender burglars. Before going on this hunt, be aware of items taken during recent burglaries and footwear impressions of unknown suspects.

When you locate the suspect wanted on a warrant, you will often be in a position to identify stolen property lying about in plain view. Check shoes for an impression match.

13. Learn to Write Great Reports

No arrest is a great arrest until documented in a great report.


One active burglar can wreak havoc in a community. However, one active cop with the desire to make a difference (and with proper backup) can become that burglar’s nightmare.

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter.

Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. He is the co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters.” His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and “Destiny of Heroes,” as well as two non-fiction books, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History” and “If I Knew Then: Life Lessons From Cops on the Street.” All of Lt. Marcou’s books are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.