The Allen Police Department has gone inside the mind of a criminal.
Allen PD released a series of YouTube videos in which department spokesman Sgt. Jon Felty interviewed career home burglar Michael Durden to find out how a thief operates.
Durden has been a thorn in the side of area law enforcement for some time. After being released from prison in May, he fell back into a life of crime by June, robbing homes of jewelry and cash in Allen, Plano, McKinney and Richardson, according to police. Felty said Durden committed upwards of 80 robberies, including 11 in Allen, before he was arrested. He is being held in the Collin County jail.
After seeing him in an interview, Felty said he was struck by Durden’s way with words and was compelled to interview him himself.
“It’s rare that you get a burglar that is as articulate as he is,” Felty noted. “He talks pretty well.”
In their 34-minute conversation, Felty and Durden covered subjects ranging from what makes a home a target for a burglar to the effectiveness of dogs as deterrents against thieves.
When he wasn’t spending his time as a personal fitness trainer, Durden used the ruse of jogging through neighborhoods as a way to case homes to burglarize. What would keep him from a certain subdivision? Neighborhood watches.
“There’s been so many times that I’ve gone and cased a neighborhood and stayed away from that neighborhood because it was obvious to me that there were people out walking, that they had the VIP program, and it makes a lot of difference,” Durden said during the interview. “It’ll totally deter me from going anywhere near that neighborhood, because I don’t want ever to enter into a situation where I’m confronted by anyone. That’s the whole reason of casing the homes.
“I’m not a home invader who would go in and tie people up. I’m a thief.”
A vigilant neighborhood means that just because the person whose house a burglar is casing isn’t home doesn’t mean neighbors aren’t around to spot a stranger in their neighborhood. Neighbors can also do things like get the mail from a mailbox and pick the newspaper up off the lawn, some tell-tale signs that a burglar will look for when determining an empty home.
Neighbors also shouldn’t be afraid to report suspicious visitors they see multiple times during the day on the sidewalk or in the back alley, Durden said.
“I was in a lot of neighborhoods and had no business being there. I would spend hours out casing and preparing beforehand, walking those alleys,” he said. “People could have looked out their window and seen me four or five times in the alley and gotten suspicious and could have called police.”
While Durden said a large, aggressive dog will make him think twice about entering a home, what will give him the greatest pause is the appearance of an alarm system, particularly a wireless system.
He said it’s easy for a burglar to pull the wires from the box on the outside of the house that connect to an alarm wired into a telephone. To defeat a wireless system that sends a cellular signal, however, requires a cell phone signal blocker, an item Durden said is hard to come by.
Even a sign in the yard signaling the presence of a wireless alarm system will make him turn and walk away, he said.
Though it’s common knowledge that leaving a light on will let potential robbers know someone is home, Durden said it’s a little more complicated than that. When he approached homes to case them, Durden would look for what he called “visual pathways” that would allow him to see into a house, like windows or front doors with glass. If a burglar sees a light on in the front room through the window, but can’t see anyone or any shadows being cast, they know someone left the light on as a simple deterrent.
“Put the light on in the center of your home,” Durden said.
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