Summer is a season of vacations and burglaries. People leave their apartments for a week or even months, and while they are enjoying the sun and sea, thieves take away everything: from underwear to jewelries. According to the Interior Ministry statistics, the rate of burglaries increases by 65-70% in summer period. 

ForUm has asked the professional - chief detective officer of the Interior Ministry criminal investigation department Ivan Maximchuk - about how to protect one's dwelling.

Cinema and real burglars

Readers, of course, remember the charming burglar George Miloslavskiy from the soviet comedy "Ivan Vasilievich changes his profession", in which George was stealing only from rich people with unearned incomes and  was true patriot of his counry. The reality, unfortunately, is totally unpoetic. Real burglars are not choosy: they can heist both an elite apartment in the center of the capital and a one-room "Khruschev-era" apartment of a pensioner somewhere in suburb. 

According to the Interior Ministry, there have been 11500 burglaries registered in Ukraine for the past six months. The major part of crimes occurs in Kyiv - 2340 burglaries. The 'silver' and 'bronze' belong to Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions. 

Detective Maximchuk says the richer the regions the bigger rate of registered burglaries.

Keep your mouth shut or a burglar will hear you!

Leaving for vacation, keep the information to yourself, so people do not know the apartment will stay unattended for some time.

"It often happens that leaving for vacation people tell their neighbors and familiars. The point is that burglars have ears everywhere and they will not lose an opportunity to 'visit' an empty house," Maximchuk warns.

However, even you were tight as a clam, it only reduces the possibility of being robbed, but does not guarantee it won't happen. Burglars sometimes study the apartment of interest, including the routine of its inhabitants, and may learn that you have left.

According to the detective, the most reliable way to protect your house is the burglar alarm system. Both the state security service department of the Interior Ministry and private firms can install an alarm system in your apartment. However, police security has an advantage - its officers are armed and have wider rights to protect your property than private firms.

Taking into account average salary in the capital, the installation of a burglar alarm system is not very expensive: to secure two-room apartment costs about 3 thousand hryvnias and 150 hryvnias of monthly payment for service. In case the alarm goes off a response unit will arrive in 3-5 minutes.

If you do not have money for an alarm system

An alarm system is good and reliable, but for pensioners and residents of the regions it is expensive anyway.

According to the statistics, 80% of burglars come to a house by breaking the entrance lock. First of all, install strong doors and hard-to-pick lock. Residents of the first and last floors are recommended to install metal grating on their windows, because windows are an easy target for burglars, especially plastic windows. Those who have pipes and/or any kinds of ledges near the windows are better to protect their windows as well.

Unfortunately, this is also not the cure-all. According to Maximchuk, some modern burglars are equipped so well that can pick almost every lock.

"If you trust your neighbors, you can ask them to watch your place while you are away. If they come to your apartment from time to time, turn on the light, open and close windows, a burglar may think the owners are in the house and may leave your apartment in peace," the detective adds.

The detective also recommends another "economic variant" - an autonomous alarm. If a burglar breaks in, a loud siren will go off, drawing attention of neighbors and passers-by. In this case, the burglar will have no choice but to leave. 

Do not beat up a burglar, you may go to jail

What to do if you come home and see the signs of forced entry?

First and foremost, do not come in. If a burglar is still in there, he may attack. Call the police and wait. If you know for sure the burglar is not there, it is better not to come in anyway, in order to preserve the crime scene.

"The matter concerns not only fingerprints. Modern technologies enable experts to follow even smelling traces," the detective says.

Besides, even if you believe you are strong enough to fight a burglar, don't do it. Maximchuk explains that in accordance with our judicial system if you severely hurt or even kill a burglar while defending your house you may be sentenced to an imprisonment term for overreacting.

"There are cases when a victim of burglary was sentenced to imprisonment for the excess of the requirements of justifiable defense. European practice, when owner defending his property is always right, does not work in Ukraine yet," the detective says.

Burglars take everything

People, who do not have anything worth to steal, are also not immune to burglaries. "Thieves take both, underwear and shoes and gold and hi-tech devices. It depends on a region. In Kyiv, burglars prefer expensive things, while in small towns and villages, burglars take everything they see," Maximchuk says.

Traditionally, 'deep pockets' get robbed more often: this year there have been 46 registered burglaries, involving rich or famous victims. "Despite the fact that these crimes are high profile cases in the Interior Ministry, 18 burglaries have not been solved yet," the official says.

As a rule, burglaries are committed by professional old offenders, who have long history of crimes. This year their share in the total number of burglaries has increased from 3725 cases (in 2011) to 4116.

Sometimes it happens that people commit burglaries being drunk. More than 1300 such cases have been registered this year already. In 400 cases the burglaries have been committed by minors.

What are the chances to get back stolen property?

The detective says the timing is crucial. "If a burglary is solved immediately, the chances are high, if in a year - no chance at all. Thieves get rid of stolen goods very fast and a victim can only file a civil case on compensation," Maximchuk explains.

How much do you think a burglar can earn in a prison to compensate financial losses to a victim? The question is rhetorical. As a rule, the victim gets only moral satisfaction putting the offender away.

The law is severe, but there are nuances

In Ukraine, a penal for burglary depends on a degree of criminal act, which is determined by court.

The Criminal Code provides for imprisonment from 3 to 6 years. However, illegal break-in can also lead to imprisonment. Hence, even if a burglar did not take anything or did not have time to do so, there is a point to fill in a report in a police department.

The author of this article once had a sad experience back in 1990ies, when a local drunk stole his bicycle to exchange it for a bottle of vodka. The bicycle was a valuable thing back then, hence a report was filed in the police department.

While the police forces were carrying out a pre-investigation check, we started investigation using our won resources. In three days the thief was found and the stolen property was returned. Out of pity the drunk was forgiven. He did not end up in a prison, as a report on returned property was filed in time.

However, we want to wish the readers never to deal with burglaries or any other crimes. Instead of epilogue, we want to cite the same old George Miloslavskiy: "Citizens, keep your money in a savings bank."

Dmytro Khyliuk


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