Inside the mind of a criminal: Preventing home burglaries
Note: This is part one in a two-part series on crime in central Indiana. Read part two here.
It is a nightmare. A stranger breaks into your home and steals your possessions. It happened to a home in Fishers. Thieves broke through the Ossims' basement window on a rainy day in March 2012 and swiped electronics and babysitting money belonging to a 13-year-old girl, leaving muddy footprints in the home. Neighbors were home but did not see anything happen.
"They took our new computer. They took a number of iPods, Xbox and the games that went along with it, flat screen TV, and cash - a total of about $9,000," said John Ossim.
"I can say that I've thought about it every single day. You hear about people being victims of burglaries and you think it's just stuff. It's bad, but how bad can it be? It didn't rank up there until I went through it," said Kristen Ossim. "Evil walked through my house and they were violating everything we hold dear here. I'm sure that whoever took our things - they were not thinking of us, they were thinking of themselves because what they probably could pawn off for a few hundred dollars cost us thousands of dollars," said Ossim.
Mark McNally says he has burglarized hundreds of homes in 20 years, making off with tens of thousands of dollars in stolen property. He is currently serving an 18-year sentence at the Westville Correctional Facility and is scheduled to be released in 2015.
McNally said he burglarized homes to make money and support a drug habit that included cocaine. He gave us unique insight into how criminals think and how they target homes to burglarize.
"I've probably done five or six houses before in a day. I always do it in the daytime. Never at night. People are at home at night," said McNally. "I looked for more upscale neighborhoods because the houses aren't packed together. They're more separate. Or they're bigger. And they had more angles where you can't be seen," said McNally. "I would look for a house that was maybe on a corner, didn't have close neighbors or someone directly across the street. It's as simple as walking up to the door and knocking on the door to see if anyone's home. Looking in the window, listening for a TV, something like that. It doesn't take much to kick a door in," said McNally. "I usually head straight for the bedroom. People keep their valuables on their dresser drawer. Top drawers. Jewelry boxes. It's always right in the open. Wouldn't take one, two minutes. You're in, you're out and you're driving away," said McNally. "A minute or two inside a house, it seems like hours. You're listening for any noise, sirens, you're thinking in your head, how long have I been here?"
McNally said he was always prepared in case someone answered the door.
"I would make up a story, saying he I looking for directions or even looking for a lost dog," said McNally. "I'm not dressed like a bum or anything like that. I'm in a normal shirt, jeans. I don't look out of place."
McNally targeted jewelry, specifically gold.
"It's easy to get rid of and has the highest value," said McNally. "You'd be surprised when you're bringing someone a couple thousand dollars' worth of gold at a time. They'll look the other way, take that gold and pay you in cash and you walk right out."
McNally was finally caught in northern Indiana after a witness saw him leave a home with cash and jewelry. Now, he is providing advice so you can protect yourself from being victimized by a burglar.
"You'd be surprised how many people leave something unlocked too, like a backdoor or a sliding glass door. You walk around the back of the house, you'd be surprised how many times you can just walk right in," said McNally. "Don't leave windows open. Windows, you look at a screen, you push it in and you climb right in. Locking your door is a big thing. You can't believe how many people leave things unlocked," said McNally. "I would say a simple thing as leaving a TV on or a radio. If you can hear noise while you're walking up to the door, I would sometimes just turn around," said McNally. "Even a dog would deter me unless I needed to get the cash."
McNally also says if he saw a car in the driveway or a security sign in the front yard, he would often search for another home.
13 Investigates examined police reports to see if we could find trends on home burglaries. Those patterns might help keep your home safe. Here's what we've learned.
Most burglars break in during the day in broad daylight when homeowners are at work. Their targets are often electronics, jewelry and cash. In Marion County alone, more than 11,000 people were the victims of home burglaries last year. Most of those burglaries happened in four pockets. The near west, near east, near north and northeast sides of Indianapolis. But no neighborhood is untouched by the crime. It happens across Marion County and Central Indiana.
Since becoming victims, the Ossims found ways to protect their home. They have installed heavy duty dead bolts on their doors and an alarm.
"We definitely feel safer. We're vigilant about keeping the alarm turned on. We turn it on day and night," said John Ossim.
"Every time I leave the house, I remember to turn the alarm on. I remember what that feeling was like to come in and have everything gone," said Kristen Ossim. "I don't want that experience again. I don't want anybody to have that experience again."
With four more years to think about his crimes, Mark McNally says he regrets his burglaries and the people he victimized.
"I've lost 13 years of my life right here and another four to go. I lost a wife, a home, cars, jobs," said McNally.
Once he is released from prison, will McNally return to a life of crime?
"I hope not. I don't think so. I'm getting old. I'm older. I don't want to do this anymore," said McNally. "I'm getting old. I'm older. I don't want to do this anymore."
Home Burglary Map - This shows burglary incidents from 2010 to the present in Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Zionsville and Franklin.
Interactive Crime Map - If you know of a burglary that's occurred in your neighborhood recently, enter the data here.