Tales of a Jewel Thief: Walter Shaw’s Top Tips

One of the most infamous gangs of our time, the “Dinner Set Gang” ring robbed over 3,000 homes in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. While the wealthy families were at home and relaxing over multi-course dinners, the gang would sneak into their homes, head to the master bedrooms and rob them of their jewelry.

Having distanced himself from his criminal past, former “Dinner Set Gang” member Walter T. Shaw now works as a home theft prevention consultant to homeowners. He has also written a memoir, entitled “A License to Steal,” which chronicles his life as a criminal and also highlights the saga of his father, Walter F. Shaw, who despite having patented several telecommunication inventions, was never given full recognition for his brilliance.

We asked Walter to turn to his expertise and share his top ten theft prevention tips. Read and practice them all (so you can avoid becoming a “dinner-time” theft victim!!):

  1. Know your home’s weakest points.
    “The home’s most vulnerable points are windows, French doors, the spots with the least amount of light,” says Shaw. “Inside, the thieves are gonna hit the master bedrooms – that’s the main target because that’s where the jewelry’s gonna be.”
  2. Don’t stash your valuables and documents in the master bedroom!
    “Hide your jewelry in the kids’ room or the kitchen – anywhere else but the master bedroom. One lady had a nice aquarium in her living room. I built a special compartment for her jewelry for the aquarium. It may be an inconvenience but if you want to keep it – put it somewhere else.”
  3. Turn on your alarm, even when you’re at home.
    “People don’t activate their alarms until they go to bed. What’s the point of having an alarm if it’s not on? We would rob people when they would head out to the store.

    ‘I didn’t think it’d happen to me,’ they say. ‘Well, who did you think it was going to happen to? Your neighbor?! You ARE your neighbor!!’”

    Top Home Improvements to Make

  4. Secure your French doors.
    “Use deadbolt and pin locks on French doors. Put glass sensors on each pane and on the frame. They may just pry the door off the slide.”
  5. Install sensors inside your home.
    “Put a sensor in the middle of the ceiling and point it at the door – the alarm company can do this for you. Have carpeting in the bedroom? Put an alarm underneath the carpet.”
  6. Install heat sensors outside your home.
    “Heat sensors – these turn on the lights. Use the sensors that are for 30 lbs or more so the cat or dog won’t trip them. Make sure they hit under-lit areas – you’ll get a better view of the thief and get a better view for the camera.
  7. When installing cameras outside make sure the whole house is covered.
    “I went to a guy’s house yesterday – his $5 million mansion – and he had them only on the front of his house. What burglar is only gonna go to the front? He lived on the water so I helped him with the back.”
  8. Keep your shrubberies trimmed and at a low height.
    “Shrubberies are used in defense – thieves can hide behind them for protection. Keep them below waist-level or even lower.”
  9. Keep ladders locked up and if possible, somewhere other than the garage.
    “Thieves are gonna grab them to try to get to the second story (usually where the master bedroom is!!),” says Shaw.

    If you have to keep it in the garage, secure the ladder with a lock or put it well out of reach.

  10. Think outside the box.
    What would a thief do? “Burglars are lazy. They’ll move to the easiest house if they can’t crack yours,” says Shaw. “We had an 8 minute limit – if we didn’t find the jewelry in the first 8 minutes, we’d move on because after all tomorrow is another day.”

    Start thinking like a thief and make improvements accordingly.

    Want more burglary prevention tips? Read our Home Theft – Get Prepared article with top tips from police officers and victims on how to deter home theft.

    Last Updated: 5/2009