Don’t Hesitate, Always Call Police

November 3, 2009 at 11:00 pm 2 comments

George Feder, former jewel thief turned crime prevention advocate

The burglary described below actually happened as described—I did it! But it could’ve been prevented.

Getting In

I drove past security and parked, walked unnoticed to a side entrance, picked the lock, and was in the stairwell, all within a few minutes. I went to the 15th floor, slowly opened the door to the hallway and heard nothing. The silence encouraged me. Stepping into the hallway, I saw no one.

Feeling the wealth around me in the deep plush carpeting and beautifully colored wallpaper, I knew there was a great “score” on this floor, but where?

Which condo do I “work”? Because end dwellings are larger and more costly than those in the middle, those were my primary targets.

First, I went to my right. With my right ear pressed against the door and a clear view down the hall, I heard people inside (a hollow door amplifies sound).

Quickly walking to the other end of the hall, I stopped to adjust the picks in my sport coat. Doing that, I broke my stride, tripped and smashed into an apartment door. The door opened and a sweet, elderly lady said, “Hi.”

I responded, “Hello. Wait, you’re not Joan.”

“I know that.” she answered. “The question is, who are you?”

I went into my act and introduced myself. Giving a phony name, I used the address of the building next door. “Joan lives there, same apartment, 15-B. Gee, I made a mistake, wrong building. Sorry to disturb you.”

Politely she responded, “Young man, you look thirsty, Would you like a cold drink?” She invited me in to meet her husband. I learned that, like myself, they were from New York City and we had a great conversation. After an hour, I thanked the couple for the iced coffee and Danish pastry and left.

Fifteen minutes later, still in the same building and just two floors above that sweet, elderly couple, I was picking the locks of Condo 17-B.

It was an okay score, about $10,000. It went like clockwork—the jewelry was in the master bedroom waiting for me.

Getting Out

As I left the condo, I heard the elevator doors open. Out stepped a young man who apparently had just finished playing tennis. This could be a problem. My only way out now was the elevator because using the stairs would look odd.

We exchanged greetings and then he challenged me, “What are you doing here? Who are you visiting? Once again, my routine; phony name and address of the building next door. “Gee, I made a mistake, wrong building. Hope you enjoyed your tennis. Have a nice day!”

I had two options after entering the elevator: ride down a few floors, get off and re-enter the stairwell to exit the building or stay on the elevator all the way down and face the doorman on the way out.

My instincts told me the young man did not buy my act and with lock picks and stolen jewelry in my pockets, I had to get away from that building as quickly as possible. Meeting the police that day was not on my agenda, so I stayed in the elevator.

As I walked past the doorman, he called to me. I was tense and ready for any confrontation. “What?” I barked at him, hoping to intimidate him.

“Sir, it’s getting hot out there,” he said. “You’re going to be uncomfortable in that sport coat.”

I thanked him for his concern, exhaled and left smiling.

Don’t Hesitate to Call the Police

People who hesitated, or were reluctant to call police, enabled me to remain prosperous and free for years.

Most people don’t call police because they don’t heed their instincts. They rely on logic to guide their actions. Residents who are not sure a crime is being committed do not want to look foolish when the police arrive. Sadly, others don’t want to get involved.

As a successful thief, I used those hesitations to my advantage. You see, getting in and out of the building as fast as possible and not being challenged is key to a successful burglary, and their hesitation made it possible.

Follow your instincts! Strangers should not be roaming your hallways. Always call police immediately. They will not laugh or reprimand you if the stranger is an honest person with a valid reason for being there.

Contrary to what most people believe, your home does not begin at your front door. Your home extends to your surroundings; the hallway, the lobby, the pool and the parking area. Be on guard for that well-dressed, quick-talking stranger who seems to belong, but isn’t familiar.

There is always a phone close by, use it! The combination of you, your telephone, and law enforcement will help prevent crime in and around your home.

George Feder is a former master jewel thief and former America’s Most Wanted Correspondent. Visit or follow him on Twitter (@GeorgeFeder) to go inside the criminal mind and get tips on how you can stay safe.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Misha  |  November 4, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    how did he pass the background check to become an advocate?

    • 2. James Gunter  |  November 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

      Advocate in the sense of someone who is excited about and works to spread messages about crime prevention. A self-proclaimed advocate, if you will, not like a court appointed child advocate. (Does that answer your question?)

      As well, George didn’t go directly from being a jewel thief to being an America’s Most Wanted correspondent. He was caught by the FBI and served a 15-year jail term before following the 12-step program and turning his life around. His life’s work is now to teach other people about crime prevention and help them not to be victims.


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