This article originally appeared on VICE AU.
As Australia enters stage three lockdown, the whole country is at home and I've been wondering how burglars are doing. Because surely it's not easy being a burglar at the moment.
To find out I asked a drug dealer from a previous story to connect me with a convicted burglar, who has spent the majority of his adult life in and out of the prison system. Within criminal circles, burglars are often considered the lowest of the low—mainly because they steal from innocent families. And now the world is forced to stay at home, I wanted to know whether burglars are going out of business or becoming more brazen. So Rob* and I got on the phone and he agreed to speak to me, through his mesh security door in Melbourne's inner east.
VICE: Hey Rob, what are you up to these days?
Rob: Fuck all. On Call Of Duty heaps. Thinking of ways to make money. I'm not having much luck. Trying to get back some money that’s been owed to me for a while. Can I get paid for this?
Nah, mate, sorry. What are you doing now that everyone's at home?
I just put on my high-vis gear and walk into people's backyards with my tools, and if someone pulls me up, I just say I must have the wrong house. And I’m on my way. There’s heaps of places that are empty late in the afternoon. People are out and about. Also I’ve been forced to break into people's cars for change and whatever I can find. I know it’s not the right thing to do. And I know all the bullshit that I'm on the gear and it’s my fault. I’ve been nicked too many times to get a job. I even tried selling gear and got ripped off and bashed.
What’s been your biggest score since the lockdown started?
Credit cards in cars mostly. I use them to buy vouchers and cigarettes.
Has the lockdown made you more reckless?
Look, I know blokes that are always talking about doing over a servo or an IGA, but really what the fuck are you going to get? Few hundred bucks? They don’t keep much in the til these days. Some blokes I know have done some really stupid shit. But it’s mainly to other crims. No one wants to fuck over a family and kick them when they're down, and I don’t either. Sometimes you get really sick and feel like the world's jumping on your head. And you turn into this other greedy person and find yourself going through someone's drawers. It’s horrible shit. I’ve tried begging but I felt bad because I’m not homeless.
Before your last stint in prison, how did you get busted?
The bloke came home so we bolted. And the bloke that was with me dropped his fuckin bum-bag and the jacks found his ID. It was a shit show. He fucking lagged on me. And cried about how he had kids and couldn’t get nicked for it. And it was all my fault anyway because I was the one that put the idea in his head. Fuckin bullshit. What do you do? I was robbing blokes cells in Fulham [prison] too.
Why did you start robbing houses?
Well it started with drugs. If I’m being honest. I was hooked on ice. I didn’t have cash to score more. So I robbed the dealer's place. I was desperate, so I just did it. I knew a girl that was fucking him and I chopped her into the deal. She went over to his place and partied with him. She texted me when they went out to get Maccas the next day. I just went around the back and took whatever I could find and legged it. There was a quarter of gear and about a thousand bucks.
So you only rob other crims?
Nah, well that’s how it started. Then you start to think like, this is actually fucking dangerous. One of these cunts could have a gun. Or worse, might not have slept for a few days. Who the fuck knows what might happen. And the older you get, you don’t have the stamina and balls like you used to. So you just think, fuck this. I'll just go out to a suburbs and do the houses.
How do you pick the houses?
Well if there’s a few of us, we will scope out houses with cameras and that. Because that way there’s a good chance they’ve got a safe or something. Most people would think cameras are going to protect you, well they do with some cunts, but for blokes looking to do one that has heaps of coin, we’re actually looking for cameras, hotted up cars out the front, shit like that. Sometimes when we get desperate, we will just do one in the middle of the day just see what you can get. It’s amazing how many houses are empty during the day.
What was the last job you had?
You mean like a job job? I fucked up my jobseeker, few months back because I couldn’t get to the work for the dole gig they organised for me. I actually enjoyed it, they had me typing up old newspapers for the local council. It was a proper job, had my own computer down there and a desk.
Do you think you’ll go back to robbing houses when this blows over or do you think it could wean you off it?
I hope I find something better to keep me going. I’ve stopped in the past before, it just depends. Trying to get money to score and that. It’s a tough one, like asking if I’ll ever stop being desperate? Fuck knows? Just more desperate with all this corona shit going on.
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