A serial burglar, currently serving prison time, says he would always knock on a door before he broke into someone’s home and if someone answered he would ask for a fake person knowing he or she wasn’t there.
Devon Tounkara admits he broke into 20 to 25 apartments in the Denver metro area until he was caught in 2012.
“You know I was trying to get a job and things got difficult,” Tounkara told The NOW’s national investigative reporter Jace Larson, in an interview from a western Colorado minimum security prison in Delta.
His goal was to locate places where people weren’t home. He burglarized after the sun went down.
“You’ll know who is home based on whose lights are on and whose lights are off,” he said.
To increase his chances of finding a place where no one was home, he says he’d walk up to the front door and knock.
“Of course I would. It would be reckless not to,” he said. “If someone came to the door, I’d ask for a fake name or something and choose someplace else.”
He preferred to spend fewer than 10 minutes inside a home, taking anything he could sell after the burglary. He rarely kept the items, he said.
“Jewelry, televisions, laptops, tablets, some money,” Tounkara said.
He would load up a suitcase and walk out.
“People usually have a suitcase in a closet. I emptied out, and filled it up,” he said.
Tounkara’s comments matched what other prisoners, who filled out a survey sent by The NOW to Colorado inmates, said.
A handful of offenders serving time for burglary responded.
Some burglars said they did break windows or doors to get in, but most said they easily found doors and windows unlocked.
Burglar alarms and signs were a deterrent, but one wrote “only a little.”
One inmate told us: “You’ll be surprised to how many people keep money in the freezer.”
Dogs detoured Tounkara, he said.
“You don’t want to get attacked by a dog, you don’t want the dog barking,” he told Larson.
One inmate who responded to the survey said, for him, pets were not a factor.
Tounkara said he was successful because he appeared as though he belonged in an apartment complex.
“I wasn’t dressed as a stereotypical criminal wearing a hoodie. Nothing like that. I was dressed regular,” he said. “The best advice for people, lock your door and lock your windows.”
ADVICE FROM POLICE
Police officer Marika Putnam says families and parents should discuss how they will handle someone coming to the door.
“You can always yell through the door, ‘Can I help you?’ or ‘Go away. I’m not coming to the door,’” said Putnam, a 17-year veteran with the Denver Police Department. “With your children, that’s a talk you’ve got to have about what you are comfortable with.”
Tounkara says if someone was inside, he moved on.
Tounkara has served five years and is up for parole next year. His mandatory release date is in 2019.
He plans to move on with his life, move back to Pennsylvania where he grew up and marry his girlfriend.
He said he regrets moving to Colorado because he did not have a support system to rely on when he needed food or help finding a job.
Tounkara apologized for his crimes, of which he’s been prosecuted for only three.
“You know I’m sorry for anyone who has ever been a victim because it’s not right, you know,” he said.