Review: “A Burglar’s Guide to the City” by Geoff Manaugh


Today for our Tactical Book Club meeting is an eye opener. I have often found that one great way to learn if form other people’s real life successes and failures, Case Studies. And this book has a TON of them, from burglars kidnapping security personnel and blindfolding them and smashing all of their watches and clocks so that detectives can’t get an idea as to how long the crime took to complete, to underground tunneling both into and out of crimes, lock picking (my favorite) …


In “A Burglar’s Guide to the City” Manugh he sets up the book right away with that good old fashion feeling of fuck yeah, let’s pull off a heist by ending the first sub-chapter with:

“His first thoughts were that he could use his architectural skills to rob the place blind.”

I immediately started rooting for the bad guys… which is funny because I’m a cop. Impressive, I like this author already.

Manaugh covers a ton of ground for a normal sized book, starting with several profiles of big name burglars and heist puller offers. But don’t worry, I PROMISE you it is not dry (that’s what she said). He brushes on the history of security through architecture and locks and lock picking, covers law enforcement tactical breeching a bit, and covers hard targets and soft east targets of opportunity, some of  which the low hanging fruit is a specifically placed trap house for would be burglars complete with open windows, bait, and well placed security cameras. Thanks dick, you get me all excited to pull off a big heist then warn me that if it’s too good to be true than it probably is.

I admit that I am not the best detective on the beat, in fact, I’m not even a “detective” although I do get paid to detect things. Funny… I have worked several burglaries and used my rational brain and my critical thinking to try to solve them or at least help with the initial on scene investigation but after reading this book it did two things for me as a LEO.

  1. I believe a lot of Sun Tzu’s teachings are still applicable. If you want to catch a burglar than reading  bad ass book to help you look at crime through a different lens will help you “know your enemy”.
  2. It gave me a renewed sense of vigor to go out and take ALL the burglary calls that go out in my zone and start being a regular old Sherlock Holmes. “No no no, I’ve got this one. I read a BOOK on burglaries once” hahahaha.

I loved this book. It’s easy to follow and it’s not boring and I don’t ever recall it being long winded. The author switches pretty frequently from one topic to the next. The layout of the book may seem choppy to some but it has it’s place each chunk of the book (there are several) seems to be an interview with an expert and their take on burglaries and architecture, than the next chunk is an interview with another expert and a little bit of a tie in with the last. This continues for most of the book.

I have some books on my shelf that I will be reviewing that are NOT so great, and I have no problem saying so. This book? 10 out of 10. Easy to read. Informative. Creative. Many expert opinions. And I actually learned several things that I can take with me.


A Burglar's Guide excerpt

(Reference above) While on a short vacation in Orlando I was visiting a friend who lived in an apartment complex. Their window was on the second floor and looked down over the complex’s central mail hut. The little outdoor structure with like 200 little USPS grey metal boxes in it. This hut had an access door on the back side for the postal worker to access the interior side of the personal mail chutes.

I was awoken in the middle of the night to a bright orange light and a loud screeching hailing noise. Thought it was a weird dream, but no. It was a weird real-life.

At about 3am I looked out the window to see a huge plume of orange light (sparks) and another loud metal on metal screeching. Some IDIOT brought a buzz saw to the postal box access door to try to grind through the one bolt that held the door shut. The lock was probably a 20 dollar lock. I could have picked up a paper clip off the ground and silently and quickly picked the lock open and had all the time in the world to steal all the mail I wanted. But NOOOooo. Some idiot criminal decide to wake everybody up with his method of entry. Which failed. And resulted on me grabbing my gun and calling the local PD to come respond.

(Side note: Cops aren’t always there when you need them. 15 mins after the burglar left a squad car came, the officer didn’t get out of his car to even look at the mail hut door, I waved him down, he looked at me, waved, and drove off. I had to yell to give him a statement. Another reason I tell people to carry their OWN guns. Because you can’t carry around a cop. It also seems like pulling teeth to get them to do a proper investigation…sometimes. I’m not calling police idiots. I am one. But yes, some of us, are idiots.) Rant over.

Photos below are the actual buzz saw marks left by the would-be burglar. His failed attempt is just another example of why I have no qualm about teaching people how to lock pick. 1- I still have yet to ever take a case where a burglar picked a lock to steal from someone. I’m sure it happens, but in my jurisdiction, I’ve never heard of it happening. 2- just like a gun or a hammer or a fork, it’s a tool. You can shoot a good guy, or a bad guy. It’s a crime to murder someone regardless. You can build a house, or smash someone’s head in, YOU decide and YOU act like an adult. You can eat McDonalds or Steak and Veggies with your fork. Breaking into someones home with a hammer is a crime, or with lock picks is a crime. I teach people skill sets. They determine how to use them. And believe me, I’d be MORE than happy to hunt down someone doing B&E’s with lock picks and throw them in jail. Ok, now my OTHER rant is over.

Failed Burglary:

Failed Burglary 1

Failed Burglary 2

Failed Burglary 3