COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Police looking to teach the public how to prevent break-ins have turned to the experts -- convicted burglars.
The Columbus Police Department recruited three inmates with the help of the state prisons agency and produced a YouTube video, in which the offenders share their how-to tips. Most of the suggestions are common-sense warnings about locking up, keeping blinds drawn and not storing valuables in cars.
A few recommendations stand out for originality: "Sometimes set (an alarm) off so people know it's there. Don't just buy it and never set it off," said William Coffman, of Franklin County, who is serving time for burglary and aggravated robbery.
Hardin County burglar Joel Hamlin emphasized the importance of putting valuables in a wall safe, not a small portable safe:
"Little safes? You can easily just grab that and take it on out," Hamlin said in the video, which is called "Burglars on Burglary: Tips from the Big House to Your House."
Columbus police and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction filmed the inmates last year, put the pieces together over the past few months and recently posted the two-part, 24-minute video, called "From the Big House to Your House."
Police Cmdr. Bob Meader likens the impact to a child tuning out advice from a parent but heeding the same tips from a teacher or coach.
"For the police to say, 'Lock your doors, keep your garage door shut, leave the lights on on your porch,' is one thing," Meader said. "When you're hearing it from somebody that actually did it for a living? I think it adds some validity to it."
Criminals-turned-anti-crime consultants aren't new.
In 1985, reformed burglar Ray Johnson published "Ray Johnson's Total Security: How You can Protect Yourself Against Crime." In 2002, the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "Catch Me If You Can" told the real-life story of check forger Frank Abagnale Jr., who impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer before going to prison and then becoming an FBI consultant.
In the case of the three Ohio burglars, they agreed to cooperate in exchange for a letter to the parole board from Columbus police about their participation.
The exercise seemed to help the men process the impact they had on their communities, said Officer Norm Russell, who came up with the idea.
Hardin County prosecutor Bradford Bailey recalled Hamlin as a brazen addict who broke into wealthy people's homes in broad daylight. Charging documents from the day Hamlin was arrested describe him going house to house in February 2006 before fleeing from officers, tossing a bag into a river and throwing away other items as he ran.
Bailey isn't bothered by Hamlin's role in the video.
"We'll take any tips from the good guys, or we'll take them from the bad guys," Bailey said.