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Summer Reading: A Burglar's Guide...

“Think different” - the late 90s Apple slogan - could also serve as a rule of thumb for soldiers trying to stay one step ahead of their opponents (and in the process, stay alive). Geoff Manaugh’s book A Burglar’s Guide to the City focuses upon different sort of people who tend to “think different” - burglars. Manaugh writes from the perspective of an architect, examining the many-varied ways in which burglars interact with the built environment in order to enter buildings, and remove things from them (usually for some form of personal gain). It’s hard to read this book without sharing Manaugh’s appreciation for the incredible lengths that human beings have gone to misappropriate the possessions of others.

Regular readers of Manaugh’s architecture blog, BLDGBLOG will probably be familiar with some of the stories contained within. Manaugh’s blog is replete with dozens and dozens of articles aboult military architecture and installations, and the example of the IDF’s use of space in urban operations makes it into the book. If, like me, you happened to be really interested in the “loose nukes” bit of Sean Naylor’s unit history of JSOC, Relentless Strike, then there’s plenty here to ponder. After all, legal differences aside, Delta’s government-funded training to break into bunkers in order to disable nuclear warheads appears strikingly similar to some of the well planned heists in Manaugh’s book. Okay, maybe LA’s finest criminals didn’t have T-72 divisions breathing down their necks in readiness exercises, but they definitely put in similar levels of planning. Just as interesting, when Delta and Seal Team 6 were asked by the Department of Energy to test nuclear facility security in the 1980s, they appear to have unwittingly followed the burglar’s playbook and headed straight to the public libraries to figure out security flaws.

A Burglar’s Guide is a refreshing read. While not an in-depth work of criminological theory, it doesn’t pretend to be, offering instead the author’s particular perspective on the built environment, as well as plenty of self-reflection on the character of architectural theory. It’s well worth a read if you are thinking about security from nearly any perspective worth mentioning. In particular, anyone remotely interested in cybersecurity will see plenty of parallels between the domains. As someone working on remote warfare, the discussions regarding the creation and structure of enclosed space by legal codes is particularly relevant. After all, would lifting something from a house by drone technically make someone a burglar?