A former career burglar has ditched his life of crime and joined a smart home security firm as a consultant, advising them on how to keep their customers as safe as the houses.
After funding his lifestyle by looting insecure homes for 12 years, Luke Harris is putting his breaking and entering expertise to good use by making people's homes as secure as a fortress.
Since going straight five years ago, Luke has held down various jobs, but jumped at the chance of putting his years of criminality to good use in his latest role.
Luke Harris turned his back on a life of crime (PA Real Life/ Collect)
He applied after seeing a recruitment request by Edinburgh-based home security start-up, Boundary, specifically looking for a reformed burglar.
“I remember seeing the job advert and being immediately intrigued, because it said, 'We're looking for someone a little bit different,'" he said.
“After seeing they were specifically looking for a former burglar, I really wanted to give it a shot and applied. I didn't think I'd get it at first, but I desperately wanted it."
Luke Harris around the time of his first burglary (PA Real Life/ Collect)
And Luke's criminal expertise put him streets ahead of the other 50 applicants, landing him the job.
Luke, was first tempted into crime when he was just 12-year-old by a packet of cigarettes.
"I grew up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields. I first got into crime looking for a cigarette as the nearest shop was miles away and actually ended up burgling my parents' next-door neighbors," he said.
Luke Harris now uses his knowledge to help home owners (PA Real Life/ Collect)
“I knew they smoked and I really wanted cigarettes so I climbed in through a kitchen window to let myself in, although once I was inside I actually couldn't find any," he added.
“I guess at first it was mischievous intrigue. I was brought up well, to know right from wrong and not to be like that. I admitted the first few burglaries, including this one, shortly afterwards, so the police were involved in my life from then on."
Luke Harris left home when he was 15 (PA Real Life/ Collect)
Leaving home at 15, the lack of rules soon saw Luke exploiting his newfound freedom to become more fully entrenched in a life of crime.
"My life as a burglar was never motivated by drugs. Instead, I got a taste of having good money at an early age and, even though it was wrong, I started to live a lifestyle that I couldn't afford if I had an ordinary job," he said.
"I got used to spending a lot of money and living in the fast lane, so to speak. Every time I ran out of money, I burgled another place."
Despite being arrested several times, Luke was only ever convicted of his first burglary at his neighbors' home, for which he was sentenced to community service.
Soon becoming a seasoned liar, he said he would think “forensically" about his burglaries. Making sure he always had a logical and believable story to explain why his DNA was found at the scenes of his crimes.
"I always knew I was going down the wrong path, but I was good at being a burglar and I found it hard to work in a 'normal and civilized way'," he said.
Luke said it's vital to keep valuables out of sight (PA Real Life/ Collect)
“Getting up for a job had never worked for me in the past and school certainly didn't work for me. My skill was thinking outside the box – it still is," he said.
“Being a good burglar isn't just about invading someone's home. You have to think about the 'what ifs', like leaving a fingerprint in one place and getting pulled in two weeks later. I had to know how to explain why my DNA was where it was."
Luke's turning point finally came after he burgled the house of someone who had very recently died.
Luke Harris now (PA Real Life/ Collect)
"I knew them, so I knew there was no one there and that there was no family," he said.
"The door was not shut properly, so I went in and went through everything."
Despite leaving with a sizable haul worth “thousands of dollars" the despicable nature of his crime started eating away at Luke's conscience.
After 12 years of persistent criminality, he found himself at just 27 living alone, in a beaten-up caravan on the side of the road broke after spending all his money.
"A very dear friend told me I had until I was 28 to sort my life out or they would never speak to me again," he said.
"Finally, that hit home for me. It just rang bells in my ears and I had to admit to myself what I had done and that I needed to redeem myself."
Luke Harris working as a chef (PA Real Life/ Collect)
“I was living in a wrecked caravan, full of holes, on the side of the road," he continued.
"One weekend, it was raining, so everything was completely damp. It was so miserable and I just completely broke down."
Luke Harris encouraged owners to regularly check their locks (PA Real Life/ Collect)
"I'd had enough of living like that. I wanted to turn my life around," he said.
"Something inside me clicked and I believed, in that moment, that I deserved to give myself a better life away from crime."
Determined to become a reformed character, Luke “grabbed with both hands" a friend's job offer to work as a cleaner at a Dorset pub.
Luke's tips for keeping homes safe this Christmas
- Keep presents out of sight of windows. Burglars will carry on walking if they don't see anything of value.
- Don't leave any presents in a shed or garage - even if you think it's a good place to hide them from your family, as they are fairly easy to break into.
- Double check all your security lights and your locks are properly working before you leave your home.
- If you're leaving your house unattended to visit family, don't advertise it on Facebook or social media. Criminals are on social media too!
- If you are on good terms with a neighbor and are leaving your home empty, ask them to visit, make a call to the house and generally make it appear that it is being lived in.
- Buy timer lights - there are models with 'holiday modes' that can randomize times within a certain number of hours.
“I haven't looked back since," he said.
Once he was on the straight and narrow, Luke soon moved through the ranks, working behind the bar and as a chef at half-a-dozen pubs across Dorset and Somerset.
He also started a family with his partner, who he wishes to remain anonymous, and, in the last few months, started looking for a fresh opportunity – a job which would allow him to give something back, after “hurting so many people down the years."
Boundary CEO Robin Knox said Luke was the perfect candidate (PA Real Life/ Collect)
In September he spotted the advert for a position with Boundary and immediately applied.
"Working in the kitchen at a pub is quite a full-on job, so I was looking online for jobs for ex-criminals. When I saw that Boundary were looking for a former burglar I really wanted to give it a shot and applied," he said.
Luke discovered that Boundary boss, Robin Knox, was happy to take him on.
"This is a great way for me to go some small way to putting right the wrongs of my past," he said.
“I'm really proud that I was able to turn my life around and very grateful to people like Robin, who have been prepared to see the person I am now, not the criminal I used to be, and have given me a chance."
“It doesn't make what I did any better, but in 10 years time I hope to look back and see that I have turned everything on its head and started helping people."
Luke Harris wanted a change after working as a chef for years (PA Real Life/ Collect)
Boundary CEO Robin Knox, said it made sense to employ someone with inside knowledge of house breaking to make his security systems more effective.
"It's not just about the technology you have in your house, but also how you behave. So, as a security company setting out to prevent people having their properties broken into, there is a whole range of advice that Luke – as a former burglar – can give our customers," he said.
"His deep-rooted desire to put his past behind him and do something positive made him stand out to us – as he knows what he did was totally wrong and is setting out to right some of those wrongs now."