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Ex-Burglars: Newspaper's Gun Owner Map 'Exceptionally Stupid', Helps Crooks


“Having a list of who has a gun is like gold - why rob that house when you can hit the one next door, where there are no guns?"



The New York newspaper that published a map of names and addresses of gun owners only made it easier for crooks to choose which houses to break into, seemingly putting unarmed residents in greater danger, former burglars told FoxNews.com. At the same time, gun owners could also become targeted by thieves who are looking to steal weapons.

TheBlaze previously reported that the Journal-News, serving Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in New York, has come under fire for the editorial decision to make innocent Americans' personal information public when no crimes had been committed. Reformed burglars told FoxNews.com that the information could be very beneficial to thieves in that they now know which houses are unarmed and may be easy targets as well as which houses have weapons that can be stolen.

“That was the most asinine article I’ve ever seen,” former burglar and jewel thief Walter T. Shaw said. “Having a list of who has a gun is like gold - why rob that house when you can hit the one next door, where there are no guns?"

The FBI reportedly blames Shaw, 65, for more than 3,000 break-ins that netted some $70 million in the 1960s and 1970s.  In other words, his credentials as a thief are legitimate.

"What they did was insanity," Shaw added.

Frank Abagnale seen at Advertising Week on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 in New York. Credit: Invision for Advertising Week

Arguably one of the most famous burglars ever, Frank Abagnale, who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in 2002's "Catch Me if You Can," called the newspaper's decision "reprehensible." Here's what he had to say via FoxNews.com:

“It is unbelievable that a newspaper or so called journalist would publish the names and addresses of legal gun owners, including federal agents, law enforcement officers and the like,” said Abagnale, who noted that he grew up in the suburban New York area served by the Journal-News. “This would be equivalent to publishing the names of individuals who keep substantial sums of money, jewelry and valuables in their home.”

FoxNews.com has more details:

The newspaper published the online map last month alongside an article titled, "The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood." The map included the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

While the paper ostensibly sought to make a point about gun proliferation in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the effort backfired. A blogger reacted with a map showing where key editorial staffers live and some outraged groups have called for a boycott of parent company Gannett’s national advertisers. Ironically, the newspaper has now stationed armed guards outside at least one of its offices.

“They just created an opportunity for some crimes to be committed and I think it’s exceptionally stupid,” said Bob Portenier, another former their and armed house robber turned crime prevention consultant. He added that professional burglars are always trying to gain an advantage and they read newspapers like ordinary people.

“Criminals are always looking for opportunity and words travels through the grapevine—burglars trade secrets and when you see something like that in the paper, that’s is something burglar’s are going to talk about,” Portenier explained.

Officials in Putnam County, N.Y. have refused to release gun owners' information to the Journal-News despite the fact that pistol permit holder information is considered public in New York. County Clerk Dennis Sant said Thursday that doing so would put the public in danger.

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