Dare, a serial burglar, is serving a 10-year sentence after being caught in 2012. He’s 23 now and says he wants to start over. In an email exchange with The Seattle Times, he explains why he broke into homes.

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Maxfield Dare was a homeless teenager when he became a prolific burglar, mostly operating out of Seattle’s North End, where he would enter unlocked homes while the occupants were sleeping. At one point, an entire police precinct was looking for him. Police caught him in 2012 after he sold stolen items at a pawnshop. He is now serving a 10-year-sentence at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell. Dare agreed to answer questions about his motives and methods in an email exchange with The Seattle Times.

 

Q: Your dad, in his testimony to the judge, described a pretty sheltered childhood, where you spent a lot of time in nature. Was there anything about that experience that you think made you more inclined toward drugs and criminal activity?

A: I don’t feel like growing up sheltered inclined me to do drugs and criminal activity. The only way I feel it could [have] affected me is the change of volume of drugs and criminal activity that I was around and witnessed. Because growing up in Southern California it was definitely there no matter how small the city.

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Q: Do you remember the first time you burglarized a house? What made you do it, and what was it that made you want to do it again?

A: Yes, I do remember the first house I burglarized. I was 9 years old, in California, and broke into a neighbor’s house. I took a whole bunch of miscellaneous items, wine bottles, flashlights, fans, and got caught, by the Riverside County Sheriff’s [Department]. I was so young that I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. The Sheriff made me give everything back, and made me do a ride along/scared straight thing, and brought me to the local juvenile and stuff like that. What made me do it again when I was around 13-14 up here in Seattle was severe poverty/homelessness later on. Do you know how hard it is living in poverty in a major city, as a teenager? Going to school with the same clothes as the year before, not being able to do some of the activities other kids are doing? Once I was on my own around 15 I had to support myself to live, and I wanted to have a normal teenage life, and I wanted the new shoes, clothes, to go to the movies, nice restaurants, things the average teenager was doing. I’m not trying to justify what I was doing, I know I was wrong in my ways, but it was the only thing I knew how to do, and the only way I could create any kind of stability for myself, because, God knows, no one else was there to help me.

Q: Had you ever been caught by a homeowner? What happened?

A: No, I was never caught by any homeowners.

Q: Why did you choose to go into homes when people were there?

A: I didn’t necessarily choose to go into house while people were present. It just happened to be when the opportunity presented itself, the people were sometimes home.

Q: How long would you typically stay inside a home or apartment?

A: Depending on what I would find and how long it would take me to find certain items, but, I would say on average, no longer than five minutes.

Q: How did homeowners make it easy for you to steal from them?

A: They would leave everything unlocked.

Q: Where would you sell the stolen goods, and how much would you make in a week?

A: I would sell the items on the streets. You would be surprised how much the average person doesn’t care where an item came from as long as it’s coming at a discount. Depending on how often I would go out, and what sort of items I would find, on average it would be in the thousands, probably 2-3.

Q: Why do you think it took the police so long to catch you?

A: I think I eventually got caught because I started to get sloppy and started committing them with other people. Before that, the police had no idea about me.

Q: You had great scores on your GED test, and were learning skills that could have made you instantly employable after your release as a juvenile. What happened to derail you after you served your juvenile sentence?

A: I had a lot of dreams I wanted to work toward and achieve, between jobs and going to college, but what derailed me was the same thing as I mentioned before: Homelessness, no stability and no support. I was 17 years old when I was released from JRA. What the city did, or I should say, what they didn’t do, was atrocious. When I was released, they drove me to downtown Seattle, dropped me off and said there’s the door. I was 17 years old, no place to go, nowhere to call home, no support whatsoever. It was like a setup, like the city didn’t care about what happened to me. The only thing I can remotely say that helped was a probation officer, whose name I forgot, gave me $5 to get something to eat. So, here I am, 17 years old, fresh out with nothing but optimism and positivity in my mind, with absolutely nothing but $5 in my pocket and nowhere to go. So, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine how fast that optimism and positivity vanished. I honestly tried to do good, for the first four weeks, trying to find work, trying to support myself, all while constantly moving. So, yeah, eventually one night I had nowhere to go, so I did what I knew how to do best.

Q: The prosecutor, in her comments to the judge, said you weren’t a drug addict who stole to feed a habit, but a criminal who enjoyed doing drugs. Are you? Should we worry when you get out? How do we know you won’t do it again? How do you know?

A: If a person is doing drugs, it is because they enjoy them. No matter what I say, society is going to worry, and they will think I will do it again. To society, I am not to be trusted or believed, so all I can do is show them they are wrong by my actions upon my release. I am older, I have missed out on so many things that the average man my age does. I want to still experience them to the best of my abilities. I want to work, to go to school, to travel, and to eventually start a family. I can do none of those if I continue down this path. Life is too precious and too short to be wasting it in here. I should mention that this isn’t because DOC works in the state of Washington. This is a personal decision I have made because I have matured and re-evaluated my values and views on life. I feel DOC does everything in its power to make people regress and consistently pushes people to make them snap at any time. So, in my eyes the justice system did not fix me, I fixed myself.

Q: How do you imagine your life after prison? What are you doing to make that a reality?

A: I imagine that my life after prison is going to be bumpy. I don’t expect it to be easy. I am separating myself from the stupidity of others, and focusing on being around people with the same aspects as me. I have been studying and working on expanding my abilities in learning new trades. I have been certified in drywall installation, I have learned the basic welding technologies, and, most recently, I was working with the Department of Natural Resources. Working with chain saws, planting trees for reforestation and during the summer months I became a certified wildland firefighter with over 400 hours of experience on active firelines. So, I have been preparing myself to have, and hold, a job and have a good work ethic and how to work with others. I also plan on building ties in the community, to finding and using resources that can help me succeed, and building relationships with people that can help me. I plan on going to work release six months before my release and on finding a job so I can build a platform upon which I plan on building my life, and future.

Q: What else would you like people to know about you?

A: What I want people to know about me is that I am no longer a kid. I am not some 18-year-old that needs to be locked up forever and forgotten about, like some people think. I am a grown man now that has experienced more lows than the average man my age, and I am ready to prove to society that statistics aren’t always right.

Q: What advice would you give to the 18-year-old man who had a two-hour sit-down with the business woman he stole from after he returned the items he stole?

A: What I would say to him, and what I wish someone did for me at that age, I would say, “It’s not worth it.” [and] “Continue going to school.” I wish someone was there to help me, to connect me with resources or something to help me with housing or work.