Now police have shared some of their undercover video exclusively with Action News Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman.
Authorities tell Action News the exclusive video came from 3 federal stings where officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms caught and arrested what they are calling the "worst of the worst" criminals: armed thieves who, in some cases, are targeting innocent homeowners, students, and anyone who stands in their way.
Here is one conversation heard on hidden video:
Person 1: "Basically, we gonna have another car sitting outside so they can make sure don't nobody come in behind us."
Person 2: "Right, right, right, right, okay, okay, okay"
Person 1: "Ain't nothing else coming in once we go in."
Person 2: "Right, right, right, right."
As part of an ATF undercover sting operation, career criminals are spilling some of the shocking and frightening ways they meticulously plan to rob houses.
From using assault weapons:
Person 1: "That's why I said,' I ain't worrying about the guns, because if they do got guns, first thing they gonna do is shoot.'"
To tying up their victim:
Person 2: "So we're on for tomorrow then."
Person 1: "Yeah. All we gotta do is make one Home Depot trip. "
Person 2: "All right, all right. What y'all getting now? Just a.."
Person 1: "Zip ties."
If all else fails, they plan on shooting and even killing the resident.
"Nine of the home invasions we had this year lead to murder," said Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
"As far as I am concerned, the people who conduct these home invasions are the worst of the worst," said Sam Rabadi with the ATF Philadelphia
6abc received a rare inside look at several joint ATF and Philadelphia Police operations that have resulted in dozens of federal convictions for home invasion.
The look comes as new statistics show the trend of violent home burglaries in Philadelphia is ticking upward. There have been at least 50 more of home invasions in 2013 as there were at the same time in 2012.
"We've had elderly people that were targeted," Chief Ramsey said. "We've had women that were raped during the course of the home invasion; tied up and pistol whipped."
The Philadelphia Police Department has 6 undercover officers embedded with the ATF Violent Task Force which is the unit in charge of enforcement efforts to track down and target gun runners and potentially violent offenders like the ones in an undercover video who recently admitted to robbing people for more than 3 decades.
Person 2: "Yeah. That's, that's what I do. I've been doing this (expletive) so long."
Person 1: "Right, right."
Person 2: "The first job was in '81."
Person 1: "So you got it down to a science."
Person 2: "I learned that. I got caught (expletive) in Jersey."
The ATF classifies these suspect as "ultra-violent," meaning they have lengthy criminal histories.
The ATF says the 35 offenders that the special task force has arrested in the last year and a half have very lengthy pasts. The robbers in the undercover videos all pled guilty and have been convicted in federal court.
"They have amongst them over 250 arrests. And these are arrests ranging from murder, to attempted murder, to other armed robberies, and gun possessions," Rabadi said. "These are some seriously bad people."
The tools of their trade include assault rifles, zip ties, crow bars and masks.
Officials say they move quickly to immediately incapacitate the victims and if need be they will shoot the victims.
For anyone who thinks they are immune from being a victim of these crimes, police warn you are not, as the spiking crime numbers in Philadelphia show.
"These are people who knows someone's home. This isn't just a burglar who just was startled to find someone at home," Ramsey warns. "These are people that planned it and they know full well someone is home and they come in armed. They come in ready to do whatever they have to do."
So, what can people do? Commissioner Ramsey recommends:
- Do not let anyone in your home who you are not expecting, claiming to be the police or a utility worker.
- Get a home security system and cameras if you can
- Make sure the area outside your home is well lit
- Don't keep large sums of money in your home or on yourself
- Be careful who you let into your home
- Be vigilant about locking your doors and windows, and about your surroundings.
Most importantly, officials say you should trust your instincts and call 911 if you see someone suspicious or someone knocks on your door you don't know.