In 2015, the FBI reported that there were over 1.5 million burglaries in America. That translates to 1 burglary every 210 seconds. One in five homes in the US will be broken into, and property theft may be the least of your worries. It has been found that as many as 94% of the perpetrators are high on drugs, with 60% of rapes and 30% of violent assaults occurring after a home invasion.
Fortunately, your home is your castle and there are many ways to fortify it from criminal trespassers. In this article, get to know how burglars operate and what you can do to defeat them.
Know your enemy
First, it helps to know that there are two types of burglars: the professional and the reckless. The “professional” is the daytime burglar who doesn’t like to attract attention and stealthily invades your home when the occupants are away at work or school.
He’s cased your house and has seen what valuables there are for him to steal. The professional leaves little or no trace of breaking in, quickly steals valuables, then leaves. He doesn’t linger as he takes only the most valuable, easy-to-carry items and he knows where to get them. You may not immediately notice the pro’s handiwork until you discover something valuable missing, like jewelry or a laptop.
The ”reckless” is almost the exact opposite of the “professional”, being the burglar who invades your home at nighttime. If you think being invaded by a daytime burglar is bad, the reckless, nighttime burglar can be worse. More often than not, this criminal will be high on drugs. He may wait for you and your family to turn in, or will attempt to break in during the wee hours. The reckless burglar will force his way in by breaking a window or door and won’t care if anyone’s home or not. In fact, he may even prefer that you or your family be home so he has people to threaten to open a safe or even “accompany” him to clean out your ATM accounts or hidden safes. He lingers to take as much of your valuables as he can, perhaps including your car.
Their preferred loot
Burglars favor stealing anything easy to carry like cash, jewelry, drugs, phones and portable electronic gadgets. Apart from being easy to make off with, these items can quickly be fenced to another criminal or sold at a pawnshop. If the opportunity presents itself, the most brazen of them may even make their getaway by taking your car.
The first place they’ll look
Burglars who haven’t yet determined what to steal will typically head straight for the master bedroom—their target? Any jewelry that’s not in a safe or other small valuables not under lock and key.
When they strike
Burglaries are highest during the summer months (particularly July and August), when homeowners are typically away for the holidays. As these burglaries are committed when the occupants aren’t around, there can be no witnesses to the crime and physical evidence is rare. In such cases the arrest rate is a measly 13%, with the chances of recovering stolen items virtually nil.
In terms of time, most burglars prefer to invade a home in the hours between 10 am and 3 pm. During these times, the occupants of the home they’re targeting and their neighbors’ homes will be empty — no witnesses, no risk of getting identified.
Sizing you up
Burglary tactics include criminals disguising themselves as a deliveryman, salesman or utilities inspector. The burglar may do this solo or with “backup” nearby. They will use this tactic to check your security measures, possible entryways, weaknesses in your security and your proximity to neighbors. They may size you up to see if you can be fooled or overpowered to gain entry.
The disguised burglar may use this merely to probe your home for breaking into later or as an opportunity to force their way in immediately. If you aren’t expecting any deliveries or inspections, don’t answer the door. If there’s a deliveryman who seems legit, call their company first to confirm you have a delivery. If the company says there are no deliveries for you, stay away from the door and call 911 immediately. If there’s a door-to-door salesman, check the authenticity of their company or product online before opening the door. If not, call 911.
Case your own home
The best way to stave off burglars is to put yourself in the criminal’s shoes. They may already be “casing” your home, the burglar’s term for surveillance and reconnaissance, to find weaknesses – so make sure they find none. The list below details the common ways and places burglars use to invade your home, and how to secure them.
The front door
You may be surprised to know that 70% of home invasions are done via the front door.
- To discourage any intruders, install a deadbolt and a chain-lock sufficiently strong enough to deter or at least delay any forced entry.
- Another feature your door should have is a peephole, allowing you to see who’s at your door without opening it.
- Also, if you are going to talk to a stranger at your door, ask them who they are and what they want; doors aren’t soundproof and you can converse without ever opening the door.
- Resist the urge to get a pet door for your dog or cat; these will only give burglars an easy way in.
- If your front door has any glass, switch it to privacy glass to let light in without enabling anyone to see through.
- Likewise, have reinforced glass installed on your doors to delay or prevent break-ins that way.
- Check all the windows in your home and see to it that they can be and are locked at night.
- Use blinds, shades or curtains to prevent anyone from seeing what or who is in your home.
- To keep burglars from stealthily peeking into your home, place landscaping gravel under all your windows. That way no one can sneak under any windows and look into the house without making noise.
- Ensure that your second-floor windows (if applicable) aren’t close to any trees or fences, and trim any tree branches that intruders may be able to climb to access windows.
- Eliminate any possible hiding spots in your yard, like overgrown bushes or hedges. These should be at most two to three feet in height so as to deprive any intruders of cover.
- Should you have any garden tools like hoes, rakes or ladders lying about, put them in storage as using these to break into homes is not unheard of.
- Treat the garage as you would your front door – always remember to lock it once you’ve parked inside.
- Do remember that the door from your garage goes directly into your house. Secure it as you would your front door, with a deadlock and connect it to your alarm system if you have one.
- If you have a remote garage door opener, don’t leave it in your car. Burglars know most people store the garage door opener in their car, so they break into the car via its windows. The most experienced burglars can do this quickly and quietly.
- Finally, if you’re leaving home and won’t be back for a long time (such as for vacation), padlock your garage.
It may not make sense to you, but your mailbox can be a non-linear way for burglars to know when you’re not home.
- Never put your name on it – burglars can call directory assistance to get your phone number, and call it to see if you’re home or not.
- Also, a full mailbox tells burglars that your house is unoccupied – the perfect opportunity for them.
- Don’t let your mail accumulate and jam up your mailbox.
Here are other measures you can take that can deter burglars:
- Install a driveway alarm. Crazy as it sounds, it’s not unusual for burglars to park their own car on your driveway for a quick getaway.
- Whether or not you actually have an alarm system, install a sign that says so. The sign alone is a huge deterrent to would-be intruders, as per the observation of the FBI; 90% of burglars avoid a house entirely if they even suspect it’s got an alarm.
- Get a dog, preferably one that makes a lot of noise when it sees strangers.
- If you don’t want or have a dog, buy large dog bowls and keep them near your front and back door. The mere suggestion that a dog may be in the house is likewise an effective burglar-deterrent.
- Get a security camera. Thanks to digital technology, today’s CCTV cameras are cheaper than ever, have better resolution and can be easily installed anywhere, unlike old analog systems with complicated wiring.
- Should you not opt for a CCTV, a fake dome camera can be just as effective. No criminal will stay in front of a camera and debate whether it’s real or not, and they won’t risk being recorded. Just be sure your camera is in a spot where it covers areas they can’t avoid, and they can’t get to it and break it.
- Install lights with motion-detectors in places where burglars may try to hide. Anyone startled by their sudden activation will leave, and you will have ample warning and time to call 911.
- Hide your small valuables in DIY storage places like hollowed-out books and hollowed-out cans of food. Burglars will not think to check for these, and don’t have the time to go rummaging through every item in your home.
- If you bought a new home or are renting, check the locks on the doors leading into the house; if they’re the default Kwikset brand, request to have them changed to Medeco or Schlage. Kwikset locks are woefully easy to pick.
- A gun is ideal for your self-defense as long as it’s nearby, in a gun safe or has a trigger lock and you are well-trained to use it in this type of situation. You can also have personal defense spray, a stun gun or other implements that can be used for self-defense handy in case you need to protect yourself and your family; be sure to have a flashlight within reach as well.
- Remember to change the factory-set passwords to your CCTV monitoring systems, garage door opener and home alarm system. Cases where homes were easily broken into due to homeowner’s not changing factory-set passwords are more prevalent than you think.
While no house can be 100% burglar-proofed, good preparation and a security-conscious mindset can go a long way. As you’ve seen, there are several measures you can use to make your home a less attractive prospect to burglars and make it more secure without breaking the bank.
To be more effective, don’t apply just one security measure, equip your home with several security “layers”. Your front door is your first line of defense, so deadbolts, peepholes and a chain lock are an absolute must. Get a dog, get to know your neighbors, and install even a basic CCTV system and a home security system.
Statistically, burglars will take between 8 to 12 minutes to break in and rummage through your stuff, so it’s well worth spending a few hundred dollars to deprive burglars of their small “window of opportunity”. By spending a relatively small amount of money to make your home more secure and less attractive to burglars, you get something much more valuable – your family’s safety and your peace of mind.