Every 20 seconds, a burglary takes place in the U.S. according to 2015 FBI crime statistics.
There were 1,579,527 million residential burglaries in the U.S in 2015 alone. Of those there were losses of upwards of 3.6 billion dollars, with the average dollar loss per burglary of around $2316.
With so many burglaries it's a good idea to take sensible precautions to make sure your family doesn't become victimized.
A house I lived in years ago was burglarized, with the thieves taking several things, including an expensive bike that I owned at the time.
Beyond just losing my possessions, the burglary carried with it a sense of being violated, of not feeling completely safe in our home. It's hard to overcome that.
Thankfully there are things that you can do to improve the security of your home, and help to ensure your home won't be fall prey to the bad guys. Let's take a look at some things you can do at your house to make it a less likely target of a burglary.
Know When Burglars Strike
The stereotype that many of us have is that burglaries happen in the dead of night, when it's dark out, while we're sleeping. The quiet cat burglar sneaking into our house and absconding with our possessions in the dead of night.
In reality, according to the FBI, upwards of 70% of burglaries happen during the day, between 10am-3pm. The reason? Most people are at work, school or out and about during the day.
Burglars typically want an easy score, and they want to get in and out of the house within a few minutes, and it makes it much easier if no one is home.
To help give you better peace of mind it can be a good idea to install motion activated cameras at your home, both indoor and outdoor, which can give you alerts during the day if there is activity outside or inside your house. We'll talk more about this down below.
Lock Your Doors (Especially The Front Door)
We all have locks on our doors for a reason, to keep people out who aren't supposed to be there. The problem is, sometimes we get lulled into a sense of security and forget to use them. To avoid becoming a target one of the easiest and most important things you can do is to lock your doors.
According to FBI statistics, the back door (22%) and a first-floor window (23%) were popular entry points. What is surprising is that a high percentage (34%) came through the front door.
Get a good Grade 1 dead bolt lock on each of your exterior doors, and lock them all, especially when you're gone during the day. Also, make sure your exterior doors are solid wood core or metal doors, otherwise an intruder could just kick them in.
Don't forget to also lock your garage doors and sliding doors which are also popular points of entry for burglars. For sliding doors, it may not be a bad idea to also get a sliding door security bar.
Smart Door Locks
A product you might consider buying if you're prone to forgetting to lock the doors is a smart door lock. Many smart locks can be unlocked or locked remotely via smartphone app, and some can even be setup to work in conjunction with other smart home devices like Nest Thermostat to determine if you're away from home. If you're away it can be set to automatically lock your doors.
Lock The Windows, And Use Drapes
Another place that a lot of burglars get in the house is though open or unlocked windows. It can be nice to open the windows to get a nice cross breeze on a hot summer night, but don't forget to lock them again as open first floor windows are used as a point of entry 23% of the time.
Not only should you keep the windows locked, but it can be a good idea to make sure to close the drapes on your home, especially in rooms where there may be expensive things that might be tempting to a potential burglar looking through the window.
Make It Appear Like You're Home
Making your house appear like it's occupied is a good way to get a burglar to slink away and find another house to rob.
You can do that in a variety of ways. Some ideas:
- Have a clean car in the driveway: Make it appear like someone is at home, parked in the driveway. Just make sure it isn't an old car covered in dust that obviously never leaves the driveway.
- Have lights on timers in the house: Put lamps on a timer that allows for random patterns of turning power on and off, or smart switches that allow you to turn lights on and off remotely. We use a couple of WeMo Mini Smart Plugs at our house, but I also recommend the TP-Link Smart Plugs. With these units you can control your home's lighting and turn lights on randomly to give the house a lived in feel or set them on a scheduled timer. They even hook up to smart devices like the Amazon Echo device or Nest thermostat.
- Use a “Fake TV” device: I was watching a special where they were interviewing a master burglar, and he said if he ever saw a TV on in a house he would move on to the next potential target. Along those lines many companies now offer “Fake TV” devices that when pointed at a window in a darkened house with the shades drawn, will look like you are watching TV inside. Use one of these in conjunction with a WeMo Mini Smart Plug and it will look like you're watching your favorite shows at night.
- Use motion activated lights: If there are areas around your house that get dark at night, consider putting in some motion activated lights to scare off potential offenders.
- Landscape lighting: We use some solar landscaping lights around our house in dark areas light up walkways, and make things feel not quite so dark and inviting for burglars.
- Smart exterior lighting: We don't currently do this but would like to add some smart bulbs outside so that we can leave the exterior lights on when we're gone, having them either setup to turn on via a schedule, or set to turn on at random hours.
Don't Leave Things Out that Can Be Used To Break In
Often people will lock their doors and windows, but leave a garden shed open with access to tools and other items that can be used to break into a home.
Do your best to make it harder on potential burglars by not leaving things out and about that can be used to break into the home.
Keep tools in a locked garage or shed, not in the yard. If you are using a ladder outside, put it away when you're done so it can't be used as a convenient way to access 2nd floor windows.
Prune Your Bushes
One thing people often forget is that large trees or bushes near doors and windows can be nice places for would be burglars to hide while they're trying to enter the home, day or night.
Do your best to prune back bushes and large foundation plantings in order to deter this.
Another idea is to plant smaller plants near the house, or thorny plants that could scratch or cause irritation.
Hide Valuables Carefully
Most criminals will look in the most likely places first for your valuables, and usually that means the master bedroom first where they will look through dresser drawers, nightstands, look under mattresses, and search closets. They will also search bathrooms in the medicine cabinets and in the toilet tank since people often have prescription medications, jewelry and other valuables in there.
In one interview with a former burglar I read, they asked him for some places that he would always search beyond the usual places. He responded that he would always search toilet tanks, cereal boxes, refrigerators and freezers, medicine cabinets and beds.
To safeguard yourself, think about hiding valuables somewhere other than the most commonly searched places (like a kid's room), and consider getting a safe that can be bolted down to the floor, or otherwise secured.
You could also install a hidden safe of some sort. My in-laws actually had a secret room with a hidden entrance built in their old house where valuables could be stored.
Places To Hide Valuables
- Bolt Down Fireproof & Waterproof Safe
- Fake HVAC Vent Safe with RFID
- Fake Electrical Outlet
- Wall Clock with Hidden Compartment
Install Security Cameras
There are quite a few ways to create your own DIY home security system. One component of that might be a motion activated home security camera system. We've bought several of these items at our house to improve our home security.
Doorbell Video Cameras
Doorbell video cameras can be effective in helping home security by allowing you to view who's ringing your doorbell without you having to actually open the door. When would be thieves come to scope out your house, ring a doorbell to find if someone's home or come onto your porch to steal a package, you'll get them on video and can even talk to them over an intercom as if you're home.
In addition just having the camera on the porch can be a deterrent. Do a YouTube search and you'll find a lot of videos from these devices showing thwarted burglaries or package thefts in progress. Some of my favorites include:
In addition, you may want to consider other in house and exterior cameras. I bought a generic IP Camera in my basement looking out into our backyard that works well, and may end up buying a Nest Cam or Arlo Cam system at some point as well for more coverage. There are cheap and expensive options available. Some of my favorites:
- Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera
- Netgear Arlo Home Security Camera System
- Maximus Security Light/Lamp and Camera
Desktop and Mobile Camera Software
With a lot of these cameras you can use a desktop software to view all of the cameras in one place, record intrusions, or watch them remotely with a smartphone app. A few to consider if you don't want to use software provided by the companies:
Install A Home Security System
According to the Washington Post, homes without security systems are three times as likely to be broken into than homes with security systems. With that in mind, it's a good idea to have a security system installed.
We have a home alarm system that was installed when the house was built. When we activate the alarm it has intrusion alarms set to go off if the doors or windows are opened, it has glass break sensors and motion detectors in the house. We can also have the system monitored, and police notified. It cost us quite a bit to install this system.
Alarm systems don't have to be overly complicated or expensive, however. DIY alarm systems that anyone can install have been released in recent years:
An alarm system can act as a deterrent, or as a fail-safe in case someone ends up getting in the house. Better safe than sorry.
Have A Trusted Neighbor Look After Your Home
If you're planning on going out of town for an extended period of time, it may be a good idea to ask a trusted neighbor to look after your property. If they see any suspicious behavior, they can call the police, or report the activity to you.
They can also make sure that any newspapers that are delivered or packages that show up are taken inside the house or put away until you get back.
Finally, if you live in a cold area where it snows, ask if they can do snow removal for you from your driveway while you're gone – so people won't see an empty driveway filled with pristine snow.
Stop Your Mail & Newspaper Deliveries
If you're going out of town, it's a good idea to make sure that you ask the postal service to stop your mail delivery temporarily so the mail doesn't pile up in your mailbox and make for an easy target. You can put a hold on mail delivery at the website for the US Postal Service:
It's also a good idea to stop newspaper delivery while you're gone. A tell tale sign that the house is unoccupied is a dozen newspapers piled up in the driveway. Either have delivery paused, or ask a neighbor to pick it up for you while you're gone.
Don't Talk About Trips On Social Media
When you're going on a trip it can be easy to start talking about the trip on social media to your friends and family because you're excited about the trip.
Do your best to keep discussions of the trip off of social media until you're home, however, as thieves will often target homes of people that they've seen are on vacation via social media.
Don't talk about your trip, when you'll be gone, or post photos of the trip until you're back.
Plan Ahead And Reduce Your Risk
Burglaries are pretty common in the United States, but there are a lot of things you can do to mitigate the risk that you'll become a victim.
Following the common sense advice above will make the likelihood of your home being robbed much less. Lock down those most common entry points, put in place at least some security features like cameras and alarms. Have motion activated lights, keep your property well lit and have the landscaping pruned back.
Plan ahead for the worst case, and you won't become an easy target.
Have your own tips for reducing your risk of being burglarized? Tell us in the comments!