Updated May 2, 2019

10 Best Ways to Prevent Burglary at Home

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Must-read guide to prevent home burglary. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property with these 10 simple steps to secure your home.

Your Chances

Some statistics are almost too big to comprehend, such as when the FBI says more than 1.7 million U.S. properties were burglarized in 2014. You could try to figure out your odds of joining that statistic, but chances are your eyes will gloss over before you come up with the right number. You'll probably conclude that home burglaries are something that happen to other people.

The truth is, thieves don't care if you're in denial about becoming a part a burglary statistic. If you aren't willing to consider taking steps to protect yourself and your possessions, next year's statistic could be 1.7 million plus one.

Common Sense Goes a Long Way, Along with Some Planning

Here's a disturbing stat that anyone can grasp instantly: Victims of burglaries in 2014 lost an average of $2,251. For most of us, that's not chump change.

On top of the monetary hit, those who get their homes broken into can lose confidence in their overall safety and their emotional well-being. With the right tools, however, you can deter would-be burglars and even stop them in their tracks.

It's not one of those things you can do right before you go on vacation. It's best to research what's out there and set yourself up just right so you feel protected all year round, while you're at work and while you're sleeping during the dark of night.

To begin, look at your home objectively and figure out the weak spots. A burglar is looking for an easy target, so performing just a few commonsense tasks, like upgrading the locks on your front door, can keep your home safer.

  • Trim your hedges, bushes, and trees
  • Put tall ladders away
  • Secure your windows and doors
  • Secure your garages and sheds
  • Store valuables away from windows
  • Don't flaunt recent expensive purchases
  • Set up interior lights on an automatic timer
  • Set up motion-activated exterior lights
  • Enlist in help of neighbors to keep an eye out
  • Use fake security or dog signs if you're on a budget
  • Use home automation apps when you're away
  • Invest in a security system

Related: Do You Make These Home Security Mistakes?

The Ultimate List of the Web's Best Resources on Preventing a Home Burglary:
From a simple timer that turns on a lamp at a different times each night to smartphone apps that show you what's going on at your home when you're away, many options exist for preventing home burglaries. In this guide, you'll learn about the following:

  1. What Burglars Are Looking For
  2. Why Landscaping Matters
  3. How to Secure Your Doors and Windows
  4. Pay Attention to Your Garages, Sheds, Basement
  5. Get Creative with Your Security Measures
  6. Alarms: What to Look for in Home Security Systems
  7. Interior and Exterior Lighting Can Keep You Safe
  8. Know Your Neighbors
  9. Vacation: Keep Your Home Safe Before You Go Away
  10. Home Automation: Be in Control on the Go

1. Know What Burglars Are Looking For

Does your home scream "rob me!"?

Thieves are out there looking for incentives to break in. Don't give them the bait. That means keeping signs of your expensive belongings inside your home, hidden from prying eyes. There's no need to brag inadvertently about gadgets you have recently bought. So, around the holidays, for example, don't place the empty box for your new 4K TV at the curb days before the garbage truck arrives. Keep riding mowers and other expensive tools inside a garage or locked shed. And put valuables out of window view, where someone peeking in your home could see them.

While some burglars choose their victims at random, others use a more refined approach to finding homes that are ripe for the picking. You may be sending out signals that your home is a good candidate for burglary without even realizing it.

2. Why Good Landscaping Matters

Burglars looking for an easy target appreciate homes where the landscape lets them hide in plain sight. Large bushes and trees near doors and windows may provide you with some privacy, but they'll also allow burglars to stay hidden from nosy neighbors while they test for open doors and windows.

Frequently trim bushes and trees to allow for a clear view of windows and doors. Or consider placing bushes with thorns underneath windows to thwart burglars. And don't leave a tall ladder outside your home either, as a burglar could use it to access second-story windows.

3. How to Secure Your Entranceways

Most burglars don't have a bulldozer handy. What they do come equipped with is a keen eye for seeing vulnerabilities - which are usually found with your doors or windows. Sometimes "citizens forget to secure their home, lock doors, windows, set alarms, and close garages," says Kevlon Kirkpatrick of the Orlando Police Department.

Burglars may have observed your house from afar and noticed that you don't often lock your doors, or they may have noticed one window you always leave open that they can easily climb through. Usually it's a doorway: According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, 34% of burglars stroll in through the front door while 22% use the back door.

Your home probably has more entrance points than you realize, and they're probably not as secure as you need them to be. Take a look at the tools you do have to keep burglars away - namely all your locks - and consider whether you need an upgrade.

4. Pay Special Attention to Your Garages, Sheds, Basement

Having a garage or basement attached to your home can come in handy when you need extra storage, but it can also lure in burglars who are looking for a weak spot in your security defenses. Freestanding buildings can clue in burglars that you're not a stickler for security - if you leave the shed filled with expensive lawn equipment unlocked, a thief may think you're loose about other parts of your property as well.

Also, the way you use your garage could be giving signals to burglars. One of the best things to do is to park your car inside the garage. Burglars often look for patterns and if you're in the habit of always parking in the driveway or at the curb, it is easy for them to see when you're not home.

Another issue to consider: Did you recently upgrade your home windows but forget about the basement? Burglars love the falling-apart windows in basements (so easy to crawl through since they are at ground level) and bulkheads. These areas are also attractive hiding spots for naughty folks patient enough to sit in the shadows and wait to pounce.

5. Get Creative with Your Security Measures

Sometimes, these cheapo security tricks are better than none.

We'll bring up the topic of paying for an alarm system that gives you ongoing protection (and, in some cases, a monthly bill) below, but there are some measures you can take that won't cost you extra. Consider picking out your next dog based on his protective skills and not solely on his cuteness, or see if the one you have can be trained to be more than just your best friend.

Other cheapo but effective security measures include using loud dog sounds when a stranger approaches your house, putting up a "beware of dog" sign even if you don't have a pet, and installing fake cameras (not ideal but better than nothing). Speaking of signs, you could put up a sign that makes it appear that you have a professional alarm system running throughout your property when in fact your only investment is a prominent window sticker.

6. What to Look for in Home Security Systems

You can only do so much yourself. A more effective option could be hiring a home security company to monitor your home, with an alarm system that can protect you from burglars by alerting police to any break-in at your home. Different levels of monitoring are available at different price points, so figure out what you need and can afford, and shop around.

Research has shown that 60% of burglars would choose another house if the one they were targeting had a home security system installed. There are pitfalls you can fall into if you don't do your homework, so be sure to do some comparison shopping.

7. Proper Lighting Can Keep You Safe

Do you have a lighting strategy?

Interior Lighting:
Most of us don't give our lights much thought - in fact, many of us fail to turn them off when we walk out of a room. But when it comes to home safety, leaving your lights on can actually save you from getting your precious stuff stolen. Even better is if you have the lights turn on at certain times when you're away so that it appears that you're still around. Making use of interior lighting that operates on a series of timers can make it appear as though someone is home and can prevent burglars from sensing a pattern. A timer can turn on a TV or radio, too, creating random noise.

Exterior Lighting:

The "most common mistakes that make our homes vulnerable is not keeping our properties lighted after dark and after going to bed," says Mike Russell, Detective Sergeant at the Yakima County Sheriff's Office.

Outside lighting is another must-have tool; you can use it to startle a burglar and get him wondering whether a neighbor will catch on to his mischief. Motion-activated lighting works especially well around doors, windows, and sidewalks.

8. Know Your Neighbors

Protecting your home and the area around you doesn't have to be a solo effort. Enlist the help of your neighbors and community, including your local police department, to consider how to raise the level of all of your safety. Being friendlier and neighborly can up your chances that others will be looking out for your best interests when you're at work or on vacation (and you may want to do the same). By being neighborly, you could have someone you trust to hold your spare key and an extra set of eyes looking out for your well-being.

"Neighbors are the ones who know your cars, your routines and often friends and family. They can easily spot something that is out of place and report it to police," says Detective Jensen from the Bellevue Police Department.

Even when police officers are not patrolling and answering the call of crime, many local law enforcement agencies have programs in place for neighborhood watches (or you could form your own). Upon request, some local law enforcement departments will visit your home and give you tips on how to improve security. And others have online forms you can fill out when you're about to go away and they'll drive by a few times to see that everything checks out.

Don't be afraid to report suspicious behavior. "All too often people see things that are suspicious but discount it when a phone call to law enforcement would have helped apprehend a criminal. Law enforcement would much rather get a call reporting suspicious behavior only to have it be non-criminal behavior than to not get the call at all and potentially miss catching a criminal," says Russell.

9. Going on Vacation? Take These Preventative Measures

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, but worrying about whether your home is safe while you're away can put a damper on your vacation plans. Strategic lighting (see #7 on this list) is a smart tactic, as is keeping your virtual updates down as you gear up for your time out of town. While it can be tempting to tell all of your social networking followers that you're thrilled about your upcoming vacation in Hawaii, you're also letting a bunch of strangers know your home will be empty for a week. Consider posting your vacation photos AFTER you return, and also consider taking off the location feature of your social media accounts so people don't know where you are at all times.

Other clues about an unoccupied home can include an overflowing mailbox, uncut grass, or a TV that doesn't turn on for several days. Have a neighbor stop by the house at different times to collect the mail, water plants, care for pets, and turn lights and a radio on and off. Or make use of a home automation app to vary the electronics that are running in your home while you're gone.

10. Make It Look Like You're Home with Home Automation

Home Automation:
The best security systems give you some control over your home even when you're miles away. This capability keeps you connected when you're out and about and can help keep would-be burglars on their toes. You can turn lights on and off at will or activate your system if you forgot to set it.

Access through your phone can further help you fool the bad guys. Let's say someone knocks on your door when you're away. With a stealth camera set up at the door that beams your lovely face and voice to the visitor, you could look like you're home when you're really just looking through your phone's camera.

Write to Kyle Schurman at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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