Home burglaries typically aren’t elaborate, well planned heists. Most of the time, burglars are simply looking for an easy mark: unlocked doors, empty houses, and valuables left in plain sight ripe for the picking.
While the most foolproof way to deter burglars is to invest in a home security system, often all you have to do to turn off a burglar’s interests is to simply not make it easy to break in. That could be as simple as locking your doors, installing lights, and asking neighbors to pick up mail when you’re not home.
We’ve identified eight of the easiest ways to make your home unattractive to burglars. They’re either free or low cost, and often, just require simple, easy tweaks that don’t take a lot of effort. Try out these ideas to make your home safer today.
#1: Lock Your Doors and Windows
This sounds like a no brainer, but the importance of locking up your home cannot be overstated. Leaving doors or windows unlocked, or worse, open, is like rolling out the red carpet for burglars. All they have to do is walk in.
Think you’re not doing it? Someone is. In 2013, 34.3% of burglaries did not require forcible entry. That means in more than a third of burglaries, the burglars were able to gain entry through an unlocked door or window.
It should go without saying, but it’s important to always lock your front and back doors, even when you’re home. Your windows should be closed when you’re not home, and you should lock them as soon as they are closed. Don’t forget to lock your upstairs windows, too: it’s easy to gain access with a ladder. Also consider the security of your garage door, which can also allow access into your home.
Don’t just hand over your key, either. Avoid leaving a spare key out where a burglar can simply pick up a rock and discover it. Instead, give a spare key to a trusted neighbor who you can visit to gain access.
#2: Show Signs of Life
Burglars prefer to hit homes where no one is home — and even better if no one has been at home for a while. That means they can take their time getting in, taking what they want, and getting out. If your home looks like it might be vacant, or even if you’re just gone for a few days, you’re more likely to be targeted.
Take a look at your front yard. If you’ve got overgrown grass, a full mailbox, and a few papers to pick up, you’re sending a message to burglars that no one is home. Mow your lawn, collect mail, papers, and packages.
If you’re going to be away from home, ask for help from neighbors or hire a service to cut your grass or shovel snow so that it appears you’re still home. And of course, ask a neighbor or friend to stop by and collect mail and packages.
It’s also a good idea to use a timing device around the clock and especially when you won’t be home. With a timing device, you can set lights, radio, and other electronics to turn off or on whether you’re home or not, giving the appearance that you are at home.
#3: Always Answer Your Door
When your door bell rings, you never know who is on the other side of the door. A burglar could be dressed as a solicitor or repair person while attempting to gain access to your home. And while you certainly don’t want to open the door and allow them to come in, it’s not smart to simply ignore them. Why? Often, burglars will ring the door bell first to see if someone is home. And if you don’t answer, you’re telling them the house is empty — and free to explore.
In 2013, almost 30% of burglaries had household members present, and 26% of them became victims of violent crime. It should go without saying that while it’s best to never have a burglar in your home, you certainly don’t want to be there if it happens.
Instead of ignoring the front door with an unknown person behind it, make yourself known. Use your peephole to see who is there, and if you’re not expecting them or don’t recognize them, simply tell them you’re not interested. They may continue to engage with you to encourage you to open the door, but at this point, you’ve done your part: you let them know you are home and that your house is no longer an easy target. Most likely, they’ll simply walk away and move on to another house.
#4: Hide Your Valuables
How easy is it to see what you have in your house? Even behind closed doors, it can be easy to see through windows and garage door windows. If you have a nice camera, large TV, multiple mobile devices, jewelry, or other valuables within sight, burglars may see your home as an attractive target.
Move items away from the view of windows that you may open, or simply keep shades or blinds in easy to see places closed. Consider frosting your garage door windows if you have them. Also, don’t leave valuable items like bicycles in your front yard. Not only does this make it easy to take them, it can send a message that you may leave other valuable items lying around as well.
If you make a big purchase like a TV, avoid putting the empty box out as is with your recycling. Break it down, turn it inside out, and try to fit it in the bin with the rest of your recyclables. Otherwise, you could be advertising your new purchase to burglars on the street.
#5: Make Entry Points Unattractive
Burglars love a hidden door or window. That means if you have lots of shrubbery or trees near your windows, or if your front door is blocked from view, you’re more likely to be burglarized than your neighbors without these issues.
You can’t move your front door, but you can install lighting. Make sure that your doors, both front and back, are well lit. Ideally, you should install motion sensing lights that call attention to the presence of movement.
Around windows and fences, trim back any shrubbery that might make it easy for a burglar to hide or gain access. Motion sensing lights are useful in these areas as well. Also, consider thorny shrubs around windows that will make it not just unattractive, but painful for burglars to gain entry into your home.
#6: Store Valuables Away from Your Master Bedroom
It won’t stop a burglar from getting into your home, but storing valuables away from your master bedroom can protect your belongings. Usually, the master bedroom is the first place a burglar will look for valuables. They’ll see if you have cash or valuables like jewelry in your nightstand, and rifle through the rest of your belongings for electronics, guns, drugs, and more.
It’s best to store valuables outside of your master bedroom. Burglars are less likely to look in your attic, basement, hall closets, or kitchen. Even childrens’ bedrooms are often bypassed, particularly young children who probably don’t have electronics in their rooms. Don’t think you’re being clever by hiding valuables in the freezer, however. Burglars have known that trick for years.
Your best bet is to get a home safe that is bolted securely to your home. Make it easy for you to access, like in your basement or even in a hall closet, but make sure it isn’t easy to remove — as burglars are happy to just take it with them and work out how to get inside of it later.
#7: Never Give Clues You Won’t Be Home
Serious burglars spend time staking out the homes they want to hit. They’ll watch your patterns, read your social media, and keep an eye out for cars, work schedules, and other details to find their best opportunity to find an open, empty house.
If you have a garage, use it. Parking in your garage makes it difficult for a burglar to know when you’re home and when you’re not. If there’s never a car in the driveway, the absence of one doesn’t tell them that you’re not home — it just tells them things are normal.
Predictable patterns can help burglars as well. If you leave for work and return at the exact same time every day, burglars know just how long they have to get in and out before you make it home. Consider breaking routines on a regular basis to show any burglars who might be watching that you could come home and discover them at any time.
Don’t send out a message online that you won’t be home as well. It’s fun to discuss your travel plans, but keep in mind that by doing so, you could be broadcasting to burglars that your home will be empty and easy to access. It’s best to simply wait until you get home and post photos of your trip if you’d like.
#8: Get a Best Friend
If you can’t be home yourself, a dog is the next best thing. Large breeds are the most intimidating to burglars, as they can be more dangerous if they attack, but regardless of size, any dog that barks is a problem for burglars. Why? A barking dog could alert neighbors to the fact that they have broken in.
Already have a dog at home? Make sure their presence is known. Consider getting a Beware of Dog sign to let burglars know that they won’t be opening up an empty house, and will likely be confronted with a dog, small or large.