You come home to a ransacked house wondering how the thief broke in and how did they know you’d be away? Homeowners often unwittingly give a burglar an open invitation for theft. An investigative news team recently interviewed current inmates serving time for burglary asking for responses to questions detailing how they broke in, when the crime occurred, and whether a “Beware of Dog” sign is a deterrent to invade a home. Their insightful answers may help you in protecting your home from a burglary.
How did you break in?
Almost all burglars broke in through an unlocked door or window. Several kicked the door open. A plain wood-panel door is easy to break through, as is an unlatched window. A ladder lying around is an easy invitation to enter, especially into an unlocked second story window. Be sure to install heavy-duty exterior doors and store ladders in a locked garage, securing all windows even the ones on the second level.
Does a home protection security sign deter you? How about a security camera? Does a dog make you think twice? Would it make a difference if there were a vehicle in the driveway?
Most burglars were nonchalant about the signage as they were adept at disabling the security system or avoiding setting it off. If a system did sound, all the intruders would leave the property immediately. However, a visible security camera is almost always a deterrent and a big barking dog is a deal breaker for every thief. Almost all burglars would think twice if there were a car in the driveway. One inmate commented on the placement of the security alarm system keypad. Often times the device is placed near the door for the homeowner’s easy exit yet can clearly be seen from a window, tipping off an intruder to whether or not the system is armed.
Do lights on in the house make you think twice? How about hearing a television on inside?
Keeping the lights on with the television audible almost always discouraged a burglar. However, when casing a neighborhood, the burglars found the combination of lights on yet blinds closed an attractive location. A porch light left on with window blinds closed is a tip-off that no one’s home. Uncut grass is a sure giveaway. When traveling, be sure to hire a house sitter or someone to regularly switch out the lights and window shades, mow the lawn and pick up mail and newspapers accumulating around the doorstep.
Once inside, what is the first thing you look to steal?
Jewelry, electronics, cash and credit cards are the most attractive valuables to burglars. Collectibles and guns are popular items, too. The usual routine is to start in the master bedroom searching for valuables and move from there to other parts of the house. Rarely is an attempt made to crack a wall safe but the easy-to-carry safe containing your valuables is quickly carried right out the back door. Noted one inmate, “The NRA sticker on your car bumper is a sure sign there’s lots of guns to steal.”
Be especially mindful of putting out the trash. Big gift holidays leaving empty boxes on the curb reveal what new electronics you have. Break down the 72” big screen box and conceal until trash pick-up day.
Do you do surveillance on the home and, if so, what are you trying to determine?
Most thieves would take the time to observe the home they were targeting looking for the best opportunity to break-in. They would note what schedule the homeowner kept, what kind of car they drove, whether a dog lived on the property, and how many occupants would come and go. The preferred break-in time was early morning or afternoon as occupants would most often have gone to work and kids would be in school. Break-ins would happen most often on weekdays, as the weekends were too unpredictable.
What is your ideal target?
Because the last thing a burglar wants is to be seen, they look for homes with overgrown trees and shrubbery and tall and dense fences. Untended greenery is the perfect place for a burglar to hide. And homes away from other properties are very inviting because of their remoteness.
What are the most important things a homeowner can do to avoid being burglarized?
Making the property as visible as possible with well-maintained trees, shrubbery and bushes is key. Installing a security camera made visible to all that approach your property is proactive protection. Getting to know your neighbors is important so they can report any suspicious activity. Locking your doors and windows whenever you’re away, even if just a quick trip to the market, is a must, as is adequate lighting all hours of the day and night.
For some tech savvy thieves, posting your of-the-moment travel photos via social media is a no-brainer when it comes to timing the crime. Share your vacation pics on Facebook but do it after you return so you don’t broadcast your absence. And the best thing you can do? Get a big barking dog.