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How to Deter Burglars: Keeping Potential Robbers Away From Your Home

Neighbrohood watch signFrom 1973 through 2009, the rate of burglary has steadily declined, whether this decline is due to an increase in technology or is due to an increase in the vigilance of law enforcement is unsure. Regardless of the reason for the decline in burglary incidences, one thing is for sure, as the years have progressed the technology available to deter burglary has certainly improved and assisted in the decline of burglary rates. There are a number of things that the average homeowner can do to reduce the likelihood of their homes being burglarized that do not include the installation of a burglar alarm system.

What is Burglary?

While most of us understand the basic concept of burglary, not many of us understand the specifics of what defines burglary or that there are actually four classifications of burglary. So what is burglary in its basic definition? Burglary is the unlawful entry to a structure and it does not always involve theft but may sometimes. The important thing to remember about burglary is that it involves the entrance of a structure by an individual who is not authorized to enter said structure. While burglary for some is synonymous with breaking in to a structure, it can also include entering in to a structure through an unlocked or open door or window so long as the individual has no right to be within the structure.

The Four Types of Burglary

There are four types of burglary: completed burglary, forcible entry, unlawful entry without force and attempted forcible entry. All of these types of burglary involve legal ramifications.

Completed Burglary

Completed burglary takes place when an individual is not permitted to be in a structure by legal right, yet they succeed in gaining entry to said structure by the use of force or without the use of force.

Forcible Entry

Forcible entry takes place when an individual that is not permitted to be in a structure by legal right, enters said structure by the use of force. Force can be classified in a various number of ways including breaking a lock from the door, breaking a window or slashing a door or window screen.

Unlawful Entry without Force

Unlawful entry without force takes place when an individual that is not permitted to be in a structure by legal right, enters said structure without the use of force. This type of burglary can involve entering a home through an open or unlocked door or window.

Attempted Forcible Entry

Attempted forcible entry takes place when an individual that is not permitted to be in a structure by legal right, attempts to enter said structure by force. Since this is attempted forcible entry it does not involve the actual entry in to the structure. This type of burglary can involve the burglar trying but not succeeding in their burglary attempt or being caught during the act of trying to obtain forcible entry.

The Impact of Property Crime

Regardless of whether or not a burglar succeeds in their burglary attempt, there are still impacts of all four types of property crime. Anyone who has experienced burglary first hand can tell of the immense impact that this property crime had upon them. One of the most devastating impacts that property crime has on its victims is the feeling of violation. Having a complete stranger target your home for burglary is just the first step of that violation, when personal property is destroyed or vandalized in an attempt to gain entry that too leaves a feeling of being violated. A burglar certainly takes no care when rummaging through personal possessions and this is perhaps one of the most devastating aspects of a successful burglary for the homeowner. So what can be done to decrease the incidence of property crime?

Ways in Which You Can Decrease the Potential for Experiencing Property Crime

One of the most important things that someone can do to decrease the chance of experiencing property crime is the installation of security technology such as a burglar alarm system or security cameras. With these technological methods aside, there are still a number of other things that can be done to decrease the chance that a home will be targeted by a burglar.

Avoid Mentioning Travel Plans Online

Whether it’s your children talking about an upcoming vacation or whether it’s you talking to a friend in the post office about an upcoming business trip, mentioning travel on or in public forums is dangerous. In these types of situations anyone could overhear the fact that the home is going to stand empty for a few days and this is an invitation to prospective thieves to target your home. One of the most difficult things for children to understand is that when they mention outings innocently on their social networking pages, they are inviting the entire world in to burglarize their home while they are out.

Deadbolt Locks

Deadbolts make burglary difficult and burglars don’t like difficult. The longer a burglar spends in your home, the higher the chances are that he or she will be caught in the act. Deadbolts on doors make your home a more difficult target to break in to, but it is important to purchase high quality locks to ensure that they are not easily compromised. Locks for exterior doors of the home should be grade one or grade two locks, these locks are more likely to resist a burglar’s lock picking attempts and are less likely to give in to tampering. Good quality deadbolts will also have a beveled casing that will reduce the likelihood of the lock being compromised by channel lock pliers that are used with other lock types to sheer off the cylinder pins in the lock. Visit our Best Door Locks article to find the best lock for your home.

Dog Ownership

Dog ownership has long been a cited method of maintaining a safe home and deterring against burglars. When given a chance to burglarize a home at random, burglars are much more likely to target a home that does not have a dog rather than a home that does have a dog. Large dogs are intimidating because of their appearance and pitch of their bark, but even a small dog can be effective in warding off intruders. It should be noted that while having a dog in the home is an additional measure to guarding against burglary, it should never be the sole reason for owning a dog. Dogs require upkeep and companionship so unless a family is prepared to take on a long term responsibility which involves bringing another family member in to the home, this should not be considered as a method of deterring burglars.

Home Safe

Home SafeHome safes are one of the most important steps that homeowners can secure important documents and priceless possessions. While taking home security prevention methods is a great way to protect the home against burglary, there is no assurance that a burglar will not somehow find a way to enter your home. All it takes is for one family member to forget to lock a door and all of the home security efforts in the world would not make a difference. While safes may seem clunky and inconvenient, they are the only way to ensure that important documents and possessions have an additional degree of protection from home invaders. Once inside your home, burglars want to take valuables and leave in minutes; this leaves no time for breaking in to a safe.

Home Security System

The simplest, most effective action you can take to prevent future burglaries and protect your family is to install a monitored home security system. Security systems alert you when an intruder enters your home, and they have loud alarms which tend to scare intruders away before they can do any real damage. These systems, if monitored, also notify local authorities so they can investigate the reason the alarm was activated. Read our Best Home Security System article to see what might be the best fit for your specific needs and budget.

Keep a Record of Valuable Personal Property

Homeowners and home renters should always carry a degree of insurance to help to protect them against any losses that may occur as the result of a disaster or theft. Most companies that provide this type of insurance prompt their customers to always keep a note of personal property that they consider to be valuable. This practice ensures that if your home does become the target of a thief and any valuable property is lost that it can be identified by police if found and the homeowner can be compensated under their insurance policy. While keeping a note of valuable personal property is not a deterrent method for burglars, it is a step that homeowners should take in order to protect themselves should a burglary occur.

Maintain a Well Lit Property

By the nature of burglary, light is counterintuitive. Burglars do not work in well lit areas because the chance of being caught is much higher than working in the dark. Making sure that outdoor lighting is always functioning well is a key aspect of maintaining a safe property, Having a well lit front porch means nothing if the back side of a house is not lit at all, perform a full audit tonight to determine the areas of your property that need lit.

Monitor Mail and Newspaper Delivery

The presence of mail or newspaper buildup is a huge tipoff to burglars. Place a hold on mail delivery or have a trusted neighbor collect mail if you are going to be away for an extended period. Keep in mind that burglary is not the only concern when it comes to mail. All of those credit card offers and other secure information can be used for identity theft in the wrong hands. Consider a locked mailbox to prevent identity theft.

Neighborhood Watch

Living in a neighborhood that enforces neighborhood watch is another good way to promote safety, not only for the individual homeowner, but also to develop a safe neighborhood. A successful neighborhood watch is one that involves an entire community of vigilant neighbors who work together to enforce a safe community for each of its members. While it is rarely something that individuals take in to account when moving in to a new home or neighborhood, this type of cooperation is a key factor in discouraging criminal activity of all sorts.

Paper Shredder

All homes, regardless of their income level, should make use of a paper shredder in order to keep personal information hidden and avoid having their identities stolen. For those homes with a significant amount of income ,utilizing a paper shredder is even more important because burglars are always going to target homes where they feel that they can gain the most from the least amount of effort. Placing un-shredded items in the trash is not only a method for giving away personal information and increasing the opportunity for identity theft to take place, but it is also a method for burglars to find out whether or not a home is worth the effort of being burglarized.

Secure Sliding Doors

Sliding doors are a particularly easy way for home invaders to get access to your home because they are rarely fitted with secure locks or other security mechanisms. One affordable means of securing a sliding French door is to place a curtain rod in the sliding track to prevent the door from being slid open at any point. While many home security stores sell more advanced products, most people find that this simple and affordable technique works just as well.

Timing Devices

Timing devices may seem like a rather old method for deterring burglars, butit is a method that has proven successful – so successful in fact that it is a tool that has been built upon as time has progressed. Timing devices are a great tool to implement in the home whether or not the homeowner is on vacation because they switch on lighting or technology within the home even when no one is home. One of the best methods for implementing timing devices is to plug them in and program them for normal times of activity when the family is out of town. By setting timers to turn on lights, turn down blinds, and to turn on radios or televisions is a way to give the impression that the normal daily routine is in progress even when no one is home and this itself is enough to turn potential burglars away. Timers also serve to make a safer home for those living alone or living with spouses who are frequently out of town or not at home during specific hours. Coming home to a dark house is not only scary but it can also be particularly dangerous specifically for women living alone, setting up timing devices allows for a safer atmosphere when returning home at dusk or dark.

Utilize the Garage

Burglars often observe properties that they are planning on burglarizing to try to establish a pattern of when the home is active and when it is empty. For homes that have garages, one of the most important things that a homeowner can do is to always keep the car inside the garage. When homeowners do not utilize garage space, they leave their car out in the open where it can be observed by passersby which means that it is particularly easy for burglars to observe when there is and is not someone home.

Final Thoughts and Tips

We have just discussed what to do after a break in and a few small, proactive steps that can help you prevent future ones. The most important tips to remember are:

  1. Always keep all doors and windows locked.
  2. Install a home security system as soon as possible.
  3. Hopefully, you will never experience a home invasion, but if it does happen, call the police and keep your family out of harm’s way.

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About Jeff Butler
Jeff's first exposure to security systems came from a real life experience. Nearly ten years ago, after multiple burglaries at his 4,000 square foot retail operation, Jeff was frustrated with the high costs of his failing security system. Knowing there had to be a better way, he built an efficient and streamlined system that prevented many future burglaries. Now focused on home security, he loves to stay on top of this ever-changing industry.
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  • Anonymous

    These are great tips. Bottom line, from my experience, is that if they think you’re home, burglars won’t bother. And you’re only as safe as the house next to you. If your neighbor’s house is suited up with armored guards and anti-aircraft weaponry, the fanciest alarm system might not deter the burglar from trying to break into your pad.

    As with all things in life, the motive for burglary is relative…

  • Anonymous

    Another thought I had….

    Actually, after doing some more research I now have come to the conclusion that there are criminals who will attempt to break into a storage shed to help them get into the house quickly.

    They hope to find a decent sized ladder that they can use to enter the home on one of the upper floors. There are even burglars now who have learned how to climb trees for this specific purpose, knowing that even those homeowners who have security systems tend not to arm the upper floors since they figure they are safe up there (and it would be really inconvenient if one of the family members just was walking to the bathroom and it set the alarm off!).

    Setting the camera up was pretty simple and easy. The best piece of advice I can give is to connect the camera to your router or system with a good cable. Do these steps before you attempt to actually install the camera in its permanent position. This will make your life so much easier. With a good router, this camera should connect wirelessly without any trouble. My picture quality is fairly high at 640 x 480 resolutions. The speed of the video is also decent.

    The camera is also water and weatherproof. Many cameras make this claim. The key is to look for something that has actually been rated. Fortunately, this camera was rated as IP66, which is excellent. This means that the camera exterior is waterproof and it can be used for outdoor applications safely. My own experience, living in the northeast was that it will indeed stand up to some serious weather. I would not be afraid to put this one outside.

    The camera also has the ability to detect motion. You may set this up along with an alarm recording. If so, an alert will be sent to your email. This can also be done through an FTP server, for all those techies out there who actually know what an FTP server is!

    As far as integrating with your own computer, this is also pretty easy. The basic system is compatible with Mac and most versions of Windows (98, 2000, XP, Vista and 7). The software will pretty much download automatically once you begin the installation process. Just follow along and use the directions as your guide.

    I also really like the ability to take a look at the live video footage right on the web. This is all run from a secure site. It supports all major browsers and you will be able to access this from anywhere that you have an internet connection. And for those true techies in the bunch, it is also possible to view the video of your property directly on your iphone. I am not sure which other smart phones are supported, but most likely, there are at least a few more.

    This is a great camera to buy. The investment is low and the features are high.

  • Anonymous

    Either one can easily be made as part of your routine.  The home automation service option is even more efficient, although I truly feel that this is not necessary unless you have extenuating circumstances. But, if you are considering an alarm system, home automation service can often be added on with most companies these days for an small additional monthly fee.

    I really like the advice about not flaunting possessions.  Advice such as this is usually given for tourists or travelers, and for visitors of foreign cities.  Not wearing your expensive jewelry when out and about is part of the advice they give to travelers, but it is also good advice for your daily routine, especially because it gives criminals a good reason to mark you and your home as good potential targets.  Small towns with tourist attractions are in a unique position to make targets out of locals, since many people come from out of town and there can be a wealth disparity.  Mentioning your vacations or outings online through chat rooms or social media platforms is part of this advice, really.  In fact, not talking about your vacation plans online for anyone to read is now one of the basic pieces of advice given to homeowners to prevent burglary.  Socially, not bragging or flaunting your jewelry too much when in public is also solid advice, both for preventing others from feeling bad and to prevent criminals from wanting to rob you of your good fortune and invade your home.  Remembering that these are tough economic times for many people and being considerate can go a long way.

    Knowing your neighbors is a great way to keep a neighborhood safe, and I am glad that this section was included as well.  A happy home is one that has all of these elements, including a well-trained dog, neighbors and friends to come by and check on the home and collect the mail while the family is away, and there are lots of lights around each home that run on timers and motion sensors.  Keeping a solid neighborhood watch makes bonding for the neighbors as well as make a more secure area for children and the family home.  It only takes a few dedicated neighbors to start this, and there are many resources available at schools, community centers, and police stations, as well as online, for letting you know how to start one in the area you live in.  Another advantage to starting a neighborhood watch, as well as making sure that you and other neighbors have burglar-proofed your homes, is that would-be burglars will be much less likely to come to your neighborhood at all if there are fewer houses that would make good targets.

  • Anonymous

    Using the garage is a great idea for concealing when your car is at home, as well as keeping it safe.  Keeping the garage locked and secure is a good idea for burglary prevention no matter what, especially when you have bicycles, tools, toys, and other items stored in your garage as well as your car.  Many times people do not secure the garage as well as the house or yard, so being sure to take this precaution when securing your home will make you much less likely to become a target of burglary.

    The use of timing devices seems a bit cliché, as the article implied, but actually the devices are anything but cliché.  The article also makes a great point that these devices are not just for use when you and your family are away, but can also be used to deter would-be burglars if you are upstairs or home alone.  The tip about having the lights on when you get back to your house also makes a great case for a timer, in addition to a multitude of other reasons that a timer would come in handy.  Timers can be wind-up and not very expensive, or you can get the expensive digital kind that you can set for several different times on different days.

  • Anonymous

    The best way to beat a criminal is to think like one, as they say, so it was good to see the tricks for preventing burglary through the eyes of a burglar looking for an easy target.  Letting your mail and newspapers pile up may seem like just a nuisance, but in fact it is also a great way to let burglars know that you are away for an extended period of time.   Telling the post office to hold your mail and stopping paper delivery is also a great way to prevent those items from being stolen themselves.  This ties into identity theft more than burglary, but identity theft and mail fraud are also both on the rise, so it is important to guard against these types of crime as well.

    I liked the tip that your family dog is a burglary preventer.  My family has a dog as part of our home– a Doberman– and I never realized that there was yet another benefit of dog ownership: Home security.  It makes sense, because most of the popular breeds of mid-size to large-size dogs are quite loyal to the family and home.  These dogs feel a protective instinct, and will definitely serve as guardians.  Even better, if you are leaving your dog at home while you for on vacation, you will need to contact a neighbor, friends, or professional animal caregiver to come and care for your pet.  That means that they will be a presence in the home on a regular basis, and as long as they are keeping an eye out for your dog, they will be serving as a deterrent for a potential burglary.

  • Anonymous

    This article dates itself from the beginning, in which it states that burglary rates are down as of 2009.  While this may be true, since that time rates have begun to increase again.  This is likely to do with the poor economy, which makes criminals get even more desperate; maybe even desperate enough to try burglarizing your home or the home of someone you know.  And, because of what I learned in this article, I now realized that there might be any number of reasons that your home might be burgled, and all of those are chilling thoughts to think about.

    There are certain cities in the US where burglary rates are especially high.  Most of these are big cities in the Midwest and South regions of the country.  But even outside those cities, crimes can happen.  The fact that crime rates are on the rise means that crime is spreading in suburban or even rural areas, where burglars have caught on that many people consider themselves safe and therefore might take fewer anti-burglary precautions.

    I was surprised to learn that burglary does not include theft necessarily.  I have read quite a bit about burglary and did not know of this definition before.  I was also quite surprised to learn that there are four different kinds of burglary, as well.  I had always assumed that there was only one kind.   The fact that burglary can occur without forcible entry was also quite surprising to me.  In the past, I had pretty much assumed that burglary was synonymous with breaking and entering, in addition to believing erroneously that the purpose of a burglary was to steal.  I now realize that burglary is a person entering your home for any reason.  Burglary is taking place according to that definition even if a person is just walking through your unlocked front door by mistake thinking that it is the door to his or her own house.  Although that does not sound like a burglary case and probably would be immediately recognized as a mistake by all involved, from the way I understood the definition this would still count.

    The discussion about the emotional impact of a burglary definitely got to me.  I had never thought about the feeling of violation you would have if someone came into your house against your wishes and went through your personal belongings.  Since I always thought that burglary was about stealing from your home, I never considered this emotional toll, but it sounds terrible. I still believe that burglary is motivated most often by theft, however.  Having your things stolen, in addition to rifled through by a stranger with criminal motives, is a frightening enough thought right there to motivate a person into taking extra precaution.

    I wonder if a burglar would ever consider this side to their actions? Probably not. I guess mostly they are just interested in a quick score and then selling what they can. They are probably doing this because they have their own addictions and this seems like an easy option to them.

  • Quit While You’re Ahead

    My house got broken into not too long ago and I FREAKED out! This would have been a good article to have read when it happened so I could've understood the cops a bit better (and my insurance agent)… thanks and hope less homes get robbed in the future.