How burglars break into homes (and how you can avoid being burglarized)

Continuing our theme of “ask the criminals how they commit their crimes, because that might give you a clue on how to not be a victim”, there’s a new article going around where “We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes” (h/t Brian Brown).

Since people don’t like to click through, here’s a summary:

  • How do they typically break in? Through unlocked doors and windows.
    • If something had to be forced, kicking a door was preferred to breaking glass due to noise and risk of injury.
  • Targets? Jewelry, electronics, cash, credit cards, guns.
    • NRA Bumper Sticker = Lots of guns to steal.
  • Where? Master bedroom, then almost anywhere and everywhere else.
  • When? Mid-day, often just after lunch.
    • A time when people are unlikely to be home.
  • Pets? Big, loud dogs deter.
  • Knock first? Typically yes, again to check if anyone’s home.
    • If someone was, give an excuse and move on.
  • Home alarms? If they go off, they will leave.
  • Security cameras? Generally deter, but could also be a signal to valuables.
  • Lights on inside? Mixed. Some saw “lights on, blinds closed” as an invitation because it’s often a signal no one is home and no one will see you.
  • Radio/TV on? Can deter, but not a deal break breaker.
  • Car in the driveway? Good deterrent.
  • Ideal target? Anything that helps them not be seen.
    • Big fences, overgrown hedges, homes isolated from other homes, blind spots, older window frames, cheap doors.
    • Nice home, nice car = person with money
  • Did they ever conduct surveillance? Sometimes.
    • If they did, it was often to determine the best time to break in.
  • What suggestions do they offer to avoid burglary?
    • Visible property. Good lighting. Trimmed trees and bushes.
    • Know your neighbors. Keep your eyes open. Report suspicious activity to the police.

If you look at this, there’s a few common messages.

They want easy targets that have a good chance of a payoff, and will not have resistance.

Minimize advertising of what you have. Bumper stickers, leaving your garage door open, all those boxes you put out on trash day.

Make your home unappealing by keeping things visible.

Make it seem like someone is home. And if someone is home, make it clear that someone is home. Answer your door – that doesn’t mean you have to unlock/open your door, but at least answer it (your voice carries through the door, or get one of those new video/audio doorbells).

And the biggest and easiest thing you can do?

Lock your doors and windows. And if you have an alarm system, use it.

I encounter this frequently: people leave things unlocked, and have alarm systems but don’t use them.

We can’t eliminate things 100%, but we can reduce our chances of being a victim. Learning how burglars work can teach us a lot on how to not be victimized by them.