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How to Prevent Home Burglary – 8 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Someone Breaking Into Your House

By Heather Levin

Last week, thieves broke into my dad’s home and stole his TV, his laptop, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Most of the items, luckily, are easily replaced. And he wasn’t home at the time, which is the biggest blessing.

What can’t be as easily replaced, however, is the sense of security and peace of mind he had before the break-in. Coping with the emotional whiplash from the robbery has been more time-consuming and mentally draining than handling the police reports and insurance adjusters.

One thing to keep in mind is that while burglaries take place throughout the year, according to security officials, most areas in the country see a significant spike in crime from November through January during the holiday season. And since most thieves want to be in and out of your home in six minutes or less, anything you can do to slow them down, or deter them entirely, will work in your favor.

Here are 8 tips to help prevent a break-in from ever happening in your home, all of which can help provide you not only with emotional security, but also decrease the likelihood that you will have to replace items that could burn a major hole in your wallet:

1. Get an Indoor Dog

I drove down to Louisiana as soon as my dad told me about the robbery. And I brought him a great alarm system – an 85 pound Bordeaux Mastiff I’d rescued from the animal shelter just a few months before. He’ll be staying with my dad from now on.

The insurance adjuster who came yesterday said that dogs are often the most effective alarm system you can get. Sophisticated thieves often know how to work around electronic systems, and “average” thieves have no issues with breaking windows if there’s no system at all.

But dogs are unpredictable – they may bite, they may not. More often than not, he said, thieves will pick a house that’s dog-free rather than take the risk.

There are plenty of dogs who desperately need a good home. Petfinder is a great place to look. Making the decision to adopt a family pet dog could very well prevent you from becoming the victim of a robbery. And that’s not to mention all the love you’ll receive, in return!

That being said, however, dogs are a lot of responsibility and they can be expensive. I have three dogs (well, now I’m down to two after the gift to my dad), and they’re a lot of work. Please only get a dog if you’re truly going to care for it as it deserves.

2. Lock Your Doors and Windows

This seems like an obvious tip, but I’m sure many of us have neglected to do this at times. I know I’ve forgotten to do it countless times myself.

The thieves that broke into my dad’s house busted open the door to his sunroom. They then entered the house easily because he hadn’t locked the windows between the house and the sunroom.

Make sure your doors and windows are always locked. And I mean all windows. Experts say 23% of break-ins occur through first-floor windows. So securing these should be a top priority. GE makes a wireless alarm kit you can purchase for $25 that will sound if a door or window is opened. This is a very inexpensive way to protect vulnerable areas in your home.

Don’t forget to secure side doors and garage doors as well.

3. Use Strategic Landscaping

Thorny rose bushes under windows will make thieves think twice before going in that way.

Also, keep your bushes and hedges trimmed to a minimum; don’t give thieves a place to hide while they scope out your place.

Gravel and loose stones can also alert you (or a dog) that someone is approaching your house.

And make sure your yard is well-lit during the night!

4. Hide Valuables

Can people see your 50-inch flat screen TV from the sidewalk? What about your super-expensive stereo system?

Make sure your valuables are hidden from passer-bys. Use privacy curtains (sheer curtains that let in light but block the view) so people can’t see in while you’re away at work. With the holidays coming up, this especially includes gifts! Don’t leave gifts, even wrapped ones, in front of any window.

5. Install Double Key Deadbolts

Experts say 34% of all thieves come in right through the front door. So any investment you make securing your front door will probably pay off.

Double key deadbolts are the kind that require a key not only to enter, but also to exit. With a double key deadbolt lock, if thieves do break in, getting your stuff out is going to be really difficult unless they break the door down.

The downside to double key deadbolts is they can be dangerous in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Consider this carefully before installing one. If you do put one in, keep the key very close to the door in a hiding place that’s easy to remember.

You should also have a lock far away from any windows that are a part of your door. If someone breaks through your door window glass, they can easily turn a regular indoor deadbolt. Have another lock at the top or bottom of your door that’s out of reach.

6. Secure Patio Doors

Security experts say most thieves don’t want to smash sliding glass doors because they’re so noisy. They’d much rather slide it open. To prevent this, secure your sliding door by placing a sawed-off broom handle in the track to prevent it from opening.

7. Don’t Advertise

If you’re going away for a week, don’t tell people on your answering machine that you’re out of town. Police say that, surprisingly, many thieves will find your number and call to see if you’re at home.

If you’re going to be away, make sure you purchase a timer that will automatically turn on lamps when it gets dark. Also, either put a temporary stop on your mail, or have a neighbor pick up your mail, packages, and newspapers so your home doesn’t look vacant.

8. Be Prepared

Make sure you religiously back up your computers and laptops in the event those items are stolen. My dad didn’t do this. As a result, many years worth of family pictures are gone.

Also, make sure your portable hard drive is kept hidden in an innocuous place where it won’t get hurt (like the kitchen pantry or laundry room).

Keep money out of site. My dad had a coffee can of petty cash he kept right on the kitchen counter. Of course, they grabbed it. If you have cash, keep it hidden. Again, putting that same coffee can in the pantry next to the sugar would have probably kept it safe.

Take pictures or video of your valuables. Know the model numbers and purchase prices of your most expensive items. The insurance company will want this information if it’s stolen.

If Your House IS Broken Into:

  • Don’t go into the house. If you’ve already walked in, leave immediately. The thieves may still be inside, and it’s not worth your life to find out.
  • Call the police from your cell phone or from a neighbor’s house.
  • Don’t touch anything. The thieves might have left fingerprints.

Have you had any experiences with break-ins? Do you have any additional tips to help avoid the potential for one?

(Photo Credit: Orange County Archives)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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Comments

  • http://thecollegeinvestor.com Robert @ The College Investor

    Sad to say, but I’ve had to deal with this…

    We had someone kick in our front door (its a side-by-side). All they took was my wife’s jewelry, but they also took our sense of security.

    What’s worse, is we had to replace the entire front door due to the damage. It took 5 weeks to order a new door, so we had the front of our house secured by 2×4′s…not a great way to start rebuilding our sense of security either…

    • Heather Levin

      Robert, I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this as well. But luckily they didn’t take much, and you and your wife weren’t harmed.

      • Pgriffin

        going to sleep after a break in is hard. I shake daily and can barely eat.

        • Memo

          I’m 19 years old. I was 18 when my parent house got broken into. Such a horrible feeling. I was in a phase where I had to go to college and chose what I wanted to do in life. I wouldn’t/ couldn’t eat not sleep for weeks. We were on our way back from vacation when a phone call gives us the news. My sister and brother had stayed home and my brothers been at work. My sister left for 30 mins and somehow people found out there wasn’t anyone home and broke in. I couldn’t handle it. I would stay up all night making sure no one was outside. I would hear a noise and get up instantly. I’ve gotten better but there’s not a day that’s passed where I don’t think about the break in. Scarred me for life.

  • Kira Botkin

    We had someone come in through an unlocked back door – luckily, our security system, Maggie the husky/border collie mix, scared the bejesus out of him and we haven’t had any issues since them. But we have become very good about locking the door! Good tip about locking the windows – I haven’t checked if our first-floor windows are locked, but I sure will now!

    • Heather Levin

      Kira, Yeah dogs are the best alarm systems! The Bordeaux Mastiff I brought my dad is doing an excellent job barking at strangers. My dad says that Red has given him back that sense of security he lost after the robbery, which is awesome. That’s great you had a dog to deter your thief.

  • aeko

    I have found from personal experience that dogs and be expensive and alot of work. After a long winter, cleaning up the poop from a large dog in the spring can be a killer. Also you must provide for their health, flea preventive,
    vet, shots and grooming if the dog is too big for you to lift into the tub in your home. Oh, and then there is the cost of the fence I had to have installed to maintain a safe environment, then you worry about the gate being left open. It can be a real chore, so keep these things in mind. I do have dogs at this time, however, when they pass, I will be installing a security system, and the thorny bushes sound good too.

  • info

    Dogs are always a great deterrent. Most break ins are crimes of opportunity or else the robbers have already cased the neighbourhood. They want to be in and out as fast as possible. Having an alarm system is great but it is best to look at it as the last part to the security equation. Prevention all round as you describe above…get a dog whenever possible and then look into alarm monitoring systems. Running into a dog is no desired by the robbers.

  • jen

    love your article! Very helpful and TRUE esp. about the dogs! We have three big rescued dogs and not only are they apart of the family but they have chased a robber off our property in the middle of the night when one tried breaking into our car and we let them out after him! Needless to say he (the robber) has not been back since

  • Blue

    We were robbed years ago during the day while we were at work. They came in through a first floor window. The dogs were in the backsyard and this was the only window outside their fenced area besides the front of the house. The police said that we were 75% likely to get robbed again unless we made some changes because the robbers obviously knew our schedule. So we got an alarm, posted the alarm notices on all windows and the yard signs front and back and changed our fence to allow the dogs (german shepards) to patrol. No problems since. My point is be proactive from having this happen at all or again. Is is a devistating experience.

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