22 Signs Your House Is Vulnerable to Being Robbed
Nearly four million homes will be burglarized this year. Here's how to make sure yours isn't one of them.
Your front door
This may seem too obvious to be true, but the majority of intruders come in through a door—and many of them are already open. Why? It's easy access and burglars are all about doing whatever is easiest, says Jacob Paulsen, security expert, creator of Complete Home Defense DVDs. One in four homeowners confesses to frequently leaving the front door unlocked and half do it occasionally, according to a Nationwide Insurance survey. And considering that the majority of home burglaries happen in the daytime, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to the Bureau of Justice, knocking on your front door allows thieves to pose as salesmen or delivery people while covertly checking your doorknob. So, yes, it's obvious, but we'll say it again: Lock your door! In addition, replace any hollow-core or sectioned doors with ones made from a solid piece or wood or metal, Paulsen suggests. While you're at it, learn the 21 more secrets burglars won't tell you.
People stealing packages off your front porch—aka porch pirates—is one of the fastest rising crime trends. Nearly ⅓ of people have had packages stolen and over half of people say they know someone who has, according to a survey done by Comcast. Thieves have even been known to follow delivery trucks around neighborhoods, stealing packages almost as soon as they're dropped off. Having a doorbell camera may deter some would-be pirates but your best defense is not having your packages delivered to your porch, Paulsen says. "Have packages delivered to your office or to a neighbor who is home most of the time," he advises. "If those aren't options, consider putting delivery instructions on the order form to leave the package at a side door or in a special box." P.S. Your mail carrier can actually help prevent porch pirates and other problems.
Your garbage cans
The good news: Property crimes have been decreasing steadily for the past decade, according to the most recent FBI data. But that doesn't mean you can let your guard down. Setting out the box from your new 60-inch HDTV or high-end gaming console on the curb is basically advertising the fact that those items are in your home. As electronics are the second thing burglars go for (cash is number one), this makes your home a very attractive target, according to the study. So buy a cheap box cutter and invest the 30 seconds it takes to break down large boxes and bundle them together so their labels can't be seen. Plus, your garbage collector will thank you! Can't afford a home security system? Here's how to fake one.
Thanks to better lighting and increased traffic, homes in high-visibility places, like on corner lots, are far less likely to be broken into, Paulsen says. There are simply too many potential ways to be seen. But townhomes, houses in the middle of the block, or houses in a cul-de-sac are much better targets (with these home security systems, you can stay safe.) This is especially true if your property backs up to a forest, open lot, or another unguarded area. The trick, he says, is to make your house as difficult as possible to access from all sides. How much? "You don't have to be Fort Knox, you just have to be less appealing to a thief than your neighbor is," he adds. Learn 13 sneaky things FBI agents do to protect their homes.
As the opioid epidemic rages, thefts of drugs, particularly prescription painkillers, are on the rise, according to the Department of Justice. And as heartbreaking as it is to say, both professional thieves and junkies know that people who are elderly or chronically ill often have lots of medication lying around. So if you are in these circumstances, it might be worth taking extra precautions (such as installing a good home security system) to make your house a less attractive target, Paulsen says.
Breaking into your car is often the first step to breaking into your home, Paulsen says. Things like car registrations, insurance cards, checkbooks, mail, packages, and even pharmacy receipts not only show your home address but can offer big clues to what kind of valuables you may own. Always lock your car doors, even if it's just parked in your driveway. "Don't keep anything with your address on it in a visible place in your car or in your glove box," he says. "If you do use the glovebox, make sure it stays locked."
Your garage door opener
You'd never leave your house keys just lying around in the open yet many people leave their garage door openers visible in their cars—and your garage door opener is almost as good as the key to your front door, Paulsen says. Another garage issue is keypads with obvious signs of wear or using simplistic or repetitive passcodes, making it easy for criminals to guess your code and get into your garage and your house. In fact, nearly 40 percent of homeowners said they never change their garage codes, according to the Nationwide survey. Keep your openers out of view, pick difficult passcodes, and change them regularly. Some newer versions of garage door openers pair with your smartphone, eliminating the need for a separate opener all together.
First-level entry windows are the second-most common entry point for burglars because it's relatively easy to jimmy a window open, Paulsen says. And even people who are diligent about locking their doors will often leave a window cracked open, especially in warm weather. "A locked window is often enough to deter thieves but if you need some fresh air, install a window jam that will only allow the pane to be pushed open a few inches," he says. You can also install alarms that let you know if your window is opened or broken while you're away, he adds. You should also know and follow these 35 tricks to prevent big problems.
Doorbell cameras are popping up everywhere and at first glance, it may seem like a great way to reduce all kinds of crimes in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, the reality doesn't seem to support that, with independent research showing no decrease in break-ins or overall crime in neighborhoods that have the cameras, according to research published in MIT Technology Review. Researchers aren't sure exactly why this is but Paulsen points out that the cameras can still be useful for many things, including helping you see who is at your door before answering it, so they are still worth having if your budget allows.
Make friends with those who live around you, or at least a passing acquaintance, as watchful neighbors can be your best allies in home defense, Paulsen says. You don't want to tell everyone when you're headed out of town (especially not on the internet) but you do want to tell your plans to your neighbors and your neighborhood watch program, if you have one, so they can keep an eye out for strange behavior or people they don't recognize.