15 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 nearly half of burglars enter through the front door. Why? It’s easy access! 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 burglaries happen between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., 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! Here are more 21 more secrets burglars won’t tell you.
Your garbage cans
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 man will thank you!
Homes in high-visibility places, like on corner lots, are far less likely to be broken into. 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. This is especially true if your property backs up to a forest, open lot, or other unguarded area. The trick, according to Secure Life, is to make your house as difficult as possible to access. This means installing high fences and lots of lighting. Learn 13 sneaky things FBI agents do to protect their homes.
Drugs, particularly prescription painkillers, are quickly becoming one of the most stolen items, according to the most current FBI data. 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 the good stuff 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.
First-level entry windows are the second-most common entry point for burglars, after the front door. That’s because it’s relatively easy to jimmy a window open, according to A Secure Life, a company that evaluates and rates home security systems. And even people who are diligent about locking their doors will often leave a window cracked open, especially in warm weather. Fortunately, this is an easy fix using a window jam that will only allow the pane to be pushed open a few inches. Here are 35 tricks every homeowner should know to prevent big problems.
Your social status
Make friends with those who live around you, or at least a passing acquaintance, as nosy neighbors can be your best allies in home defense, according to Nationwide. 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. Even better, ask them to come pick up your mail and newspapers, and turn lights on and off while you’re gone.
Your vacation pics
Forty percent of people admit posting pics while out of town, according to Nationwide. And while putting your vacation pictures online might get you a lot of likes, it also notifies your friends and acquaintances that you’re now far from home, making your house a prime target for anyone with ill intentions or just an opportunistic streak. Instead, make sure your social media profiles aren’t public, and wait to post your beautiful beach selfies until you get home. Here are some other things you should never post on social media for the sake of your own safety.
Your neighborhood’s crime history
Certain neighborhoods are more vulnerable to certain types of crimes, and that is especially true for burglaries. A quick glance at the weekly police blotter (or a quick call to your local precinct) can give you a heads-up to whether cars or computers are the hot commodity in your place, and then you can take specific steps to protect yours. For example, one neighborhood experienced a rash of break-ins to sheds, garages, and patios where tools were the primary items stolen. People who picked up on the pattern warned everyone to put extra security on their outdoor structures.
Your neighborhood’s age
Criminals tend to target newer neighborhoods and developments, hoping to take advantage of residents who are new to the area and might not be very familiar with it yet. This is especially true if the area is on the wealthier side. Tight-knit neighborhoods with long-standing residents, where everyone knows one another, are less likely targets. The most common time of the day for burglaries is probably not what you think.
Simply having an alarm system won’t help you if you don’t use it, and 20 percent of alarm owners say they don’t bother activating it during the daytime, even though that is when the majority of burglaries occur. Forget the old trick of having a security sign in your front yard—thieves are wise to that game and will still try the doors and windows, banking that you’re bluffing or forget to turn it on. You have to arm your alarm every time you leave your home. These 13 security tips could save your home from a break-in.
Greenery is great at protecting your privacy from prying neighbors, but it’s also great at hiding burglars. Thieves specifically target homes with shrubs or trees that grow thickly around the front or sides of the house, so keep yours trimmed away from walls and below window height—even if that means having to wave to Ned and Nancy over your morning coffee. Also, having a well-maintained yard indicates that you’re vigilant about your home and likely paying close attention to it.
Time is the most important factor in a successful burglary—the average thief is in and out in less than ten minutes! Picking a regular door lock is a piece of cake for most experienced burglars, but most won’t want to waste previous minutes messing with a deadbolt or other secondary lock, according to Secure Life. If it takes them more than a minute to get in, chances are the next house will be easier and they’ll just move on. For maximum effectiveness, make sure you have the extra locks installed on all exterior doors—not just the front.
Your outdoor lights
At night, a burglar’s best friend is a dark home, according to Nationwide’s research. Fortunately, deterring criminals banking on the cover of darkness may be as simple as turning on your outdoor lights at night. Not a fan of wasting all that electricity? Go with motion-activated floodlights, especially in your backyard or dark corners of your home.
It takes two minutes online or on the phone to put a hold on your mail while you’re gone and subvert the number one signal burglars look for: an overflowing porch or mailbox. These are the hiding spots burglars check first.
Dog owners, you’re in luck: About 50 percent of burglars say the mere presence of a dog would keep them from robbing a house. And that goes for small, noisy dogs as well as larger, threatening-looking ones. But if it’s clear that your home has a cat—say, you have a cat-themed car bumper sticker, scratching posts visible through your windows, or a kitty door—your home could become a target. Burglars might look for windows that you keep open for the cat or assume that if you’re a cat person, you’re less likely to have a dog. Plus, some really desperate (and thin) crooks have been known to sneak into houses through the kitty door! So no matter much you love your cat, it might be safest not to broadcast it to your whole neighborhood. Next, learn 13 signs a would-be burglar is watching your house.