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 yard
Having an unkempt front yard, littered with door ads, old newspapers, and weeds is a blaring sign that no one is home and one that criminals look for, Paulsen says. If you’re out of town, ask a neighbor to pick up any papers, turn lights on and off, and basically make your house look lived in, he advises. Or, even better, hire a house sitter.
Your vacation pics
One in four people admits posting pics and check-ins on social media while out of town, according to the Nationwide survey. 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, set your privacy settings to max, and wait to post your beautiful beach selfies until you get home, Paulsen says. Here are some other things you should never post on social media for the sake of your own safety.
Your tool shed
Outdoor structures like sheds, detached garages, and patios make great targets for thieves as they’re less likely to be secured and usually contain expensive items like tools, bicycles, electronics, and machinery, Paulsen says. Make sure all outdoor structures are secured with a good padlock, he says, adding that it’s worth it to pay the extra money to get a lock that comes with a warranty. Some manufacturers offer a warranty both for the lock itself and for belongings that are stolen when the lock is broken by thieves, like these bike locks from OnGuard. Make sure to read the fine print on lock warranties and in your home owner’s insurance policy.
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. In addition, they target lower-income neighborhoods as security may not be as tight. Close-knit neighborhoods with long-standing residents, where everyone knows one another, are less likely targets. “This is even more reason to get to know your neighbors right away,” Paulsen says. “Give them your number and make sure you have theirs.” The most common time of the day for burglaries is probably not when you think.
Your neighborhood’s crime history
Certain neighborhoods are more vulnerable to certain types of crimes, and that is especially true for burglaries, according to the FBI. (The FBI allows you to check property crime statistics for your area by state or by metropolitan area.) 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 commodities in your place, and then you can take specific steps to protect yours. For example, one neighborhood experienced a rash of car break-ins and people used social media to point out the pattern, warn their neighbors, and share tips.
Your alarm system
Simply having an alarm system won’t help you if you don’t use it, and 30 percent of alarm owners say they don’t bother activating it when they leave home, according to the Nationwide survey. In addition, nearly half reported almost never changing their code. 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.
Tall, lush greenery is great at protecting your privacy from prying neighbors, but it’s also great at hiding burglars, Paulsen says. 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.
Your door locks
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 precious minutes messing with a deadbolt or more secure lock, Paulsen says. 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, he says. For maximum effectiveness, make sure you have the extra locks installed on all exterior doors—not just the front.
Your door plate
The strike plate is the piece of metal that holds the bolt when your lock is in the locking position—and unfortunately standard ones are very small and flimsy, making your door easy to kick in, Paulsen says. “This is an easy fix, just go to any home improvement store and get a bigger strike plate,” he says. For additional protection, you can purchase a door reinforcement kit for under $100 that will shore up the weak spots that thieves commonly exploit.
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, Paulsen says.