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7 Sneaky Ways Burglars Can Break into Your House

In many cases, all it takes to keep a burglar out is a locked door. But some burglars are a bit craftier and may use one of these more creative methods to break into your home.

Big custom made luxury house with long doorway and nicely trimmed front yard in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada.romakoma/Shutterstock

Most of the time, they’re not “breaking” in at all

“Most burglars aren’t using ladders or ropes or digging holes to get into your home,” says Emily Patterson, a home security expert for ASecureLife.com. According to her research, an overwhelming majority of burglars enter homes through the doors and windows. Thirty-four percent use the front door, while 22 percent get in through the back door. Twenty-three percent use first-floor windows. And oftentimes, those doors and windows aren’t even locked. Even items in your yard can be a target for burglars. “The overwhelming number of burglars are unskilled people who go through open or unlocked windows and doors,” says Leonard Sipes, the former director of information services for the National Crime Prevention Council. “Simply locking windows and doors will prevent most burglaries.” There are, however, some more creative ways that sneaky crooks use to bypass locked doors and windows. These are some of the ones home security experts—and homeowners—have experienced. Plus, learn the secrets burglars won’t tell you.

Custom Home Build, Menlo Park, California, Pool, Patio, Grass, Back Yard, Hot tub Krista Abel/Shutterstock

They use the land

A secluded backyard is a burglar’s dream… and can be a homeowner’s nightmare, as it was in the case of Brian Shell. Burglars broke into his home in January 2017. “It was done via my back window, which faced a lake, so [there were] no backyard neighbors bordering it,” Shell told RD.com. One of the burglars threw a moldy tree log through the window to keep their fingerprints off of it, and climbed into the house through the broken window—so burglars are willing to use whatever’s around to break in and maintain secrecy. “My backyard is pretty secluded,” Shell said. “That’s what helped them.” Learn some more reasons your house could be vulnerable to being robbed.

white fence in front of garden look so relax among green bushyotanan chankheaw/Shutterstock

They climb fences

Seclusion was also the problem for Arizona resident Nancy Gretzinger. At her former home, which was broken into multiple times, “there was an empty lot and cemetery behind the house.” Several houses in her neighborhood had fences in the backyard with wooden slats, which burglars were easily able to climb to access her property. They broke a window leading to her kitchen and climbed in.

Labradoodle laying on front porchJustin Sienkiewicz/Shutterstock

They take a leaf out of your pet’s book

When burglars can’t get in through human entrances to your house, they may try to get in through the animal entrances. Robert Sollars, security expert and creator of robertdsollars.com, knows this all too well. “There are innumerable instances of doors being secured but the burglar coming in through the kitty door,” he advises. “Not all burglars are six-foot-two and 200 pounds. They can slither through those openings as well as a snake.” One of the burglaries Nancy Gretzinger experienced was committed in this very way. “They came in a medium-small doggie door,” she said. So, pet owners, keep your pet doors secure as well. If worse comes to worst and a burglar does manage to enter your home, make sure your valuables are not in these hiding spots burglars always check first.

Entrance of a house.karamysh/Shutterstock

They find your home’s weaknesses

“A lot of people believe that you need to have a really sturdy front door to prevent burglars from breaking in,” says home security expert Aaron Hall. “While this is a good idea, [many] burglars actually break in through back doors and windows.” If your front door seems impenetrable, a burglar might move on to the other doors, which tend to be weaker than the front one. “Most people’s back doors are the ones that are the least sturdy, and a burglar can kick the door open with one well-placed kick,” warns Hall. Make sure your back door is as sturdy as possible, with a deadbolt in place. Windows, too, can provide easy entry for a burglar foiled by the front door. “Aluminum window sills are easily breakable, so you should think about replacing those if you have them,” Hall suggests. You can keep some of your smaller valuables safe with these undetectable diversion safes. 

Garage DoorRonTech3000/Shutterstock

They choose less guarded doors

Front and back doors aren’t the only ones burglars can use to access your home and its valuables. “People… forget to protect side doors, back doors, garage doors, and doors that lead into the house from the garage,” says Liz Martinez, a former investigator and criminal justice instructor at Carrington College. She adds that these entrances can also be more beneficial to would-be burglars because they’re better hidden. “Make sure these secondary entrance doors are metal and have appropriate locks,” Martinez advises. “Also, be sure that any other types of entrances are protected, such as skylights.” We bet the most common time of the day for burglaries will surprise you.

Burglar, thief with gloves, holding crowbar breaking into home, unlock door, copy space.Rob Bayer/Shutterstock

They get the right tools

“Breaking in” is never a more fitting term than when a burglar encounters a locked door and decides to bust open the door anyway. This is a fairly unlikely method of burglary since it’s more likely to attract suspicion, but a skilled burglar may be able to do it. Some bring tools specifically with the intention of bypassing locks and bolts. “Burglars will often use tools like crowbars or credit cards to slip through locks or pry open entryways,” Hall says. Bruce Ailion, a realtor and attorney, adds, “For [houses] with a standard lock and no other security, the easy way to [gain] access is with a pipe wrench.” Ailion warns that more skilled thieves may even have taken online locksmith courses, or acquired pick guns or bump keys, in hopes of getting past deadbolts. “If that fails, a power drill will get through a deadbolt in a few minutes,” warns Ailion.

Skilled burglars may also have tools specifically for getting through windows: “Windows with old-fashioned locks are easily accessed with a putty knife,” Ailion says. Hall has some advice for foiling even tool-equipped burglars. “The best remedies… are strong doors, window sills, and deadbolt locks,” he says. Next, learn even more security tips that could protect your home from a break-in.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.