People in the U.S. lose billions of dollars in home burglaries each year. The experience of finding your home ransacked and your belongings gone is awful enough, but even just the fear of home burglaries can cause anxiety and affect your ability to feel safe in your own home. So what can you do to prevent home break-ins?
For many worried families, the obvious solution is a home security system, but these may cost hundreds of dollars (often a worthy investment, especially if you get a monitored system, which may also earn you home insurance discounts, says The Zebra’s own licensed insurance agent Neil Richardson). However, if the cost is simply too high for your family, you still have a number of steps you can take that will reduce your risk of theft.
1. Install motion sensor lights.
Robbers are normally looking for the easiest houses they can target without getting caught. If a light comes on the moment they near your home, it draws attention their way and makes it more likely that they’ll make a hasty retreat to avoid being seen. Motion sensor lights won’t deter every thief, but they’re inexpensive and can make a big difference in making your home less attractive to robbers.
2. Keep a light on during the day.
65% of burglaries occur during the daytime when thieves assume homes are empty while people are at work. If they have reason to think someone is home, then they’re less likely to bother. Leaving a light on in the house that’s visible from the street is therefore a simple way to deter theft. Even better, invest in a cheap light timer that automatically turns the light on and off at certain times of day. Anyone eyeing your house will be more convinced by lights that turn on and off occasionally than by a light that’s on at all times of day.
3. Keep a radio playing when you’re out.
Like keeping a light on, this is another way to make it seem like someone’s home even when they’re not. Hearing voices inside the house makes would-be thieves think they’ll have to deal with someone on the other side of that door or window once they get in, which will usually seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
4. Close your curtains when you leave the house.
You don’t want anything you have that’s worth stealing to be on display to everyone who walks by the house. Make sure you close your curtains so no one can see your valuables. Further, if there is anything especially valuable that you typically keep in view of a door or window, get in the habit of tucking it out of sight whenever possible. This is good year-round advice, but you should take extra care around the holidays to keep gifts and other valuables out of view.
5. Keep your shrubs and trees trimmed.
Strategic landscaping can play a role in thwarting thefts. If your trees and shrubs are well trimmed, they won’t provide easy cover for sneaky burglars to hide behind or even to climb to reach upper windows. As a bonus, you can plant thorny bushes next to your windows to make any attempts to crack them open from the outside especially unpleasant.
6. Don’t hide spare keys outside.
The convenience of a spare key is nice, but savvy thieves know all the obvious places to look for one – including that fake rock you thought was inconspicuous. Consider leaving your key with a neighbor instead of outside, or getting creative with how you hide it. For instance, including some dummy spare keys can distract and annoy would-be robbers and increase their likelihood of giving up.
7. Put up a home security sign.
You may not be able to afford a home security system, but you can pick up a sign that suggests you have one for less than $10. While this won’t fool every thief – they can figure out that fake alarm signs exist too – if it makes your house look just a little riskier to breach, it can help.
8. Install better locks.
More than 60% of all burglaries involve forcible entry. That means even if you’re good about locking your doors and windows, most thieves can still figure out a way in. If you don’t have one yet, invest in a deadbolt lock. If you want to go a step further, get a door jammer to thwart a committed thief from kicking the door in.
People are often more casual about leaving their back doors unlocked than they are with front doors, so remember to lock both.
And don’t forget your fence. A simple $5 lock attached to the fence door adds an extra level of security against anyone looking for an easy in.
9. Get to know your neighbors.
One of the best things you can do to protect your home is completely free: talk to your neighbors. If the people in the neighborhood know each other, they’ll be more likely to notice if someone unusual is sneaking around or messing with locks or windows. As a bonus, you can ask them to keep an eye out and bring in packages or mail when you’re out of town so it’s not obvious you’re away.
Bonus tip: Get a dog.
This doesn’t really belong on the main list because it’s probably not a great idea to get a dog solely for home security purposes. But if you were considering a dog anyway, an extra bonus to having one is that they’re a good deterrent for would-be thieves.
Most of these tips shouldn’t cost you much at all and can go a long way toward keeping your belongings safe. If a home security system is out of the picture for you, then take a few extra steps to beef up your home security and ease your peace of mind.