If you’ve ever seen a heist movie like Ocean’s Eleven or The Italian Job, you know that thieves leave nothing to chance. Everything is painstakingly planned out, and that includes ‘casing’ the target location.
Home burglaries are no different. Would-be burglars typically identify potential targets days or even weeks in advance. They return again and again to gather additional information about the property, the homeowners, and any home security measures that may be in place.
In order to beat them at their own game, you need to know the tricks and techniques they use to case the outside and inside of your home. You need to do everything possible to turn your property from a soft to a hard target.
The Home Security Basics
A modern home security system should be like an onion, with many overlapping layers protecting the three major zones: the perimeter of your property, the perimeter of your house, and inside your home.
Gates, fences, motion sensors, lights, cameras, security system signs or stickers, closed curtains or blinds, sturdy locks, beware of dog signs, and more are all fantastic deterrents on the outside of your home. Any combination of them will deter all but the most ambitious of burglars from moving on to the next property.
In fact, the data suggests that 90% of criminals will pass on a house with a visible home security system in place, and a home without one is on average 3x more likely to be robbed.
It’s all about making your house as unappealing as possible.
The lowest hanging fruit for a thief? Unlocked doors and windows. A full 33% of home burglaries are classified as “unlawful entry”, meaning they gained access without having to break a lock, door, or window.
79% of break-ins happen via either the front door, first floor window, or back door. Will a burglar smash his or her way in? Sometimes. But making sure everything is locked up tight is the simplest and most powerful deterrent.
Even better? Install a home security system. And let everyone know with stickers, placards, and obvious motion sensors, cameras, and lights.
What Are Burglars Looking For?
An easy target (i.e. no security system).
Evidence that no one is home, such as:
- multiple newspapers piling up
- several days worth of mail
- too-long grass
- exterior lights on during the day
- interior lights on an obvious schedule (turn on at the same time each night)
- empty driveway
- quiet house
Windows they can easily look through to see who and what is inside. Flimsy doors and/or locks. Window air-conditioner units (it’s relatively easy to remove them and gain access).
A door or window they can break-in under cover of darkness or shielded from the street by trees or hedges. Burglars don’t like a spotlight.
Access to the sides and/or back of your house.
These are just a few of the things a burglar might look for over the course of a few visits.
Take them away and transform your home from an easy mark to a hard pass:
- Install a home security system with motion detectors, cameras, lights, and sirens (noticing a pattern with this?)
- Have a neighbor collect your newspapers and/or mail, or better yet, place a temporary hold on them
- Lock your windows and doors, and close the curtains/blinds of all ground floor windows
- Use smart automatic light systems to vary the times when they turn on and off
- Leave a radio or television on in the house to give the appearance that someone is home
- For extended holidays, ask a neighbor or hire a service to cut your grass or shovel your snow
- Trim trees and hedges and/or install lights at the most obvious points of entry
- Keep side and backyard gates closed and locked if you have them
- Ensure your door is solid and fits tightly in the door jamb (too much space between and a crowbar can easily be slipped in)
- Secure window a/c units from the inside, or limit them to upstairs windows
Finally, you should also participate in or launch a neighborhood watch program. A recent study involving data from Canada, the UK, and the United States found that these programs reduce crime by an average of 16%.
More eyes on your house means a much lower probability you’ll be selected.
How to Tell if You’re Being Targeted
Many of us are oblivious to what’s going on around us.
But if you pay attention, you should be able to identify the telltale signs that your home is being cased before the burglary takes place.
Things to watch for include:
- The same unfamiliar vehicle hanging around over the course of several days, either frequently driving by your place, or parked nearby
- Unfamiliar individuals walking back and forth on your street or back alley
- Anyone taking photos of your home or property
- Loose light bulbs on exterior lights (burglars will often unscrew them a day or two prior to a break-in attempt)
- Strangers at your door (burglars will frequently walk up and knock on the front door to see if someone is home, giving an excuse - asking for directions, have you seen my dog?, oops wrong house - whenever someone answers it)
- Mild vandalism like a rock through a side window (thieves sometimes check to see what happens if a window or door is broken)
- Someone lets your dog out from your yard
- Telephone calls that hang up as soon as you answer (it could be burglars probing to see who’s home)
- Clear tape over the keyhole to your front door (the key will easily break through and inform the burglar that someone is home)
Recently, there have been homes in both North America and Europe with strange markings discovered somewhere outside. According to the authorities, these are often left by criminals as either reminders to themselves or messages to their accomplices.
If you find odd chalk markings on your property, it’s a good idea to inform the proper authorities. They may have information on what - if anything - it means.
There are 2.5 million+ burglaries each year in the United States, with an average dollar loss of $2251 per burglary. Unless you want to be part of that statistic, you do need to take steps to protect your family and your property.
Would-be burglars are casing your home. They’re returning several times looking for easiest access points, proof that you’re not home, evidence of valuables, and whatever other data they can gather.
Don’t make it easy for them. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Follow the advice here. Install a proactive home security system like Deep Sentinel.
And prevent crime before it happens.