There is no better way of finding what actually works for home security than to seek the opinion of real burglars.
The good news is many reformed burglars have decided to change and use their knowledge and experience to help people protect their homes from other burglars. Their knowledge can be invaluable as it can give us a better insight into how they think and act.
In this article, we are going to take a look at what professional ex burglars share when it comes to home security, what works best, and what does not work in their opinion.
Reinforce Your Windows
One of the easiest ways burglars can enter your home is by breaking your windows.
Burglars have shared that laminated windows are an excellent deterrent.
When laminated windows break, they don’t shatter into pieces and immediately fall apart. Unlike standard windows, laminated windows remain in the frame when the glass is shattered. This can be an effective way to immediately shut down a burglar who is trying to get inside through your windows.
Laminated glass tends to be expensive, and a good alternative is applying security glass film to your windows. Although not as effective as laminated glass, it can still catch burglars off guard.
Here’s a great example of how tough laminated glass can be.
However, it is not all about the glass because the window frames can also be a security weakness.
One burglar said that aluminum windows were of particular interest because they often had a locking mechanism that could be bent just enough to prevent the window from locking properly. Later they could use it as a point of entry because many homeowners may not be able to fix it on time.
Old wooden window frames were another weak point that attracted some burglars.
In addition, burglars said that window security bars were a good deterrent because they can make breaking through a window nearly impossible while also preventing them from easily escaping after breaking in.
Reinforce Your Doors and Door Frames
Many burglars will check your front door, backdoor, and any sliding doors or other entry points that your home may have.
Burglars prefer picking a lock or kicking a door open instead of breaking a window because breaking windows is dangerous and makes a lot of noise.
Many burglars say that homeowners often have a sturdy, heavy, high-quality front door with a secure lock while leaving a flimsy door or sliding door with an old lock on the back of their house.
Burglars recommend using heavy, thick, and durable doors and adding additional locks on all doors, especially the back doors.
Consider adding strike plates and switching to longer screws to reinforce the door’s frame.
Sliding doors can be another entry point to your home. Often sliding doors are easy to unlock, break, or even be lifted up off their rails. Many burglars consider them to be the most vulnerable part of any house. Some burglars even go as far as saying that no home should have a sliding door. This is why sliding doors should be reinforced as much as possible.
Dogs Are Not as Good a Deterrent as People Expect
Burglars say that dogs can be an excellent deterrent.
But there are a few caveats here.
Most family dogs are often friendly and rarely pose any danger. Some burglars would carry dog treats to give the dogs, and others will give the dog some food from the fridge, which will easily keep the dog occupied.
One burglar said that larger dog breeds often were the easiest to “bribe”, as well. And even smaller yappier dogs were not that hard to deal with after a few treats. He further explained that even the constant barking might not be such an inconvenience as neighbors will often grow used to it.
Dogs that have been trained to be security dogs are a different story, though. These dogs have been trained to protect their property, attack strangers, but even they can be swayed by dog treats in some instances.
A dog is not the be-all and end-all of home security. Nonetheless, many burglars prefer to avoid dealing with a potentially dangerous dog, and some said that they would avoid houses with dogs regardless of the dog’s breed or size.
Beware of the Dog Sign
Dog signs can be a good crime deterrent but can give away some potential security vulnerabilities in some instances.
For example, if your dog is inside your home and can move freely, this could mean that you probably do not have a home security system because dogs and other pets could accidentally trigger it. And even if you have an alarm system, and the dog does not trigger it, maybe the burglar can also sneak undetected, as noted in the video below.
On the other hand, a Beware of Dog sign on the gate leading to your backyard can be a good idea in some instances.
Keep Your Home Clean
One ex burglar reported that he would look for how much dust there is in different areas and on various objects to locate areas of interest quickly.
Be Mindful of What Can Be Seen From Outside
Your windows and doors can give burglars a good idea of whether or not it is worth breaking into your home.
Some burglars look for signs that the owner is not home, while others will try to see if there is a home security system, whether it is armed, and whether there are some valuables worth stealing.
For example, a calendar with clearly marked vacation dates could be a good way to give away nobody is home.
Even birthday cards can cause problems since they can inform burglars there may be something worth stealing inside.
Valuables should also not be placed near the vicinity of windows where they can be easily spotted from outside. This also applies to your home security system control panel.
Secure Your Mailbox
Burglars can use the mailbox to look inside your house for valuables. They can even use makeshift tools to reach for keys and other valuables left near the front door or to unlock the door from the inside.
A good way to prevent that is to use a mailbox cover and cage.
Do Not Leave Stuff Outside
Burglars can use garbage bins as a ladder and easily access higher floors and windows or get over taller fences.
As mentioned in the video below, it is best to keep garbage bins stored away so burglars cannot easily access and use them.
Also, do not leave any equipment and tools in your yard.
For example, a random ladder laying around can be used by burglars to get access to your second-floor windows. Even brick or rock in your backyard can be used to break a window, and even some common tools can make breaking into your home easier.
Avoid Using Tall Fences
Enclosed backyards with tall fences can provide burglars with privacy and cover, giving them enough time to look for weaknesses and break in without being easily seen. Many burglars report that a house with a taller fence is something that will attract them.
Use a Home Security System
Home security systems can be a good deterrent, but not all burglars are stopped by them.
The problem with home security systems is that they may be considered reactive instead of proactive. If a burglar breaks in and an alarm goes off, some will leave immediately, while others may spend a few minutes stealing anything they can before leaving.
The type of home security system also matters as burglars often look for older or wired home security systems that they can disarm and will avoid wireless home security systems.
Many burglars recommend getting security cameras and installing them in visible areas at a height that allows them to record the perpetrator’s face.
According to most burglars, using glass break sensors, door and window sensors, motion detectors were all a great deterrent. Burglars also say that many homeowners forget to arm their security systems.
Even a smart video doorbell could be an excellent crime deterrent because the homeowner will be alerted when somebody is near the front door, and they can answer the door and talk to the burglar without having to be home.
Always Lock Your Doors and Windows
As obvious as it may sound, many burglars share that people frequently leave their doors and windows unlocked. This is especially the case with bathroom windows and garage doors.
Secure Your Garage
Garages can often be a weak point. Attached garages can be even more dangerous as breaking in the garage can give easy access to the rest of the house.
Burglars recommend reinforcing garage doors, windows, locks and addressing the most common security weaknesses garages have. For example, some garage doors can be opened within a few seconds by releasing the emergency release lever, as shown in this video:
Eliminate Potential Entry and Escape Routes
Burglars always look for both entry and escape routes, and both can be equally important.
If the only entrance they have to your house seems too difficult, most burglars will prefer to pick a different house.
Thieves will try to have more than one means of escaping and, before going in, will map out any possible exit routes. If there are no good escape routes, they may prefer to walk away. Some burglars will open doors and windows from the inside, which they can use to escape if necessary.
Understand Where and What Burglars Look For
Burglars will not necessarily try to steal everything. They look for cash, collectibles, jewelry, prescription medications, IDs, social security cards, driving licenses, and other valuables. Some burglars shared that electronics, credit cards, collectibles, and guns were some of their favorite picks.
Read our post on Where Do Burglars Look First?
Burglars avoid stealing big items that can be difficult to carry or personal items like wedding rings, smartphones, laptops, computers, credit cards because they are hard to sell and, in some instances, easily traceable.
Burglars usually look in master bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, and even closets for jewelry and valuable clothing.
Some will go through frequently used hiding places like boxes of cereal, bookshelves, vents, vases, under mattresses, toilet tanks, freezers, and random containers. Others will not waste too much time and only look at the most obvious places.
Burglars share that the safest place to keep your valuables is in a safe deposit box in a bank. A high-quality safe that is bolted in place and immobile can also work.
Blur Your House on Google Maps
Burglars can get a good idea of what your home and backyard look like on the outside and scout for potential cameras, possible entry points, and escape routes using Google Maps.
A simple action like blurring your home on Google Maps can be a good way to make things a little harder for some criminals.
Keep Your Yard Well-Lit
A well-lit exterior is a good deterrent at night.
But you have to be smart about your lighting.
Burglars recommended placing motion-triggered lights in strategic places and ensuring your windows and doors are covered, including any other possible points of entry or points of interest.
Have Some Lights on Inside the House
According to some burglars, if you are going away for a few days, a good idea will be to leave a few lights on inside your house. Setting them up to turn on and off randomly is recommended to make it look like somebody is inside. (Burglars can tell eventually if lights are timed if they turn on and off at identical times.)
Some burglars will still try to see if these lights are automated and if anybody is home. So keep the lights somewhere inside the house so that they cannot be seen from your front or back door or windows.
A working TV or radio inside will deter some burglars, but others may still try to find out if somebody is home.
Keep the Mailbox Empty
Ensure no mail, newspapers, magazines, flyers, packages, or other things accumulate around your front door and mailbox.
If you will be away for a while, put a hold on your mail and subscriptions, or ask your neighbors to pick up the mail for you. Ask them to take out your trash bins on collection days, as this can be a definite sign that the homeowners are not home.
Security Signs Can Be Useful
When it comes to security signs, burglars tend to have different opinions. Burglars are aware that some of these security signs may be old or fake, and the house may not really have a working security system.
Some burglars simply do not care about security signs or may be led to believe there is something of value worth stealing inside because of the sign. Others will not bother at all and look for other less secure houses.
Keep Your Yard Well-Manicured and Clean
One of the first things most burglars look for is yards with a lot of greenery—especially if it covers the front door.
Unkempt yards in middle-income neighborhoods are a good sign the owners may be away on vacation. During the winter, unshoveled snow can be another good sign that the owners may be away.
Do Not Fully Close the Blinds and Drapes
Some burglars say that completely closing the blinds and drapes is not a good idea as this can indicate nobody is home. Furthermore, if they break in, nobody from the outside will be able to see them walking inside. Completely closed blinds with lights switched on inside can also attract burglars’ attention.
Burglars recommend keeping the blinds closed but not all the way. You want them to look natural the way you keep them while you are home.
Keep a Vehicle in the Driveway
According to some burglars, keeping your car, a friend’s car, or a neighbor’s car in your driveway is a good deterrent. Most burglars say that a parked vehicle in the driveway is a sign somebody is home, and they will not risk breaking into the house.
Your Neighbors Can Be a Valuable Asset
One burglar said that nosy neighbors are one of the best deterrents.
Neighborhoods that have the Neighborhood Watch programs are often a no-go because people there will easily be able to tell if somebody does not belong there.
Get to know your neighbors and keep them informed.
For example, let your neighbors know if you are planning to hire somebody to mow your lawn or do some repair work and let them know that they should get in touch if anything suspicious is happening. Sometimes two or more burglars can be working together. One would be mowing the lawn at the front while the other is breaking in through the back. And this will very rarely look suspicious; even neighbors may not think twice about it.
Burglars share that people should be more careful what information they share with their friends, neighbors, and strangers. Statistics show that the victim knows the burglar in about 65% of all burglaries, according to the data from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Many people will share personal information with complete strangers, or in many cases, other people may overhear what they are talking about.
Sharing too much on social media can also be a security concern as other people may find out information about when you will not be home and what valuable items you may have.