Home security is a psychological game of chicken between you and a burglar—whoever flinches first loses. With very few exceptions, burglars do the minimum amount of work and won’t risk getting caught if there’s enough security around.
Because burglars squeak by with a D- on effort, it’s fairly easy to create obstacles to their success. Here are five principles to help you build a comprehensive home security strategy.
File police reports and share information with the police as needed
Security system with entry, motion, and glass break sensors
Security cameras and video doorbells
Call the police if there's a break-in
Security system with professional monitoring
DIY security system with self-monitoring
Why does deterrence matter in home security?
Deterrence is both the first and final element of effective home security. As the first element, deterrence prevents problems. It’s an ideal outcome in a matchup with a burglar—a good deterrent scares them away.
As the final element, deterrence is crucial to the success of every sensor, product, home security system, and monitoring service. As burglars encounter more and more resistance, they’re more likely to bail before finishing their raid.
How to deter
All security devices play a role in deterring burglars. But the purest forms are signs (even fake signs to some extent), bright lighting, landscaping, fake security cameras, and functional security devices that flat out say you’re taking your security seriously.
Despite the importance of deterrents for effective home security, you shouldn’t solely rely on a passive device like a sign to keep intruders at a distance. Instead, it’s better to take a multi-layered approach by incorporating as many d’s of home security as possible to up your deterrence game.
Here are some tips for making your home look uninviting to a burglar:
Plant thorny bushes in strategic places near windows and unlit portions of your yard to make potential hiding spots and shortcuts uncomfortable.
Add an obnoxious siren to your security system—similar to your morning alarm, more annoying = more effective.
Why do delays matter in home security?
Each second matters in a burglary, so the more you can delay an intruder, the more likely they’ll give up or lose the opportunity for a clean getaway. A typical smash-and-grab burglary takes only a few minutes. On a short time scale like that, delays add up.
How to delay
Approach your home like it’s a freeway waiting for a traffic jam, then cause one or more of the following fender benders to add time to a burglar’s commute:
Use strong locks on doors (and actually lock them).
Install a reinforced security door that’s near impossible to kick in.
Install fences, walls, and gates that are difficult to climb over.
Did you notice how the delaying tactics above don’t involve a security system? That’s because alarm systems don’t typically delay intruders, instead focusing on detection and deterrents.
Why does detection matter in home security?
Detection is the first (and weakest) of two d’s that focus on spotting activity around your home. At the most basic level, detection merely confirms that something happened without saying when it was or who did it—smoke detectors are a prime example.
Without an associated face and time, detection mostly acts as a deterrent to burglars or a real-time notification of unsafe conditions.
How to detect
There aren’t many home security products that focus solely on detection (especially if they don’t connect to a security system), but here are some tips that can help you stay safe at home:
If you see signs of a burglary (open or broken doors and windows), call the police and don’t go inside the house.
Why does documentation matter in home security?
While detection doesn’t tell you when past events occurred, documentation collects helpful information about intruders through timestamps and descriptions.
Documentation through timestamps
By connecting sensors to a security system, they can add a timestamp to everything they detect. This is the primary way that all non-camera security devices work within a system—aside from triggering alarms.
Timestamps are excellent for tracking events’ timing, making them useful for filing police reports and insurance claims. But they likely won’t provide enough information to identify burglars.
Documentation through descriptions
There’s no better way to gather information in home security than description—it’s the realm of security cameras and shared smart home devices.
Security cameras best represent description because they give you visual evidence of ne’er do wells. But smart home products—like smart locks—can also provide rich information by tracking when specific users access them through unique logins and pin codes.
How to document
Any security camera, smart home device, or security sensor that connects to a security system is capable of generating a simple play-by-play rundown, so you know what happened and where to focus your recovery efforts:
Installing security cameras inside and outside your home can capture useful information to help the police find burglars.
Install a video doorbell to talk with visitors on your porch and scare off porch pirates.
Use a smart lock or security keypad to track when your teen comes home using their personalized access code.
Why do dispatches matter in home security?
Dispatch, our final d, is when a security system calls for assistance after a burglar triggers an alarm. There are two ways to dispatch help to your home: professional monitoring and self-monitoring.
Professional monitoring allows a security company to send emergency responders to your home. It’s especially useful if you’re unable to contact the police yourself.
With self-monitoring, you or a trusted contact receives a smartphone notification when an alarm goes off. It’s up to you to call for help, but it’s usually a lot cheaper than paying the pros.
Either way, a burglar won’t spend much time in a house with a blaring alarm and police on the way.
How to dispatch
While some DIY security systems, security cameras, and smart home devices can aid in self-monitored dispatching help through timely notifications, a monitored security system is your best option.
Each of the five principles above can contribute to your overall home security, but none exists in a vacuum. By layering your security with devices and strategies that can deter, delay, detect, document, and dispatch together, you’ll have the right mindset for protecting your home.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to improve your home security, check out the related articles below or stop by our home security systems review.
John is a technology journalist with over seven years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech. Before joining SafeWise in 2020, John was an editor for Top Ten Reviews specializing in home security and the smart home. Learn more