What Basic Steps Can I Take to Prevent My House from Being Burgled?

Protecting your home from burglary can be simple, sensible, and affordable.

These basic steps—from being careful with what you recycle to removing geotags from photos you post online—can go a long way toward preventing your home from being burgled.

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1. Don’t advertise your goods

Avoid creating a tempting scene by keeping valuables out of plain sight. SafeWise advisory group member and theft researcher Ben Stickle, Ph.D., recommends the following:

  • Use your blinds, window films, and other window coverings strategically. Make sure that a burglar who’s casing your home cannot see in through a window to determine if your alarm system is armed, for example.
  • Arrange your home so that high-end electronics are not visible from the street.
  • Plant some attractive—and thorny—shrubbery under windows to discourage prying eyes.
  • Don’t leave your garage door up for everyone to see what you have inside.
  • Show an interest in those working, selling, or spending time in your area. Encourage connection with those just going about their business and discourage potential thefts by waving or saying hello if you feel safe doing so.
  • Post home security system signs, make outdoor security cameras visible, and display other signals of ample security measures. (Just don't make fake signs your only method of security.)
  • Be mindful of what you throw in the recycling bin.
    • If you’ve just bought a flat-screen TV, break down the box and block out identifying brands or descriptions.
    • If you or someone in your family uses prescription drugs, take the empty bottles back to a pharmacy that will recycle them for you. Even a bottle with the label soaked off advertises that there may be prescription medications in the house, and that can be appealing to a burglar.
  • Since most burglaries happen during the day when people aren't home, double-check that doors and windows are locked and your security system is armed before leaving—even if it's just for a few minutes.

2. Be careful on social media

Though it can be tempting to post pictures of your Hawaiian beach getaway on social media, don’t do so while you’re still on the trip. You don’t want to make it obvious you’re on vacation. Wait until you’re home, then post a collage. It’s also a good idea to comment thanking your house-sitters—just to clue readers into the fact that you don’t usually leave your home unoccupied, even during vacations.

3. Disable location tags on your camera

Did you know that posting photos online could lead someone right to your location? Many cellphone cameras automatically add location tags to photographs. Even though you can’t see the information on the photo, it could be hidden in the metadata; anyone with the right know-how can find out exactly where the photograph was taken.

If you’re selling items on Craigslist or eBay and the photos you post have geo-tags, you could be unintentionally advertising your address. While some sites do automatically remove geotag data, not all do, so cover your bases by changing your phone settings so that your photographs will not be geotagged.

4. Lock doors and windows, even when you’re home

Get into the habit of keeping everything locked. In the warmer months when you open windows or doors to enjoy the summer air while you’re home, open them only in the room you’re in—that way you can enjoy a breeze and still keep an eye on things.

Stickle recommends making a regular routine of locking up. “We easily forget to re-lock the windows after use," he says. "Establishing a routine check, especially before leaving for a few days, helps find unsecured windows.”

Be sure to double-check that the locks are secure after someone works in your home too. It can be easy to forget those little details when you’re wrapping up with a contractor, so set a reminder for yourself.

5. Shed some light on the issue

Motion sensor lights will protect your home as they surprise a would-be burglar and send them scrambling away into the night. As a bonus, many motion sensor lights are affordable, starting at about $20, and easy to install.

6. Secure your doors

Always change the locks when you move into a new home. Even if the previous owner or tenant is the nicest person in the world, you never know who had extra keys or made copies. When you change the locks, make sure to opt for top-notch products—you could even consider replacing the current deadbolt with an electronic door lock for extra security.

7. Get to know your neighbors

Don’t wait for an emergency to meet your next-door neighbor. Take the time to introduce yourself and establish a friendly rapport. Neighbors looking after each other—and paying attention to people or circumstances that seem suspicious—can go a long way toward creating the type of cohesive environment that’s uninviting to potential burglars. Learn more about how to make your neighborhood safer.

8. Use smart technology

The same home automation that allows you to view surveillance video of your home on your smartphone can be used to put you in control of lights, music, and other indicators that someone is home—even when you’re at work or traveling. You can turn lights and TVs off and on to make it appear that your home has not only lights on but also people inside moving from room to room.

9. Consider a home security system

Almost two-thirds of burglars would not rob a home with a home alarm system.1 And as more providers have entered the home security market and smart technology features have become more common, prices have become more competitive.

Older camera setups that once had to be viewed exclusively by off-site security guards have been replaced by security cameras that sync with your smartphone or tablet so you always have a view of what’s going on.

Your options for home security systems include the following:

Related articles on SafeWise

Sources

  1. Joseph B. Kuhns, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective,” December 2012. Accessed May 17, 2022.

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Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help everyone find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. In her free time, she volunteers at the local botanical garden and writers for the community newspaper.

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