Tag Archives: burglar

5 Ways to Make Your Home Less Attractive to Burglars—so They Pass You by

We usually don’t think about home burglaries until it’s too late. It always seems like something that will happen to someone else, right? But with a home burglary taking place every 13 seconds in the U.S., there’s a very good chance that someday that “someone else” will be one of us.

The time to take action to prevent a burglary is before such a tragedy strikes. And prevention is probably easier than you thought. One of the most important steps you can take is to simply make your home less appealing to a burglar looking for an easy target.

We offer five such tips below. While these tips shouldn’t take the place of a traditional home security system, they may convince a burglar to pass by your house and choose a different target instead:

1) Get a fence
Burglars want to get in and out of a home within a few minutes. Having a fence to jump over can be a huge deterrent, especially if it’s a metal or wooden picket fence with pointed tops. A fence can definitely make a burglar think twice about breaking into your home because they could be injured or get hung up on the fence posts as they try to clear it. One caveat to this, however: Don’t make your fence so tall that it blocks your house from the street. With a fence like that, a burglar will be more tempted by your property because—once over the fence—they can work in privacy.

2) Leave the dog outside
If you have a dog, get a “Beware of Dog” sign and display it clearly. Move the doghouse into a visible spot in the yard and let the dog run around (weather permitting). A burglar wants to get in and out of a home as quickly as possible, and a dog introduces many variables. A burglar won’t know if a dog is friendly, or will bark loudly or even attack. When a dog is on the premises, the burglar will likely move on to the next target.

3) Trim bushes and shrubs
Burglars like places to hide while they break in, so trim any bushes or shrubs that are getting big enough for a grown man to hide behind. Focus on those shrubs near entry points like doors and windows, and remember to do the same for garage doors and windows too. A couple of hours with a pair of hedge clippers should be sufficient time to eliminate any hiding places and make your house less appealing.

Install bear traps and trip-activated nets
Just kidding! You don’t need a lawsuit on your hands.

4) Light walkways
Although most burglaries happen during the day, your house is at risk during the night time hours too. Plenty of outdoor lighting that will expose anyone sneaking on to your property can make your home less appealing to a burglar. In addition to other exterior lighting tips we’ve offered in the past, consider adding small solar lights along your driveway and walkway. You can buy these in packs at any major hardware store. The solar panels charge internal capacitors during the day, then emit a low-level LED light at night, thereby increasing the visibility in your yard without being distracting. This will make potential burglars easier to spot, which will turn them away to an easier target.

5) Put away your ladder
Burglars usually break in through the front door (34%), first-floor window (23%) or back door (22%). But every once in a while they will get in through a second story window if they have access (2%). For that reason, you should stash away your ladder rather than leave it where a burglar can use it to reach that open window.

Final thoughts
These are simple steps you can take to make your home less appealing to burglars without much effort, and they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To take yet another step to protect your home and make it a challenging target for burglars, consider investing in a home security system equipped with motion sensors, cameras, and door and window sensors. Modern plans may be less expensive than you think, and peace of mind is priceless.

Burglars Getting in Through the Garage? Yep! It’s That Easy

Some time back, a YouTube video showing how to break into a garage in 6 seconds went viral. Then videos showing how to prevent such a break-in proliferated, including this Texas news clip.

The idea is that a burglar quickly and easily gets into your garage, then shuts that door and gains effortless access to your house. Yes, an open garage door is noticeable, but if it is then closed quickly, chances are it won’t be noticed. And the burglar is in. Even if the door between your garage and house is locked, the burglar is now able to take his or her time breaking through that door to gain entry. A home security system would set off an alarm, but most burglars are fast, in and out of a home in between 8 and 12 minutes, which gives them plenty of time before the police show up.

Although the garage door is not the most common way to break into a home—thieves use the garage to gain access to a house 9% of the time—you as a homeowner want to prevent any kind of access point to decrease your chances of becoming a victim. And much of the advice for preventing garage break-ins is the same as general home security advice. So we offer tips below that are specific to your garage and your house both…

Make your house less appealing
Burglars don’t choose houses at random. They know exactly what they’re looking for. Decrease the appeal of your house and garage with these tips:

  • Cut back trees or shrubs by the road that give burglars a place to hide while they break into the garage. If you have a tall fence curbside that provides cover, consider replacing it with something shorter that neighbors and passers-by can see over.
  • If you have a detached garage and a burglar might be tempted to steal from that, not your house, don’t keep expensive equipment out in the open where it becomes an invitation to break in.
  • Make it look like someone is home. Keep the spare car in the driveway, not parked on the road. Use your home automation system to have lights turn on and off automatically. Have packages delivered to your workplace rather than left on your doorstep.
  • Make sure your home security system sign is clearly visible from the road.
  • Double check your lighting by going out at night and looking at your house and garage from the street. Does your lighting leave shadows where a thief could hide while breaking into your garage?

Practice prevention
Sometimes the old sayings are the best sayings, and in this case, a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure definitely applies.

  • Even if you won’t be gone long, keep your garage doors locked, both the large door on the front of the garage and any regular doors used to access the garage on foot, either from the outside or from the house. Use heavy-duty locks. Also make sure any garage windows also have better locks than the factory-installed kind.
  • Take advantage of the remote capabilities of your home security system to double check that the doors are locked when you’re not at home.
  • Install home security cameras in obvious places where a burglar can see they’re going to be seen while trying to break in.

Much of this advice applies to other outbuildings too, even if no one can gain access to your house through an outbuilding. They can still steal expensive tools and violate your property while erasing any sense of security you once had. In that way, home security measures should be comprehensive, taking into account more than your house to include any part of your property that is vulnerable—including that sturdy looking garage.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with a Home Security System

In the United States, over 2 million home burglaries are reported each year, with a home burglary taking place once every 13 seconds. Time how long it takes you to read this short blog post. How many burglaries happened during those few minutes?

Shocking, right? But perhaps not as shocking as this statistic: Only about 10% of Americans live in homes with home security systems. Given that homes with home security are much less likely to be broken into, why do so few people have home security systems?

Even burglars say home security systems deter burglars
Homes without a security system are three times more likely to get broken into and most burglars say they avoid homes with obvious home security systems, such as a yard sign out front. If we do the math, we find out that 90% of the homes in the U.S. are three times more vulnerable than the other 10%–which probably makes the other 10% even safer because burglars have plenty of unprotected houses to choose from!

You’ve probably heard the ADT slogan about the yard sign being a line in the sand, and we’ve written about the power of that statement in another blog post. When you realize that only 10% of homes are protected and how much of a deterrent that protection provides, you can see that that yard sign wins because it wins the battle upfront when the burglar passes on by.

If you’ve been thinking about a home security system and you’re still undecided about whether or not to make the investment, maybe it’s time to be ahead of the curve and join the minority that has a home security system—before you unwillingly become part of the group that has already been burglarized.

The costs of a home burglary: more than you think
A home security system does not have to be an expensive investment, and when you compare the costs of the peace of mind to the potential costs of a burglary, all of a sudden it seems cheap. Statistics say the average burglary costs a homeowner about $2,000 in lost goods. That might not sound like much, but that’s because it doesn’t take into account other costs, including:

  • The costs of replacing broken doors, windows or doorjambs
  • The trauma of the invasion, which can take years to recover from
  • The irreplaceable value of family heirlooms
  • A higher homeowner’s insurance premium

Without a home security system and your own “line in the sand” in the form of a home security sign in the front yard, your home ranks among the 90% of American homes that lack that protection—and it’s much more appealing to burglars as a result. Wouldn’t you rather stay ahead of that curve and move on into the 10%?

The 3 Most Common Ways Burglars Break In—and Ways to Thwart Them

Home burglaries are a fact of life. In fact, a home burglary occurs about every 13 seconds in the U.S. You have no way to guarantee your home won’t be one of those burglarized, but you do have plenty of ways to decrease the chances of it happening to you. You can start by understanding just how burglars break in—and how to thwart them.

If you think a locked door is deterrent enough, think again. Most burglars operate with a get in and get out mentality. They are only in your home for eight to 12 minutes, so they don’t mind busting open a door or window to gain entry. They’ll be out of there in no time anyway.

#1 point of entry: The front door
Burglars enter by the front door more than any other way: 34% of the time, a burglar uses the front door. How do you thwart them? Cut back any shrubs or bushes that give the burglar a place to hide while breaking in, so your front door is in plain sight of your neighbors. Do not have a spare key hidden. Most burglars know where to look, and will simply find it and let themselves in. Have a solid-core door, to thwart those willing to bust through. Install heavier duty locks and use longer screws (like 3-inch) for installing the strikeplate.

#2 point of entry: A first-floor window
A first-floor window is the second most common point of entry, at 23%. As with your front door, cut back or even remove shrubs or anything else that provides a hiding place. Do not leave windows open when you leave, no matter how stuffy your house might get. And install secondary locks on your windows, because the locks that come with your windows are too often not secure enough to keep a burglar out.

#3 point of entry: The back door
The back door or another kind of secondary entrance is how burglars get in 22% of the time. Thwarting them here requires the same steps as thwarting them from gaining entrance through the front door: cut back shrubs, don’t hide a key, use a solid-core door with upgraded locks.

Additional points of entry
Although first-floor doors and windows are the primary point of entry, burglars find other ways in too:

  • 9% of the time, they go through the garage
  • 6% of the time they get in through unlocked storage areas
  • 4% of the time it’s through the basement
  • 2% of the time they get in through an unlocked or open second-story window

For each of these, the advice is the same. Cut back shrubs. Lock, lock, lock, lock doors and windows every single time you leave the house. And use better quality doors, windows and locks.

See what a burglar has to say about your home’s appeal
You don’t have to take our word for it. You can also see the advice from a real-life burglar that we’ve provided here, and follow these tips to make your home less appealing based on what this burglar has to say:

  • Keep drapes and blinds open when you leave.
  • Have a car in the driveway, even when no one is home.
  • Have a home security system. Burglars know some home security signs are fake, but a home security alarm going off will make a burglar scram.

Most of all, cut back trees and bushes and avoid tall fences. You might like the privacy from your neighbors when you’re home, want your home visible from the street when you’re not to make it less appealing to burglars—so you won’t have to worry about thwarting them in the first place.

Going on Vacation? 5 Ways to Make Your Empty Home Look Anything But

You’ve earned your vacation and you’re looking forward to it! But don’t get so caught up in your plans for getting away that you forget to secure your home before you go. And part of securing your home is to make it appear that you’re still there. Since installing cardboard cutouts or mannequins as silhouettes against windows is only a short-term solution—until the burglars figure out that those “people” never move—here are five other ways to make it look like you’re occupying your vacant home while you vacate your way to some rest and relaxation.

Tip 1: Get a house sitter
The absolute best way to make it look like someone is in your house is to have someone in your house. This works even better if you have a dog that would otherwise go to the kennel while you’re gone. With the house sitter occupying the house and the dog barking alarms, you now have two deterrents to burglary.

Tip 2: Leave a car in the driveway
A car in the driveway definitely gives the impression that someone is in the house. If you have an extra car that you normally park on the road or in the garage, park it in the driveway so it’s easily seen. If you only have one car, consider getting a ride to and from the airport so you can leave your car conspicuously in the driveway.

Tip 3: Hire someone to take care of your lawn and yard
This tip is a little trickier because it would be better if you hired someone well before you left, not just for the week or two that you’re gone, for two reasons. One, if someone is watching your house, they’ll know there has been a change in the routine. Two, you want to make sure this person or company is reliable before leaving your yard in their care. Now, if you can follow tip one and find a house sitter and this house sitter will keep up with the yard maintenance, you’re twice blessed!

Tip 4: Keep the electronics going
If you don’t have a house sitter, or even if you do but they are gone for work, use timers and/or your home automation system to keep lights and electronics like radios and TVs turning on and off.

Tip 5: Keep your vacation to yourself…
…at least until after you get home. As we’ve said before, broadcasting your vacation via social media is the same as telling the world your house is sitting empty. So don’t. Save your vacation pictures until you get home and then share them. That way you can make sure you’re only sharing the best of the best, besides, rather than inundating friends and family with far too many photos.

It only takes a little effort to provide a lot of protection, so put in that effort now and enjoy more peace of mind while you’re away.

Home Security Systems Then and Now–Is It Time for an Upgrade?

We humans have always protected our homes and families. It’s innate in us, this desire to defend our property and loved ones. How we have gone about it has changed, however, and in recent years, it has changed dramatically. If you haven’t looked into home security systems lately, or you’re thinking it’s time to upgrade yours, here’s a rundown of the dramatic changes we’ve seen in home security systems in recent years…

From one job to many
Home security systems used to have one job and one job only: sound the alarm when a break-in occurred. This alarm would be audible within the home and also notify the home security provider so they could dispatch police.

Today home security systems help to protect homes and families against intruders as well as other threats such as carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and flooding.

In addition to being able to recognize these other threats, home security systems have also evolved from home security systems to home automation systems. That means homeowners can use them to regulate lighting, heating and cooling, in addition to monitoring home security.

From one trigger to many
Home security systems used to be limited in scope, recognizing that a door or window was opened and triggering the alarm.

Today’s home security systems include motion sensors, video cameras and more to enable more thorough home security. Cameras can be placed outside the home and inside, enabling more security coverage. That means garages and other outbuildings can be monitored as well.

Features such as video cameras also allow for real-time monitoring. Someone shows up at the front door while you’re at work? You can see who it is via the camera.

From onsite to remote
And you can see who is at the front door while sitting at your desk at work because today’s home security systems can be monitored and managed remotely, requiring only an Internet connection to see what is happening. In addition to the video access, this remote monitoring lets homeowners lock and unlock doors, control lighting and heating, and more, all from a computer, tablet or smartphone that is Internet-enabled.

From hardwired to wireless
Finally, another huge evolution in home security is the the switch from hardwired—requiring hours of installation time to drill holes and run wires—to wireless. Sometimes hardwired is still the right setup for some homes. However, wireless has many advantages, not the list of which is the fast installation time (no drilling required) and the fact that you can take your home security system with you when you move. (See seven advantages of wireless home security systems.)

As with everything, it seems, technology drives significant changes in how we work, live and play—and that includes in how we protect our homes and loved ones. If your home security system is old and limited in scope compared to what’s on the market today, it might be time for an upgrade.

Real-Life Lessons: Convicted Burglars Tell How They Broke Into Homes

Although we’ve covered this topic in the past in a post about thinking like a burglar, we are covering it again because of this newly published gem: KGW News in Portland, Oregon, sent letters to 86 inmates serving time for burglary and asked them to answer 17 questions about how they committed their crimes—anonymously, of course. They published the answers here, and we highly recommend you read them and take them to heart.

Are you smarter than a burglar?
The answers might surprise you—they surprised me! Some of the things they pointed out were so obvious, and I’m embarrassed to admit I’m guilty of them. Others I would have thought were deterrents, yet the burglars saw them as helpful. It’s incredibly useful information and will help you see your home through the eyes of a burglar like never before.

In addition, KGW News has a video as part of their article, interviewing a former burglar, Jerome Gilgan, as the reporter drives around in a car with him, talking about what makes a home or neighborhood appealing and how he would choose houses to break into, as well as how he would go about it.

Below are a few of the highlights from the video, and below that the top takeaways from the video and the inmates’ answered combined…

Leaving bathroom windows open or unlocked
Oh, boy, we do this! OK, I don’t because I’m always too cold to leave that window open, but my husband does. And yes, he forgets to close it—frequently, in fact. I will come home hours later to a very cold house because he opened then forgot to close the bathroom window. No more! But burglars know this is the case, and they will look for that window.

Leaving the backdoor unlocked
Apparently a lot of us leave backdoors unlocked thinking since it’s the back of the house, it’s okay, because no one would walk around to the back, right? Um, yes, I used to think this and do this, but not any more!

Busy neighborhoods
I’ve been puzzled by the statistics that say most burglaries happen during the day until I watched the video. In it, Gilgan points out that lots of activity like delivery vans means a burglar will go unnoticed. On the other hand, a quiet neighborhood that’s empty because everyone is at work is also inviting.

Bushes, bushes, bushes
Only watch the video and see the very houses the reporter and Gilgan are looking at and talking about as ideal for burglars, and you’ll realize it’s time to get out those clippers! What seems like privacy to you as the homeowner looks like heaven to someone who wants to break into your house unseen! Cut back your trees, shrubs and bushes until your house is exposed.

The biggest takeaways
There’s a lot of information that’s useful in the article and I’ve only summed up some of it above, but I think the biggest and easiest takeaways are:

  • Keep drapes and blinds open when you leave.
  • Making sure doors and windows are locked, and don’t rely on a board stuck in the sliding door track: burglars can get it out.
  • Have a car in the driveway. That’s a very good sign that someone is home, even if someone isn’t.
  • Home security signs are iffy as a deterrent, because they might be fake…
  • …but a home security alarm going off will make a burglar leave quickly!
  • Most of all, cut back trees and bushes and avoid tall fences. You want your home visible!

The article also includes two letters written by inmates who wanted to supply even more information as a way to try and make up for their past wrongs. Again, it’s worth your time to read these and “think like a burglar” in order to prevent one.

Definitely watch the video, even if you don’t read through the answers or the letters. The reporter and Gilgan will give you a burglar’s view of actual houses and neighborhoods, pointing out what is appealing and what’s a deterrent, as the reporter asks Gilgan about techniques. It’s very educational and eye-opening, and might just help you take the steps necessary to make your home uninviting to anyone uninvited!

Keeping Your Kids Safe Offers Priceless Peace of Mind for Parents

You can’t always be there to keep an eye on your kids. Even though you become a parent, chances are you also have a job or meetings or chores to do. You simply can’t be there all of the time to keep them safe. And that’s okay! In fact, sometimes being away from the watchful eye of a parent is a good thing. At some point when they’re little, kids need to learn to be away from their parents. This is even more important as they get a little older and they need to learn independence.

But that doesn’t mean you forget about them altogether, of course!

So how do you step back as a parent–say on a much-needed date night when you’ve got toddlers at home, when the kids are old enough to play outside without you, or when that teen wants to be trusted to be left home alone? You rely on your home security system.

Think of it this way: Security means safety, right? So a home security system does more than protect your home from burglars and bad guys. It can keep your kids safe too, and give you some much-needed peace of mind.

Below are three scenarios where home security cameras can help you feel confident as a parent that you’re doing your best to watch over your children, even when you’re not around. Given your own situation, you probably have others. These are just three of the most common…

1. The dreaded attractive nuisance

The kids clamored for a trampoline and they got one, much to your pleasure and your chagrin both. Or maybe you live in an area like Phoenix where backyard pools are commonplace, and your kids aren’t old enough to go near the pool alone. Whatever the “attractive nuisance” at your house, it can wear on a parent’s nerves to know the temptation—and danger—are constantly present when you have little ones around. Your home security system can help, by offering video monitoring of the dangers.

2. Babysitters and nannies

As much as we might not like leaving our little ones in someone else’s care, it’s going to happen. We’ll need to go somewhere without them, and what parent hasn’t endured the guilt induced by a crying toddler when trying to get out the door to a meeting on time? Even though it gets easier as your kids get older (fewer tears, less guilt), you’re still entrusting their care to someone else, and that’s always hard. Being able to keep tabs on the kind of care they’re getting while you’re away can offer huge peace of mind.

3. Latchkey kids

Let’s face it: Modern life means our kids are often arriving home to empty houses because both parents are at work. Or they live in a single-parent household, as more kids do these days. (According to the 2010 census, the number of children living in single-parent homes has nearly doubled since 1960.) Your home security system can help you to know they’ve arrived home safely from school…and that they’re eating the apples and not the ice cream as their after school snack.

Once a parent, always a parent, no matter what era you live in. At least with today’s technology, we have tools to keep our kids safe when we’re not right there to protect them, so we can maybe worry just a little less.

What Are America’s Most Dangerous Cities? It Depends Whom You Ask!

Is your city safe? How about your neighborhood? Just how does your “neck of the woods” compare to other parts of the country or even your state? It’s easy to find out, by looking into rankings of America’s most dangerous cities.

However, if you delve into the research, you’ll find not all the rankings are the same. The rankings we’ve included below are from Forbes.com, but Neighborhood Scout offers a list of the top 100 most dangerous cities, and ranks the top 10 quite differently. For example, Buffalo, NY is the 10th most dangerous city according to Forbes.com, but it ranks 40th on Neighborhood Scout’s list. That’s a huge difference!

Also note that if you’re doing research, you can find statistics for cities of different sizes. You can find the top 10 most dangerous large cities or small cities, something to consider if you’re assuming all small cities are safer…because they’re not necessarily. For example, Wilmington, DE has only 72,000 residents, but tops one list of most dangerous small cities with a violent crime rate of 1,703 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. That’s higher than eight of the big cities listed as most dangerous by Forbes.com!

Below we offer you one list of the most dangerous cities, but our research indicates it’s worth looking into yourself if these are stats important to you, since it does depend whom you ask. You can also find out how secure your own neighborhood is by simply inputting your address into our Crime Reports widget.

America’s 10 Most Dangerous Cities According to Forbes.com

1. Detroit, Michigan–Violent crime rate: 2,137 per 100,000 residents

2. St Louis, Missouri –Violent crime rate: 1,857 per 100,000 residents

3. Oakland, California–Violent crime rate: 1,683 per 100,000 residents

4. Memphis, Tennessee–Violent crime rate: 1,583 per 100,000 residents

5. Birmingham, Alabama–Violent crime rate: 1,483 per 100,000 residents

6. Atlanta, Georgia–Violent crime rate: 1,433 per 100,000 residents

7. Baltimore, Maryland–Violent crime rate: 1,417 per 100,000 residents

8. Stockton, California–Violent crime rate: 1,408 per 100,000 residents

9. Cleveland, Ohio–Violent crime rate: 1,363 per 100,000 residents

10. Buffalo, New York–Violent crime rate: 1,238 per 100,000 residents

Gang activity, drug trafficking and poverty rates seem to always be present where there are high crime rates. For example, number 5 on this list—Birmingham, AL—has a poverty rate of 26%, and number 10 on this list—Buffalo, NY—has a shocking poverty rate of 30%. That means you’re not only looking at rates of crime but also quality of life when you’re looking at these cities…something to consider if you’re researching cities prior to a move.

And it’s worth noting that even if you live somewhere other than in one of America’s most dangerous cities, crime still happens, both violent and property. Unfortunately, there isn’t anywhere you can live that is guaranteed to be 100% safe for you and your family. That makes home security a concern for everyone, whether you live in the most dangerous place in the U.S. or the safest part of town. That said, maybe while researching your neighborhood’s crime activity, researching a new home security system should top your list too!

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