Ways To Protect Your Home From Burglars And Break Ins When You Are Away

Published 1/17/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I got a sudden phone call from my friend yesterday. His stunned voice said it all - he and his newlywed wife had just become victims of an attempted home burglary. The shocking part is that he and his wife were home at the time sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. Their early morning meal was interrupted by a sudden loud banging noise from the direction of their back porch - sounds made by someone knocking on the door. The tapping sound was quickly followed by the chilling clang of breaking glass and creaking window latches. Within moments my friend dashed to the back door and caught the glimpse of the male intruder. Startled by the appearance of the home's occupants, the stranger hastily retreated on foot, leaving behind broken glass and evidence of his attempted break in.

Home Invasion Robbery Is A Crime Of Opportunity and We Can Do Something About It

The good news is that there are common sense steps we can all take to drastically reduce our chances of having our houses, apartments, or condos burglarized. Looking back in greater depth with my friend, he and I both realized that he had committed a series of crucial home maintenance mistakes that made him a bullseye target for such activity. Since moving into the old Northwest Washington D.C. house a month ago after taking it over from his remaining parent who had just passed away, he failed and neglected to immediately fix up and repair the home's exterior upkeep. The grass had grown high and newspaper deliveries were being piled outside and not picked up properly. The rickety fence gate was not properly latched shut and the house simply invited opportunism. Home burglaries are frequently crimes of opportunity and can occur when you're away at work or on vacation. Someone who cased my friend's house may have believe it was unoccupied. He was very fortunate that he was home that day to scare the attempted burglar away. However, we should all learn from his mistake and follow this list of ways to lesson our chances of becoming a home invasion victim.

Tips Homeowners Can Use to Keep Their Home Free and Safe From Invasion

  1. Defend Your Home Like An Onion, Not An Egg - A great deal of home invasions occur during the day when you're simply at work, and not just when you're on vacation or away for extended periods of time. Because you can never fully burglar-proof your home completely, your goal should be to increase the path of resistance it takes to break in. One powerful level of defense (egg shell) is not enough to protect against burglars. Your goal should be to create multiple levels of security (onion layers) to thwart the attempts and scrutiny of potential burglars.
  2. Make Your Home Look Lived In - Burglars are usually less likely to rob a home they think is currently occupied. On the whole, burglars want the path of least resistance and prefer targets where they know the residents are away. It's best to generate live-in activity to give the impression that people are still coming and going from the home.
  3. Put A Radio and Your Lights On A Programmable Timer - Lights that remain lit day and night is an indication that no one is home. You can easily buy a small programmable timer from Home Depot or Lowes, and set it so that lamps can automatically turn on in the evening and off in the mornings. You might also consider installing lighting controlled by motion sensor. Nothing makes an intruder's heart jump more than lights that suddenly flicker on. Burglars also tend to avoid noisy homes since it's an indication that someone may be home. Rather than play a static, fluid noise like music, I recommend putting a noisy talk radio station on timer to come on throughout the day to offer the illusion of occupancy.
  4. Hang Your Blinds and Curtains Strategically - Some people think it's better to keep them shut while others think it's better to keep them wide open to give it a lived-in feel. Personally, I think it's better to keep the first floor drapes and blinds shut to prevent people from peeking in. You may want to keep the upstairs curtains slightly drawn open to expose the lamp light that you've set with a timer.
  5. Keep Your Home Exterior Properly Maintained - Don't let shrubs or bushes hide your windows from view as they could be prime jimmy targets. Trim those hedges, cut your grass, and scrub the graffiti off your wooden fence to keep your place well groomed. If you will be gone for a long time, consider hiring someone trustworthy to mow your lawn periodically when you are away.
  6. Put Your Mail On Hold When You Are Away For Vacation - Don't let your mail pile sky high outside your door when you're away. Accumulated mail as well as magazine and newspaper subscriptions are visible telltale signs that the occupants are not home. With a few quick clicks on the USPS Hold Mail Service website, you can temporarily suspend delivery of your mail while you're away on vacation.
  7. Close and Secure All Windows, Doors, and Gates - This one is just common sense. Please make sure your windows and corresponding latches are bolted on tight. Keep your doors firmly locked and make sure your lawn gate is latched properly.
  8. Have A Neighbor Or Friend Check Up On Your Home and Pick Up Your Mail When You're Away - Asking a trusted neighbor or friend to house sit is a great idea to maintain that lived in illusion. However, just having him or her occasionally stop by to check up on the house is a smart move as well. Remember, in the unfortunate event you are gone for a long time and your home is broke into, it's better that your neighbor discovers this sooner than later. You don't want your home further exposed with its broken front door wide open longer than it needs to be.
  9. Park A Car In The Driveway When You're Away For Vacation - Some debate whether leaving your car in the driveway is a good tactic or not, but I personally think it is. You want your home to appear lived in and a car in the driveway helps to give that impression. Another idea is to offer your driveway to a neighbor to use as his or her own parking spot. Remember to remove your garage door opener from your vehicle if you decide to leave the car outside.
  10. Get a Dog That Likes To Bark - Dogs that bark at anyone who approaches the home is ideal. Burglars want to remain silent and a live dog alarm will help scare would-be intruders away. Remember to give the dog enough food or better yet, have someone come by regularly to feed it.
  11. Consider Installing A Home Security System - If you can afford it, consider installing a home security system like an ADT or Brinks burglar alarm that alerts the police in the event of a break in. Be sure to plaster the alarm warning stickers and signs outside to make them very visible. Even buying and putting up fake alarm stickers and signs may help deter a few criminals.
  12. Don't Tell People You'll Be Away On Vacation On Your Answering Machine - If you have a home phone number that can be easily traced and located through the phone book or even by a visible "for sale by owner" sign on your front lawn, don't broadcast the fact you'll be away on your answering machine. Just say that "you can't come to the phone right now" and set it to pick up after 4-5 rings to make it really look like you can't come to the phone at that precise moment.
  13. Don't Hide Your Spare Key Under The Doormat - Does anyone really hide their spare key under the doormat, mailbox, or in one of those silly fake rocks anymore? When I was little, my family buried a spare key in the back yard inside an empty prescription pill bottle more than one foot deep in the backyard under a few bricks among many. Such a method of stashing a spare key only works if it is buried deep in an area with plenty of possible burial locations.
  14. Hide Your Valuables In Unsuspecting Places - If all else fails and your home is broken into, be sure your personal and expensive valuables are well hidden, particularly if you will be away for an extended period of time. Since most burglars usually go straight for the master bedroom, I recommend stashing your jewelry and cash in unconventional locations less likely to attract the attention of a home intruder, such as - the laundry room, bathroom, garage, or perhaps even inside your refrigerator - like what this guy did.

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14 Responses to “Ways To Protect Your Home From Burglars And Break Ins When You Are Away” 

  1. SavingDiva says:

    I currently live in an apartment alone, so I'm always nervous about someone breaking in. I might have to look into getting a radio on a timer.

  2. Alexis says:

    Great tips! I've definitely got number 10 covered. My dog barks at EVERYTHING.

  3. Tip Diva says:

    Thank you for submitting this post to Carnival Of Tips.

    Great tips. I read somewhere in regards to #11 (Bottom Line, perhaps), that well-known alarms systems such as ADT, Brinks and Slomin's are not good deterrants anymore - experienced burglars know how these systems work and how to deactivate them. The article suggested to put up fake signs and stickers for an unknown alarm system - it may deter the burglar who doesn't know how to disable that certain one.

  4. Karen says:

    there is a great product called Lock Jaw (www.lockjawsecurity.com). It's simple to install and operate. It's portable. We installed with double-stick tape.

  5. Raymond says:

    Karen,

    I checked the door lock product out. It doesn't appear to be usable when you're outside of the house though since it seems to be only operable from indoors.

  6. Michael says:

    I have recently started to use a cd from (link). It has prerecorded household sounds, and my flat really sounds occupied when the cd is playing. Good if you are away on vacation, or weekend escape, or even if you leave your home during the day for several hours.

  7. karen says:

    Raymond,
    You're correct that it is engaged from the inside...but here's why? It's portable! I don't know of a portable device that is also engaged from the outside. We simply engage it on all the other doors except for the one going into our garage. According to the company site it also prevents small children from 'escaping' the house without supervision. I have a 4 year old and can attest to this.

  8. Story says:

    The lockjaw is a good deterrent for escaping children but if the lock is near a window, it's as useless as the deadbolt. Locks near windows should be the keyed kind, so the intruder cannot unlock at all.

  9. Renee Matsche says:

    Great comments. Another suggestion that I have is going to www.totaldoorsecurity.com. There is a product called the StrikeMaster. It prevents someone from kicking in the door. It is great.

  10. Christine says:

    Basically...it just requires some good old fashioned common sense. To prevent curious people from targeting your home, simply give it the illusion that someone is still living there. Don't give people the opportunity to even suspect that you may be away. Frankly, the best solution is to just ask a friend or trusted neighbor to house sit for you or to at least give the outwardly appearance that someone is regularly monitoring the home.

    Save your money and avoid all of the fancy door security gadgets. Remember, if someone really wanted to break in the house or apartment physically, it's really not all that hard to do so. Doors can be broken down and gates can be unlatched. The key is to prevent them from even developing the incentive to want to break in to your particular home. Burglars and home robbers are paranoid individuals - get them even more paranoid and wary by making your home a very unattractive target. Good luck!

  11. grace mills says:

    Thanks for the info i have a big family. My brother and i are loaded full of knifes and thing, but will those type of things help? The burglars of my town havent been cought yet but it happened more than once, and they live like five houses away?

    Will mountain lions help at night.

    They are all over this town!!??

    We have a dog but he likes to sleep with me so he doesnt bark.
    Is there any way to make him bark to wake me up if soeone does try to break in?

  12. willis says:

    broken in thuoght the doggy door now I sealed the doggy door and I put rod iron door and windows. I thyed to break in my house I cant get in ,but looking around my house I migth be able to get with differnt tool like grarding tool or lose bar laying around to this from happing get a big mean dog it has to be female

  13. Melinda Bolding says:

    I was burglarized and they took all of my jewelry, a laptop, camera, clothes & shoes. Anything they could carry. I had the ADT stickers on every window. Had to cancel the service & evgerything that didn't put a roof over the head & food in our mouths when I lost my job last year. It is believed that someone that knew us and knew our schedules...it was pretty obvious. Not much is being done by the police though. Bought Doberman window alarms because they threw a rock through a basement window and got in that way. they make a loud sound if the window is broken. I plan to put strips of strong wood across the windows in the basement and one above and below the door locks. It's the only thing that will stop anyone at this point. If they can't get in through the basement I guess they'll figure out a way to get in upstairs. Really sad to have to 'arm' ourselves.

  14. AlexRichardson says:

    The number of home burglaries traditionally spike in the summer months. I think that light timers and Fake TV (www.faketv.com) are excellent solutions to deter burglars. Also, playing anti-theft home occupancy sounds MP3 or a CD (sells on Amazon or at http://www.webensource.com/burglar_deterrent_cd/ ) in home while away is a great way to scare burglar that someone is in.

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