Things Burglars Look for Before Breaking Into a Home (and What Keeps Them Away)

Here’s a scary — but true — statistic: A Secure Life reports that one in 36 homes will be burglarized in the United States this year. To prevent your home from becoming one of them, it’s important to know what burglars look for. Yours could be the perfect target without you even knowing it!

Read on to find out what burglars look for before breaking into a home and what you can do to keep your home safe.

1. An unlocked door

It seems obvious, but make sure to lock your door. | iStock.com

According to Safe Wise, over ⅓ of burglars enter the house through the front door. The article goes on to say that, typically, a burglar will knock on the door to see if anyone’s home, and if they’re not, the first thing they do is try the front door. SimpliSafe says that if someone is, indeed, home and comes to the door, a burglar will often “come up with a bogus story,” acting as if they’re selling a product or taking a survey. They can then use this interaction to take a peek inside and learn more about the target. Surprisingly, though, doors are often left open. Even if you live in a safe neighborhood (safe neighborhoods make great targets) and you’re just popping out for an hour to run some errands, it’s important to remember to always lock your doors.

2. A high fence

Make sure you’re protecting your privacy, not the burglar’s. | iStock.com

One might think a high fence would keep a burglar out, but in reality, it only ensures them more privacy (aka a lesser chance of getting caught) once they’ve hopped the fence into your yard. Allianz suggests cutting trees and bushes that could provide protection for a burglar. You want a clear sight line from the street to your front door. Police also suggest making sure that your house number is visible so that if someone does try to break in, the authorities can easily locate your house.

3. Mail piling up

Woman checking her mail

Get a neighbor to collect your mail. | iStock.com

Burglars will often look for signs that point to a target being away for an extended time. If you have mail piling up, trash cans that haven’t been brought back in, multiple newspapers on your welcome mat, and an overgrown lawn, you’re basically advertising to the neighborhood that you’re out of town. Ask a neighbor or family member to collect your mail and take care of your trash cans.

4. Window air conditioning units

Air conditioning unit in window

Your air conditioner makes it easy to get in. | iStock.com/Jupiterimages

If your home doesn’t have central air, window air conditioning units are an absolute life saver. Unfortunately, they’ve also been known to act as an entrance point for burglars. A former burglar told Fashion Beans, “This was by far the most common way to gain access by my friends. Kick in the A/C and climb on in. If nothing of value was found, the A/C could be taken in for scrap metal.” Try putting bars around your window, protecting where your air conditioner is.

5. Obvious signs of wealth

desktop computer on wooden desk

Don’t place your computer in the window’s view. | iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

If you buy a brand new flat screen TV, don’t put the box next to the trash all week before trash day rolls around. Keep it inside until the garbage truck pulls up. Burglars are looking for obvious signs of wealth. They don’t want to waste their time in a house with nothing worth their while, so don’t advertise any of your new toys if you’re wary of being burglarized. Additional precautionary measures include not keeping computers near windows and keeping jewelry well-hidden in the master bedroom.

6. The right location

Two curved streets of house

They’re less likely to pick a house in the middle of the neighborhood. | iStock.com/NLN

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing said burglars are looking for the highest reward with the lowest amount of risk. If they can choose to target a home that’s easy to get in and out of quickly, they will. They also target homes on the outskirts of neighborhoods where there are fewer eyes and therefore a smaller chance of getting caught. Other common targets are homes near an alley or private street — anything where it wouldn’t be likely for anyone to see them. If your neighborhood isn’t adequately lit, that could also be problematic.

Next: Tips for keeping your home safe

1. Make it clear that you have a big dog

Beware of dog sign

Your dog could be all the security you need. | iStock.com/Jokerpro

SimpliSafe says, “Most burglars won’t even attempt entry if they know there’s a large dog in the home.” If you’re really worried about being burglarized, it might be worth it to get a dog. The Miami Herald reports that about 1.5 million homes are burglarized in the U.S. every year, and that the average length of time a burglar is in your home is about one minute. Miami police detective Freddie Burden says the best way to avoid being burglarized is to get a dog. And, if you already have a dog, getting a “beware of dog” sign could also help in deterring burglars.

2. Keep the TV on

Girl With Remote Control Watching Movie

Keep the TV on, even when you’re not home. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Another good way to make burglars think someone is home when no one is, is to keep the TV or radio on. SimpliSafe says that burglars don’t want to mess with a home they think someone might be in. If you keep the TV or radio on, they probably won’t chance it, and they’ll just move on to the next house.

3. Use a safe

compact safe on a shelf

Protect your valuables. | iStock.com

According to the ABS Crime Victimisation Survey, money and jewelry are the items burglars steal most in break-ins. They typically go straight to the master bedroom to look for these items. A simple way to protect against this is to invest in a small safe to keep in your closet (or anywhere else in your home). A safe can do a lot to keep your jewelry and loose money safe.

4. Motion-sensor lights

Two wooden car garage

Motion sensor lights could save you a lot of hassle. | iStock.com/Marcin Leszczuk

Motion-sensor lights are perfect for scaring off burglars. Just when they’re creeping up to your house to break in, a bright light shines in their face upon getting too close. Did someone hear them and turn on a light or is it just motion-sensored? They’re not sure, but they’re definitely not going to wait around to find out. ABC News suggests using energy efficient compact fluorescents. And we also recommend installing something with adjustable sensitivity to avoid having the lights turn with every little gust of wind.

5. Fortify your windows

Window with turquoise shutters and white wooden window box and trailing pink and white flowers in summer

Make their job as hard as possible. | iStock.com/MarianBayley

Officer Harris Johnson of the Sugar Land police department specializes in burglary prevention. One of his top tips is fortifying glass windows and doors with security laminate. “They will be able to break the glass, but it won’t give in,” says Johnson. “If we can push the bad guys away before they get in, that’s the best approach.”

6. Get an alarm

Woman setting burglar alarm

Protect yourself, or at least make them think you are. | iStock.com

Lastly, probably the best way to protect your home from burglars is to buy an alarm system. Simplisafe mentions that one of the tricks of the trade includes hanging a fake flyer on your door in order to see if there’s a sign for your alarm system on your door or window. If you do have an alarm, it’s easier for burglars to just pick another target. If you’re in the market for a new system, Home Security Systems names their picks for the five best home alarm systems for 2017.