Millions of home invasions and burglaries happen each year for one reason: people think “it won’t happen to me.” Crooks count on you to think this way.
Sadly, some people have a smoke alarm but have never thought about protecting themselves from criminals. Violence and crime entering your home is every bit as likely as a fire.
Break-ins are sad and frightening. Crimes like this can permanently destroy your sense of security. And even take your life or the life of a loved one.
Please know that there is much you can do to prevent this from happening.
I consider myself fortunate. The texts and phone calls from a concerned neighbor were about a burglary at a rental home of an extended family member.
I talked to the responding officers. I saw one of the burglars in handcuffs. But they were only caught after the third load of things they took from the home. One of the thieves got away. And most of the stolen items were never recovered.
The police inspected the entire home to find where the thieves broke in. But they never saw the smashed window behind a curtain. Or the bird bath propped against the back bedroom window that was used as a stepping stool.
As the police hauled the thief away, one officer told me about her. She’d been involved in a number of robberies. Even an accomplice in an officer shooting.
But she would likely be free again the next day on bail.
I knew at this moment that I had lived a naïve life long enough. That I needed to take responsibility for my own safety and the safety of my family.
You should too.
You can’t imagine how much easier and better it is to prevent a break-in than to have to defend yourself or suffer loss – unless you have already experienced these horrible things.
A large, fight-ready military veteran without any of these prevention measures is far less safe than a tiny, frail, lone grandma who has applied even a few of the suggestions you find here. That’s just how important it is to make even a bit of effort to protect your home.
You don’t have to make your home a fortress. You simply have to make your home less vulnerable than your neighbor’s.
People will kick in doors or break glass right in front of a camera or blaring alarms. Virtually nothing will stop determined people from entering your home.
But good security can at least buy you time. Time to hide, time to call for help, time to even the odds.
Not only can it slow the criminals down, it can make them quit or even look elsewhere before they even try.
All home invaders plan very carefully: they are going to enter a home while you are there. Once inside, they plan on extreme speed, surprise and violence in the first minute. They either want to create such overwhelming fear or injure you so badly you cannot interfere with them.
They have studied your every move and know your schedule, your personality and security weaknesses well.
How can you begin to prepare so your home is more of a safe haven? Think of what time you are always home. This is the most likely time for a home invasion. Good security measures will give you the best chance of defeating their plans.
However, the vast majority of thieves are not home invaders – they’re burglars. They want the easiest opportunity to get in and back out of a home without being seen. Preferably when you are not there.
Ring, ring goes your doorbell. Is anyone home? They’re hoping you’re not there. If you’re not, they’ll find a way in.
But if you are at home, they’re prepared for that too. They’ll just pose as a delivery person. And don’t always expect they’ll be a man. Some women work as accomplices or scouts.
It’s not paranoid to be wary of carpet cleaners, sales people, the repair man, the exterminator, etc. Some even pose as home security salesmen who want to give you a free “assessment.” If you don’t feel safe, you very well could be in danger.
Don’t let them in so they secretly can take inventory of your place and return later. Even if they’re on your porch, you always have the right to ask them to leave. You could even mention a reputable company you’d rather do business with.
Because thieves will do this. So beat them to it.
Try to think like a criminal. Look for weaknesses… like unlocked doors or windows that look like they easily could be pried open.
You could even ask your local police department to do a courtesy home assessment. Some will do this.
What are the things you should look for on the outside of your home?
Make sure trees and shrubs are to your advantage
Crooks love high shrubs – they make great hiding places. Desperate thieves will also climb tree limbs that are too close to second story windows.
So trim the limbs and shrubs. You’re cutting down the opportunities for break-ins.
Want to make it even harder for them? Plant thorny shrubs near your windows.
What you need to know about fences
Some people like solid fences for privacy or to reduce noise. Yet these are just the kind of fence that bad guys can hide behind.
Open chain link is one option to keep unwanted people off your property. If you don’t like the look, there are a number of ornamental or wrought iron choices.
The best ones are secured in concrete. It’s more difficult to lift or compromise the fence. Fencing with pointy tops is much harder to climb over. And some people really don’t mind the look, so they even string barbed wire atop the fence.
Look closely at your gates and outdoor items
Invest in quality padlocks for all your outdoor gates and entrances. This may seem like a hassle when you enter and leave your home. But remember, you’re buying precious time to keep you safer. Simply train your family and friends to announce their visits.
While a car in the driveway can help keep burglars away, all those other things – grills, bicycles, etc. – are a liability and should be stored out of sight. Not only might these tempt the thieves, but tools, toys and ladders can actually help the bad guys break in.
Consider bolting your patio furniture to the patio. Any semi-heavy item in your yard can be thrown through a window.
And be careful of the trash you leave on the curb. Don’t let boxes reveal the expensive items you just bought.
How to keep your car safe
Tempting items can get your glass broken. Leaving your car vulnerable can be even worse.
Whenever you leave your car, always:
Break-ins happen in every kind of neighborhood – even the “safest.”
Never leave your spare key in the visor – or anywhere in the car – even if it is locked.
And keep your car alarm active, even locked in your garage. You may also want to consider additional theft prevention devices.
Many people carry a set of jumper cables and basic tools in their car. Why not also carry pepper spray gel and small tools to defeat restraints?
Choose one of two kinds of security systems for your home
Either a professional installation or a do-it-yourself system. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages described here. This will help you pick one.
Professionally installed systems like ADT and FrontPoint have good reviews and are common. For people with more money, you can get everything installed more easily. Plus, there are trained personnel watching your home when you’re not.
Some systems include a basement flooding sensor and tie in with your smoke alarms. They can also include carbon monoxide sensors that can shut off your furnace in a crisis.
But traditional security systems like this don’t catch criminals. Alert eyewitnesses do. And these systems are far more expensive. Not only the initial install, but also the monthly fees.
Police are slow to respond to alarms from these systems – the vast majority are false alarms. And there are fines if your system repeatedly sends false alarms.
And then there are the contracts. Read the fine print – salespeople will tell you anything to get the sale. And many companies make it difficult to cancel. They’re often for 3 years, and there’s usually a penalty for ending the contract early. And the contracts often automatically roll over – so you’re stuck for another 3 years.
If you have one of these systems…
Why consider a do-it-yourself system instead
DIY equipment is now easy to install. And newer products are becoming even easier to use and more powerful with each passing day.
Invest the time and effort to install it yourself and you gain priceless experience and skills to help you defend yourself.
And if you’re on a budget, you can build a great system one piece at a time. Even a couple of well placed cameras will greatly improve your security.
For example, Eufy makes a great 2-camera wireless home security kit. It’s easy to install and use. It has night vision, a clear picture, you control it from your phone and there are no costly contracts.
Oh, and by the way, it’s not like some brands who brag about external monitoring but have been caught sending your security video feed to unknown companies and people. What? Yes. Some Amazon reviews supply some pretty convincing evidence.
Why is Eufy safe? Because Eufy doesn’t send your video to anyone besides you. True, there’s no security personnel monitoring your home remotely. But if privacy is important to you, then Eufy is the way to go.
What can a modern, DIY security system do?
You control everything from your phone.
When your family members get near home, you can get an alert on your phone and see them walk in the door.
These alerts come either from door sensors, from tech in the cameras or from motion sensors you can place near your driveway.
If you sleep with the phone beside you and you wake up to a dangerous situation, you can immediately activate a loud alarm to alert all the neighbors.
Okay, now you have one, but what else must you do?
Thieves count on you to forget to turn the system on. Countless crimes happen because of this – so don’t forget!
Use external deterrents
For thousands of years, dogs have worked as warning and theft deterrents. They still work just as well today.
Can’t get a dog? Consider getting a “Beware of Dog” sign, a large empty food bowl and attach a chain near your back door. It creates the illusion there is a big dog inside.
Or you could place a large pair of men’s boots on the front porch.
Cameras and alarms
Get cameras with daytime and night (IR or infrared) vision.
Internet cameras and remote monitoring are great ideas. But again, check the brand and reviews to make sure they’re not sending your camera video to unexpected people.
If you opt for local memory in your cameras, then make sure you hide your cameras well. Thugs look for security equipment to disable. Another reason to hide your cameras? Visible security devices often tell crooks you have something to steal.
Have multiple cameras for one area? Great idea! Overlap part of the view of each camera. It’s easier to see what’s going on. (And later it’ll be easier to prove what happened.)
Get audible alarms attached to your doors and windows. They won’t scare the bad guys as much as they’ll buy you time to escape or at least better protect yourself. Forewarned is forearmed.
If you’ve got something that looks like this beside your door, you need to replace it!
Get a video doorbell. Some experts strongly feel if you only had one security camera, this should be it.
After all, as you may remember, most burglars ring the doorbell before they enter – just to make sure you’re not at home.
For little more than $100, you can get a video doorbell that’s motion activated, alerts your cell phone, allows you to speak with people outside your door – and records it all.
Eufy makes a great product that respects your privacy (only you see the video feed.) And there are none of those awful contracts.
Lights are your friend
Criminals always look for darkness to help them. Light up your yard and you’ll scare most of them away.
Talk to your neighborhood association about getting more street lighting.
A front porch light, a yard light and spotlights for those dark areas – these can be simple, decorative and make your home look much more difficult to break in.
Get the kind with solar powered motion sensors. Electrical blackouts are when looters break in the most.
Baxia Tech makes affordable solar motion sensor lights that are bright, waterproof and the reviews show they’re durable too.
A 4-6 inch convex mirror on porch corners and outside windows can help you see what’s out of sight.
Just remember that mirrors work both ways – bad guys can see you too. So place your mirrors where people don’t usually look – higher than the average person and pointed downward.
Why you should look closely at your external doors
A whole 85% of break-ins happen through external doors. Bolster these and you’ve taken a large step forward in securing your home.
How can you make your doors safer?
Make sure you have solid core (such as decorative steel) security doors on the outside of your home.
And if you haven’t already, install deadbolt locks on all outside doors.
Chains don’t help at all, say the experts. But you’ll want to reinforce any door hinges with tough 3-inch long screws.
Have a sliding door? Use vertical bolts and a metal/wooden rod in the track to keep the door from being forced open or lifted off the track.
If you’re renting a new place, make sure the landlord replaces the locks. You don’t want the previous tenant or their friends from paying you a surprise visit.
Have any type of glass on your doors? Install privacy film to keep people from window shopping.
Make sure to put a strong physical barrier around any glass near your door locks. Otherwise, it’s easy for bad people to simply break the glass and open the lock.
Strengthen the weakest point
Do you know what the weakest point usually is? Where the lock goes into the doorjamb or frame of the door.
This is why police can kick in doors in the movies. Crooks know this too.
Reinforce your weakest point with a DIY kit such as those offered by Armor Concepts Door Armor. They give you a much stronger jamb, frame and strike plate. They’re police tested and recommended. And they come with a $500 lifetime guarantee.
Get a wide-angle peep hole that you can cover when you’re not looking out. Reverse peephole viewers are easy to buy.
Always keep your garage door closed when you’re not in your garage.
Reinforce and put a door sensor on the door between your home and garage, as well as all the other external doors. Don’t depend on your outer garage door – it’s not nearly as secure as a regular door.
And always change the factory-set codes for your garage door opener. People will sometimes drive through neighborhoods with a universal opener, just trying to see which doors will open.
Don’t ever label your personal keys. If they’re stolen and somebody sees them with your address, this is just asking for a break-in.
Thieves know all those convenient places people hide their keys outside their home… under the mat, fake rocks in the driveway or in the mailbox.
If you cannot completely trust your neighbors, then get a lockbox and then hide the lockbox outside.
And lock your doors, okay?
Even if you’re at home. Even in the pouring rain – desperate people often take advantage of the weather to break in.
Please don’t allow anyone in the family to get complacent.
Countless crimes happen because the front door or garage door is open while someone is working in the back yard.
Secure your widows
Strong window locks are a powerful deterrent. Thieves look for easy-to-enter windows. Don’t put off upgrading these locks if they are weak.
Decorative frosted window film can help boost your security. You don’t have to be a real handy or crafty person to install it either. Some films even prevent window breakage.
Safety glass is also a great choice for making your windows more secure.
Vibration or glass breakage sensors are really helpful too. Doberman Security makes a window alarm that’s portable (you can move it to different windows), there are no wires to cut, it’s battery powered and tamper proof because it’s on the inside of your windows. Set it off and a high decibel alarm notifies you and all your neighbors.
Also consider a secondary locking device so the window cannot be opened enough for someone to squeeze in. Decorative metal grilles and bars provide additional window safety.
Special window situations
If you have a window air conditioner, you’ll want to pay careful attention to securing this window.
Skylights and roof access points too. You’ll want anti-break glass for these.
Garage and basement windows aren’t really the windows you always look out of for the view. So keep curtains on these to keep prying eyes out.
Don’t show off your valuables
No need to redecorate your entire home. Small adjustments can help. Just don’t leave expensive items like electronics in plain sight. Or at least use shades and curtains.
Keep important personal documents secured. Cross cut shred all outdated personal papers – don’t just throw them away. This includes junk mail with credit card offers and the names of your banks.
Safes and strong boxes
Don’t leave your valuables in your master bedroom drawer. That’s the first place criminals look! Don’t even put them in the freezer. They’ll turn everything upside down to find valuables.
If you’re renting, you’ll have to get really creative to hide your things.
Homeowner? If your safe is not massive and too difficult to move, bolt it to the wall. Or better yet, bolt it into the floor.
Give the combination/password only to trusted loved ones in case of an emergency. But never leave this information anywhere in your home.
Motion sensors and mirrors
Install motion sensors to detect when someone is in a room.
Newer models not only detect motion but also body heat.
Mirrors are great to see around corners. Just put them in discreet places. They can also reveal where you are if you’re trying to hide.
90-degree quarter dome mirrors work well for small rooms and L-shaped hallways.
Do you have blind corners and T intersections? Use a 180-degree half dome mirror. Use a 360-degree full dome mirror for areas that require 4-way visibility, where you want to see all angles.
Homeowners, can a safe room help?
Normally, if someone dangerous is in your home, you’d want to escape if possible. But what if you can’t? This is where a safe room could save your life. The purpose of this room is to hold off invaders and keep your family safe until help arrives.
Look at your home layout to choose the best location.
First, ask yourself: where are the most likely break-in points? That can help you pick an area in your home where everyone could flee before the bad guys can get to you.
Obviously, this room needs to be more secure than any other room in your home. Reinforce the door with a heavy duty striker plate.
Keep personal protection and defense items there, such as a ball bat, pepper spray gel and shielding.
Also stock this room with a first aid kit, a working flashlight (set reminders to check this periodically.) And a charged cell phone. Even if this cell phone is not part of your normal cell phone plan, modern cell phones can still call 911 without a paid service plan. Do your due diligence to make sure this can happen with your safe room cell phone.
And once you build this room, make a plan with your family. Have a plan and a backup plan to get to this room in a hurry!
In case of home invasion…
Keep your cell phone by your bed to call 911 and set off alarms to alert neighbors. Keep your keys beside you while you sleep. You can wake and quickly press your car panic button.
Plan with your family what to do if the dog is barking, the alarms are going off and the bad guys are in your home.
Make sure everyone in the family knows:
Do this important step to minimize your losses
Record serial numbers of expensive items in a trusted system w photos, even videos. Learn how to keep secure computer backups in the cloud.
Evernote offers a free app that does just that. It works on all your devices and your data is safely and securely backed up so you can retrieve it again. Even if all your devices are destroyed.
Mark or engrave your valuable property with your drivers license (not your social security number) to help recover items and deter theft.
Boost your skills
Learn how to pick locks and defeat restraints. If criminals ever capture you, you’ll be much better able to escape when the time is right.
Buy pepper spray gel. The gel is much safer for you than the spray. Spray can blow back in your face. The gel forms a more concentrated stream so you can aim it farther.
And get comfortable with using the gel. Practice! Good products give you dozens of shots. Don’t just buy a ten dollar bottle and pack it for later. The heat of the moment is an awful time to find out that your bottle doesn’t work! Or to guess how to disable an attacker.
Pack a bug out bag to help you make a quicker escape. Waking to the sound of someone in your home is a horrible time to decide what to bring when you need to rush to safety. Follow the link above to learn how to choose the best lifesaving items you can throw in a backpack ahead of time. And of course, you’ll see more there to help you choose the right pepper spray gel.
Learn to be discreet. Create a circle of trust among close family and friends. Don’t reveal important things outside of this circle. Sadly, too many people have foolishly revealed details on social media that tempted home invaders to come and kill them!
Get to know your neighborhood
Know your neighbor’s cars. Walk your dog or take a jog. Learn to recognize the usual lawn mowing, cleaning and construction vehicles.
Do you see a strange car as you leave? Even if you’re rushing to work, it’s better to be late and circle around to see if it leaves – than to be burglarized.
That’s not paranoid. Trust your gut. If it seems wrong, it probably is.
Assess your neighbors
Can you trust them? How much? Look for a trustworthy neighbor with a different daily schedule than you. They can look out their window and listen for noises. And this helps you protect your home while you’re away.
Organize to make a safer area
Think about forming a neighborhood watch program. Not only can you learn, you can offer to teach. Help others know how to spot loitering, burglary in progress and auto theft.
Since this helps the police do their job, officers sometimes volunteer free education for the neighborhood, complete with handouts and stickers.
Work with your neighbors to clean up the area. Litter and run-down yards signal that people don’t care and the homes in the area are easy to break in. You can even ask Public Works to schedule pickups to collect the extra trash.
What should you always include in your vacation plans?
Burglars dream of finding homes where the people are obviously gone.
So ask a trustworthy neighbor or friend to collect your mail/packages and bring your trash can back to the house. And leave tireprints/footprints in your driveway.
Give your keys directly to your friend/neighbor. Make sure they have your contact number. And don’t just ask them to check on your home occasionally – return the favor!
If it’s summertime, pay to keep your yard mowed and trimmed.
If you have lights on timers, keep a few rooms lit. You especially want your front entry door well lit every night.
Don’t just lock and close your garage door. Disconnect the automatic opener. The inconvenience is a small investment that adds a lot of protection.
Before you leave, triple check all your doors and windows are locked. And yes, that includes the door between your home and the garage. Leave some windows and blinds open to areas of your home that give no info to intruders. A completely closed up home is a sign that you’re gone.
You can also turn a radio on. And turn the volume down to your doorbell. Crooks won’t be able to tell if you just didn’t hear the doorbell.
And don’t tell people you’re leaving – either on social media or your voicemail greeting.
Check with your local police department. Some will check your home every week or as needed.
Some home invasions will happen no matter what. But acting on what you learn here will dramatically reduce the possibility.
Your home should be a place you feel safe – not afraid and insecure.
So begin taking control over your safety.
This knowledge certainly is power. And peace of mind. You’ll probably save money on insurance too.
Leave suggestions in the comments section below. And share this article. The more everyone knows about this subject, the more prepared we all will be.
Securing your home doesn’t have to be overwhelming or cost a fortune. Start with the budget you have. Don’t give up. Keep working on it until you’re prepared.