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According to the latest statistics, thousands of homes are broken into every year, and it’s sensible to put multiple layers of security in place to deter potential intruders.
The majority of burglars are looking for the same things. They want an empty house, a weak security system and valuables that they can make money from. The best burglars will be refined in the art of conquering security systems, while opportunistic home invaders tend to be easier to spook.
You can protect your home by putting yourself in the shoes of an intruder. Take a look at the 10 things burglars look for, and how to protect yourself.
1. Open or Unlocked Doors and Windows
It’s thought that only one fifth of home burglaries are planned and scoped. This means that a small minority of burglars actually plan to break into your home instead of a neighbour’s. Most thefts are opportunistic; thieves spot a weak point in your security and take advantage of it.
Burglars may initially try to enter through the front door of your home. This won’t alert neighbours and is the most discreet way in. On a hot summer’s day when family members are out in the garden, it may be that no one notices an intruder slipping in through an unlocked door or an open window.
For this reason, it’s important that your windows and doors are closed and securely locked, especially if you are in the back garden or perhaps working in an office upstairs.
Open windows at the front of your home in hot weather can make your house a target. Good quality window latches that secure the window in a slightly open position will enable you to let fresh air into your house on hot days, while not providing enough space for someone to climb in.
2. A Shadowy or Dark Garden
A lot of home break-ins are committed during the day, but thieves who attempt to break-in at night will look for gardens that have a lot of hiding places. If you’ve got dark corners in your front or back garden, a potential intruder will have a spot to hide while they work out how to get into your home.
Keep your garden illuminated and stop any thieves in their tracks with motion-activated security lights. These will light up to illuminate darker areas when someone gets too close to your property, likely scaring them off!
You should also keep your front boundary low, ideally under 1 m. An exposed front garden means you or a neighbour are more likely to spot an intruder making their way to the front of your home.
3. An Empty House
Most burglars don’t want to break into an occupied home. This increases the chances of a confrontation and a potential 999 call.
Some thieves will watch the house for a few days to get to know your routine, while others will knock on the door to check if someone is in. An opportunistic burglar will simply look for signs that the house is unoccupied. Signs may include an empty driveway, a lack of movement within the house, post piled up in the letter box, or an unruly garden.
Whether you’re out for dinner or away for the weekend, it’s important to make your home look occupied. Park your car on your driveway instead of in your garage or, if you’re taking your car with you, ask a neighbour to park theirs on your drive.
Invest in smart light bulbs (which can be controlled remotely using your smartphone) or timer plugs which turn the lights on and off at a specific time each day.
If you’re heading out for the evening, it’s worth leaving the lights and even the TV on to make it look as though someone is home. Just make sure the curtains are shut so that intruders aren’t able to peer in.
4. A House Full of Valuables
A burglar’s motivation is usually money. The first thing they’ll look for is cash, as this is untraceable. Other items of value they’ll search for include tablets, laptops, voice assistants and games consoles. While flat-screen TVs are attractive to thieves, they’re difficult to remove inconspicuously from a property! Instead, thieves will go for small electronics.
Sometimes burglars break into a property with the aim of stealing a set of house or car keys. This means they can either make away with your car or, if they steal a set of house keys, they can let themselves in to steal more at a later date.
Cash is usually kept in the master bedroom, and this is the first place an intruder will look. Don’t store cash in obvious places like underneath the bed, in a chest of drawers or under the mattress.
While storing away your electronics isn’t practical every time you head out, make sure you keep any expensive electronics out of sight of the main windows. If a potential intruder does have a look in, you want your home to look as unappealing as possible.
5. Sparse Security Systems
A home security system will deter most burglars. If you’ve got a burglar alarm, visible security cameras and motion-activated lighting, opportunistic thieves will almost certainly head somewhere else.
Intruders look for homes with sparse security systems. For this reason, you should make it obvious that you have a security system. Put up signs letting visitors know that there is video surveillance or an alarm system in place.
Keep in mind that the most experienced thieves will be able to spot a dummy camera, and this can actually work against you, as they may think you’ve scrimped on other security measures.
6. Vulnerable Sheds and Garages
While most people take care to lock their front door every night, fewer are as meticulous about their shed or garage door.
Intruders know that sheds and garages often contain valuable machinery and tools. They also know that these pose a weak point in the security of many households. If they manage to get into your shed, the tools they find can be used to help them get into your home. If you have a ladder in your shed, this can be used by intruders to access your first-floor windows.
Take a look at your shed and consider how you would break in if you were a thief. You want a robust, weather resistant padlock with no exposed screws. Plastic garden sheds are fairly easy to break into, so shouldn’t be used to store very valuable items.
7. A Home They have Successfully Burgled Before
If you’re thinking no thief wouldn’t target the same home twice, think again! Many burglars return to steal from the same home again if they know the owner hasn’t upgraded the security. They may also return to the area to break into a home nearby.
It’s important if you have already been burgled that you upgrade your security systems. Assess your home and garden for any other weak points in your garden security.
8. Personal Information
It’s not always the case that burglars are looking for cash, jewellery or expensive items. They may be targeting your home in pursuit of personal information about you or a family member.
This is because data is worth a lot of money on the black market. Personal information can be used to blackmail someone, target them for fraud and steal their identity. Stolen bank statements, personal documents, credit cards and passports can be sold on to fraudsters.
Unopened post by the front door is usually full of personal data. Ensure you open your post when it arrives and store it in a secure spot. If you have a wood burning stove, you should burn documents containing personal data as opposed to throwing them in the bin. It’s not unusual for criminals to go through your rubbish to find information that can be used against you.
Criminals will likely head to a home office in pursuit of personal documents. Store important documents in a safe place, ideally in a spot where an intruder may not think to look.
9. People Who are Easy to Con
Not all robberies involve criminals prying their way into homes. In fact, many robberies occur in broad daylight and involve a couple of people working together to distract potential targets.
These are known as distraction burglaries. The criminal poses as a police officer, council worker, electrician or someone else in a position of authority in order to gain access to someone’s home. Once they have been let in, they are able to scope out the layout of the home and steal from the owner.
Thieves who work in this way are looking for people who are easy to scam. Prime targets are elderly people, people living alone or financially insecure people.
Be alert to distraction robberies by checking the ID of anyone claiming to be an official, and using your spy hole if you have one. Keep expensive items out of sight of the front door.
10. Expensive Jewellery
Someone who has managed to break into your home will often look for expensive jewellery first. Both jewellery and watches have great resale value and are difficult to trace, plus small items are easy to take out of a home discreetly.
Experienced criminals will know that people usually keep their jewellery in the master bedroom, usually in the top drawer of their dresser or bedside table. They’ll also look inside wardrobes and shoeboxes.
Hide your valuables in a spot that a thief wouldn’t think to look. It’s unlikely that a potential burglar will go through your kitchen cupboards to find your valuables, or you could even store them in the attic or loft. An intruder is unlikely to head up to the attic, as slipping out if someone comes home can be tricky.