I am a criminal, and I’m not sharing this information from behind bars. I am in your neighborhood, keeping tabs on you and all your neighbors. When you think of what a burglar looks like, what do you picture? I’m not some scary monster that’s easy to pick out of a crowd. A high percentage of “easy” home burglaries are committed by male teenagers who live close by.1 Don’t underestimate anyone, no matter how innocent they look. Once I figure out which of you is the easiest to hit, I’ll make my move.
> Home Invasions, burglaries or break-ins happen once every 12 seconds, to 1 in 5 homes in all types of neighborhoods.2
While I’m hanging around, I’ll look at everything inside and out. If you have kids and they have nice toys outside or you leave boxes from expensive purchases, like big TVs at the curb, I’ll know you have money—meaning nice things, like computers and jewelry, inside.
If you have tall trees and bushes out front that block the neighbors’ view, I’ll know I have cover. But here’s one you may not guess: If your lawn and bushes are overgrown, I’ll suspect you don’t pay a lot of attention, or that no one is home very often.3
The top 10 most popular stolen items are TVs, computers, DVD players and DVDs, stereo equipment, printers, weapons, jewelry, tools, cameras, credit cards and sports equipment.4
> An overgrown lawn suggests vacancy, and invites closer inspection of the home as a possible target.
I will watch to see if you go on vacation. I’ll know because your newspapers will pile up. Or, if it snows, I’ll see that there are no footprints and no shoveled walk at your place. Easy access! If you want to deter me, get your neighbors to walk around your property and pay someone to shovel the drive.
> Untouched mail and piled newspapers, or snowdrifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway that you’re not home.5
Another trick is for me to pay your garbage man to give me a “no trash for days” tip about your house. When your garbage cans aren’t put out, meaning you’re away for a while, it’s a safe bet that your home is the easiest target on the block. Sure, most of these guys are honest, but it only takes one.
> Garbage cans are usually brought out to the curb for morning pickup. Burglars cruising the neighborhood at 3 p.m. can easily spot who’s not home during the day to bring the cans back up to the house.6
When you are home, I may knock on your door and ask for a nonexistent neighbor or pretend to be selling something. I may ask to use your bathroom—all just to get a look inside your house, and to see how easy a mark you may be. If you let me in, I’ll figure out the easiest way to break in. And it won’t take me long.
> It takes just 5 seconds for burglars to open a window latch. And, a burglar can be in and out of your home in 8 minutes.7
I never take the hard way. I’ll always look for the easiest, quietest target. For that reason, I hate dogs and alarms. If you already have one or both, you just decreased your likelihood of being targeted.
> Just having a Beware of Dog sign (even if you don’t have a dog) makes you less attractive to a burglar. For added realism, put a dog bowl and chain out by the back door.8
Let’s say I do get in. You can ruin my day by having a decoy safe—make sure it’s portable—and leave a few things around that look valuable, but may not be. I’m going to be in a hurry, and I won’t have time to check and see if that ring is made of diamonds or cubic zirconia, so I’ll grab what looks expensive. If you keep your real valuables hidden away, I’ll think I’ve hit the jackpot by grabbing the fake stuff that’s in plain view.
> A study by Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice found that an increase in security alarms caused a decrease in burglaries during a five-year period.9
You can also burn your name and driver’s license into your things. It’s a lot harder for me to fence anything that is obviously someone else’s, and it’s a lot easier for the cops to nab me if they find me with it.10
> Buy an electric engraving pen (less than $20) or borrow one free of charge from your local police department. Use it to write your name and driver’s license number on your valuables.
> Don’t use your Social Security Number. That could lead to identity theft.
Now you’ve had a look into my world, kind of like how I peek into yours. Only I’ve given you some valuable clues and tips, so you can gain the advantage.
Take these things into consideration, and you may never get a visit from someone like me. Read more about my burglarizing ways so you know exactly how to arm your home from being my next target.