Burglary Tips

The Number 1 Burglary Prevention Advice From Security Experts

The Lock-it Block-it is a burglar deterrent security bar. This home security burglar bar sits in the window track and blocks windows from being forced open. Now people can keep their windows open and feel safer.

Below is an abundance of information regarding household burglaries and break-ins. It's important, interesting, and alarming. What's more important is that homeowners and renters need to make a decision today to better protect their families, their homes, and themselves.

To prevent burglaries, the number one and the most common piece of advice offered by all security experts and law enforcement is to physically make your home harder to break into. All experts agree that homeowners and renters need to always lock their windows and doors. They need to invest in better locking devices. Doors should have at least two locks – dead bolts are best. A simple Yale lock will not do.

One of the biggest home security mistakes is not properly securing windows with good locks. Put locks on windows. Most windows have latches not locks. Adding an additional locking and blocking device increases the security of the weakest part of a home. Use more than one locking device for your windows and patio doors. Make sure that window locks are large and easily visible from outside. This can prove to be a major deterrent for potential burglars. Make sure you can adjust your windows to open no more than 6 inches. Use a device for your upright windows that won't fall out when you lower the window.

Making your home physically harder for criminals to break into makes them work harder, costs them time and deters them. They will look for an easier target other than your home.

Read the information below. Become acquainted with the types of crime that surround us every day so that you can make wise decisions to protect your home, family and yourself.

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Home Burglaries and Invasions

The thought of a stranger breaking into your home, going through your personal belongings, and being in your safety zone is disturbing. It's an experience that terrifies its victims for the rest of their lives. Who wants to live like that?

When most people think of crime, they don't rate burglary amongst the serious contenders. Murders, rapes, car thefts, etc, first come to mind. In fact, burglary ranks second as the most common serious crime in the U.S. By far, the most common threat to our homes is burglary.

What is burglary?

It's the unlawful or forcible entry of a residence. The crime usually involves theft – stealing everything from money, computers, to your personal identity. Entry may be by force, such as kicking open a door or breaking in through a locked window.

Often no force is used as criminals enter through an open window or unlocked door. When a person enters a residence and has no legal right to be there, a burglary has occurred.

Burglary is usually a crime of opportunity and necessity. The crime is committed throughout the year, in all types of weather and in all types of neighborhoods. It's important for people not to get lulled into a false sense of security and think that the crime won't happen to them.

Having a dog, living in a nice neighborhood, and having good neighbors may act as a deterrent to some burglars, but it won't necessarily stop a determined criminal from finding a way to break into a home. This false sense of security prompts people to leave their windows and doors open during the warmer seasons. This provides easy access.

In the U.S., July and August are typically the months accounting for the majority of burglaries. During the warmer months, residents leave their windows open. In addition, they often leave the homes for longer periods to enjoy activities outside of the home. A home that is unprotected is an easy target. Criminals only need 5 minutes to break into a house and steal what they want. The month of February accounts for the lowest burglary incidents.

Summer months allow entry through open windows or doors. Winter months bring an increase in forced entry.

About 60% of residential burglaries occur in the daytime and during the weekdays when homes are unoccupied. Burglaries during the daytime have increased over the past decades generally due to the increase in women working outside the home. This leaves houses vacant for much of the day. Some research suggests that burglars most often strike on weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. These are the times when even routinely occupied homes may be empty because people are running errands and driving their children to and from school.

What is an invasion?

Home break-ins involve more than burglary, they also include home invasions, which is often a much more serious and threatening crime. A home invasion occurs when criminals enter a home with the purpose to commit a crime against those living in the home. These criminals are prepared to attack those inside no matter if they are women, the elderly or children. It is common for invaders to suddenly pull a weapon and burglarize you on the spot after impersonating a repairman, a delivery boy, salesman, policeman or an individual in the need of Good Samaritan.

These criminals not only gain entry by breaking into a house, but also by tricking the occupant. Sometimes they'll act as workers offering to do work for you, delivery people, or someone in need of help. They may say that their car broke down and they need to make a call.

Once they are in your home, tragedy results. These criminals are violent. They yell, scream, threaten and use physical harm. Often victims are gagged and tied, held hostage and are tortured. A startling fact is that 60% of all reported rapes occur within the home of the victim. And 38% of all physical assaults are the result of a home break-in. Murder is also sometimes committed.

Women, the elderly, people with handicaps, children and teenagers are the main targets because they are perceived to be the weakest. People who are perceived to have large amounts of cash are targets.

Most home invasions occur during mid afternoon when children, mothers and the elderly often nap. Criminals know that they won't be interrupted because those who work won't be home soon. Home invasions happen throughout the day, but during the day, people aren't nearly as suspicious of people approaching their homes. And it's rare that people suspect people in uniforms. People also unwittingly walk into a home while the criminals are there.

It's reported that home Invasions / burglaries / break-ins happen once every 12 seconds and it happens to 1 in 5 homes in all types of neighborhoods.

Don't live in a world of false security. Always be alert. Secure your home as much as possible.

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Crime Facts and Figures

Below is a list of common figures that illustrate the extent of crimes as a result of break-ins. Some of these figures are gathered from various resources such as the FBI, the Justice Department, and insurance company data. Some of these figures are gathered from other loosely related sources. The figures are meant to illustrate the extent of the crime and not all should be used as absolute fact.

  • Every day approximately 5,000 to 8,000 homes in the U.S. experience a break-in or home invasion resulting in theft, property damage and violent bodily harm to family members. Department of Justice statistics.

  • 2,000,000 – is the average amount of reported burglaries each year in the US according to the FBI.

  • It's widely accepted by law enforcement that 50% of all burglaries go unreported and that the actual amount of break-ins is closer to 4,000,000 a year.

  • According to FBI statistics, a house, apartment or condominium is burglarized once every 13 - 15 seconds.

  • 1 minute is the average amount of time it takes for a burglar to break into most homes.

  • 1 minute is about as long as a burglar will spend trying to break into a home before moving on.

  • 5 seconds is all takes burglars to open a window that has a common window latch.

  • 80% of home break-ins happen on the first floor.

  • 30% of all apartment burglars gained access through an open window or door.

  • 28% of overall burglaries were achieved without force by gaining entrance through an open window or door - Department of Justice.

  • 70% of the burglars use some amount force to enter a house or apartment, but the preferred method is to gain easy access through an open window or door.

  • 80% of all Americans will be victims of some kind of theft.

  • 79% of Americans feel at risk of having their homes broken into and being burglarized.

  • 70% of homeowners today feel more at risk of being victims of a violent burglary than they did just 10 years ago according security giant ADT.

  • 60% of all reported rapes occur during home break-in.

  • 59% of burglaries occur while families are in the home.

  • 62% of home burglaries occur during the morning and afternoon – between 8:00am and 5:00pm.

  • 38% of violent assaults on innocent people occur during home invasions according to a US Department of Justice report.

  • Mid afternoon is when most home invasions occur – when young children, mothers and the elderly are most likely to take naps.

  • 5 minutes is all it takes a burglar to break into a home, steal what they want and escape before the police arrive.

  • 3 out 4 homes are predicted to be burglarized within the next 20 years - Burglary Prevention Council.

  • $2,000 - $5,000 is the average dollar loss of items stolen when a home is burglarized. This doesn't include the cost of property damage and repairs. This doesn't include the cost to replace the stolen items.

  • The top 10 most popular stolen items: TVs, computers, DVD players and DVDs, stereo equipment, printers, weapons, jewelry, tools, cameras, credit cards and high item sports equipment.

  • 13% of home invasion victims are over the age of 65.

  • 200,000 children a year on average are victims of family abduction - National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrown Away Children.

  • 500 children on average fall out of open windows each year.

  • 400,000 burglaries occur during November and December alone according to the FBI.

  • 70% of burglars are amateurs, just looking for easy targets.

  • Some studies demonstrate that multifamily homes are more often broken into.

  • Other studies point out that single family homes are at higher risk and are the most frequently broken into.

  • Approximately 21% of the children are abducted by non family members.

  • Single-family houses are attractive targets for burglars. They have multiple points of access. The average home has 16+ windows, many of which are left open or unlocked during warm weather. They also offer criminals a great view into a home from different angles. This allows them to learn about families, what they have, and how to enter. Attached garages which are left open give criminals easy access to the main house. Once they're in the garage, they have greater privacy to force their way into the home.

    In addition, single-family homes offer greater rewards. As families build up their possessions and have more space to store them, these homes become greater targets. Possessions that are easily seen through windows like computers, wide screen televisions, and music equipment are eye candy for burglars.

    Once in your home, a burglar may often look for a more lucrative item to target – your personal identity. They will look for important papers, credit card statements and other forms including your SS#. With more than nine million people falling victim each year, identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. according to the Federal Trade Commission. The average amount of charges placed on a stolen credit card is about $7,000. This is a fraction of the cost and misery victims face. Victims could spend thousands more and many frustrating years restoring their name and repairing the damage to their credit. Some victims are denied education, housing and car loans because of the negative information on their credit reports.

    Apartments fare no better. Some reports reveal that renters are 79% - 85% percent more likely to be robbed than other types of homes. Many of these burglaries are not random. Burglar's have a greater opportunity to observe potential victims without being suspected because apartments by nature house many people coming and going. In addition, it's much more difficult to recognize who is a neighbor and who is a criminal on the prowl. It's much easier for burglars to observe the routines of people without being suspected.

    What items are often stolen and how are they disposed?

    Burglars are most likely to steal cash and goods they can easily carry and sell, including jewelry, weapons, televisions, stereo equipment, guns and computers. They need transportation to move larger items, such as electronic equipment. Smaller items allow them to make off with cash and jewelry on foot. With the rise of foreclosed homes, criminals are stealing large appliance such as washer and dryers and copper pipes. These homes have been carefully scouted.

    $2,000 - $5,000 is the average dollar loss of items stolen when a home is burglarized. This doesn't include the cost of property damage and repairs. This doesn't include the cost to replace the stolen items. This also doesn't include the emotional trauma a family has to live with. In some cases, children are traumatized and additional therapy costs are needed to help them come to terms with the fears they now face.

    Few burglars keep the goods they steal, typically disposing of stolen property within 24 hours. Burglars sell the stolen to strangers, pawnbrokers, taxi drivers, small-store owners and even staff members in local bars.

    How do criminals enter a home?

    The majority of break-ins are forced entry. It doesn't take much for a burglar to gain entry into a house or an apartment. They use ordinary household tools like screwdrivers, crow bars, channel-lock pliers, small pry bars, and hammers to pry open weak locks, windows and doors.
    Criminals will simply kick in the front or back door which they can see won't be much of a challenge. The weakest point of a door is almost always the strike plate that holds the lock bolt in place. The average door strike plate is secured with only half inch screws set into the molding which is often tacked on to the door frame. These can be easily broken through with a solid kick.

    Sky lights are a choice entry point because criminals have the cover of the roof top and can take their time without fear of being spotted.
    An open window, visible from the street or alley, is an intoxicating allure for a burglar. Windows are left unlocked and open at a much higher rate than doors. Ground floor windows are more susceptible to break-ins. Upper floor windows become attractive if they can be accessed easily from a stairway, fire escape, tree, fence, or by climbing on balconies.

    Windows have latches, not locks, and therefore should have secondary locking and blocking devices to prevent them from being opened. Windows with old latches are easily pried open. Criminals will also break the glass of a window to reach in and unlock the latch, open the window and climb in.

    A secondary locking and blocking device that makes it harder for a burglar to reach and pull out is an ideal security measure.

    According to security experts, the widow locking and blocking device should meet the following criteria:

  • Able to be firmly secured in upright and sliding windows without falling out.

  • Secured to allow an opening of no more than six to seven inches.

  • Unreachable from the outside so that it can't be removed.

  • Capable of being removed easily from the inside in the event of an emergency.

  • Made of solid material that withstands repeated impacts.
  • About one-third of home break-ins don't involve forced entry. Criminals walk into homes through unlocked or open windows and doors, especially basement windows and exterior and interior garage doors. Criminals are well aware that warm weather means windows are left open. They take full advantage of this opportunity.

    Sliding glass doors are usually installed at the rear of an apartment or the rear or side of a house making them good candidates for entry by a burglar because of the cover they provide. All criminals know that during warm weather sliding glass doors are often left open for ventilation or for pet access. It's recommended by security experts that a secondary blocking device be placed in the track of these doors to prevent sliding the door from being fully open from the outside. This can be accomplished by inserting an adjustable device that allows you to choose different openings and which can be adjusted to serve as second locking device.

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    How do criminals target a home?

    Burglars select targets based on a number of key factors. Below is summary of some of the key factors that govern a burglar's selection process.

  • Houses that are easier to break into contribute in a burglar decision. They look for homes with weak door frames, and inadequate locks which can easily be kicked in. They look for windows that haven't been well maintained or which can easily be pried open. In short, they look for targets that are easy to get into.

  • They prefer an unoccupied apartment or house with the easiest access. They will peer through the kitchen window and read the notes on the fridge or the family calendar. This gives them information about when a house will be empty. They will survey homes, watching the patterns of people to see when they leave their home and return.

  • Burglars select homes based on if they can be easily seen entering and leaving the house by neighbors and pedestrians. Burglars choose locations that offer the greatest amount of cover. Tall bushes, high fences, secluded homes, and a lack of appropriate lightly are welcoming signs. Houses with poor visibility are at high risk.

  • They choose dwellings that are closets to an escape route such as fire escapes, back doors, and alleys.

  • They look for the easiest target that has minimal security and homes that have left their windows and doors open or unlocked. More than 30% of all apartment burglars gained access through an open door or window. They will note whether your fence is left open, whether you've left the keys in your doors, if your prone to being careless by leaving your garage open, and leaving items in your yard such as bikes.

  • For apartments that have buzzers and an intercom on the main entrance, they'll simply buzz each apartment until someone lets them in. They'll also read the names on mail boxes and select the apartments listed with a woman's first name (tip: instead of using your first name, use your first initial).

  • The following is a more detailed list of information that makes a home more vulnerable to burglary. Much of this information is supplied by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. They produce as series of Problem-Oriented Guides for Police. For more information covering the topics below review the guide "Burglary of Single-Family Houses" at www.cops.usdoj.gov

  • Location, location, location. Younger more inexperienced burglars tend to commit crimes relatively close to their own neighborhoods. This could make for the majority of criminals in this category given that 70% of burglars are amateurs who look for easy targets. The more professional burglars have means of transportation and tend to travel farther.

  • Burglars often target houses which are on the routes they travel most frequently. This includes the streets they take to and from work, to stores, to recreational lactations, etc. This makes the following houses more vulnerable to burglary:

    Houses near large public play grounds, drug addicts, shopping centers, sports arenas, transit stations, and urban areas subject to high-crime.

  • Houses on are near major streets have a high potential to attract the attention of burglars. Burglars become familiar with these homes and can pick their targets without raising suspicion because it is more difficult for residents to recognize strangers. Houses close to heavily traveled paths are also more vulnerable to burglary.

  • Houses on the outskirts of neighborhoods are vulnerable. They have greater exposure to strangers. Strangers are less likely to be noticed. This is in contrast to homes nestled within a neighborhood. These areas have less traffic which makes the presence of strangers stand out. These safer areas include cud-de-sacs and dead-end streets. The fewer outlets an area has, the more difficult it is for burglars to penetrate. Not only do criminals have less access to these areas, but their presence is more likely to be noticed by neighbors.

  • Houses that have previously been burglarized are at a much higher risk of being burglarized again. Compared to homes that haven't been burglarized, these homes are up to 4x more likely to be targeted again.

  • There are number of contributing reasons for this:

  • What made them prime targets in the past continues to make them prime targets such as the location of the house or easy access.
  • Criminals may return for property they left behind during the initial burglary.
  • Studies show that a criminal will strike the house again within 6 weeks of committing first crime to steal property replaced by the owner.
  • Viral marketing plays apart. Criminals will tell their friends of the easy target who may then strike the house

  • Unoccupied houses are at higher risk. Some studies suggest that single-parent, one-person and younger-occupant homes are more vulnerable. Houses that have been vacant for extended periods such as weekend and vacation homes, and primary homes of people who are away on vacation are targeted.

  • Most burglars target unoccupied homes or homes routinely vacant during the day. This is why most burglaries occur during the morning and early afternoon periods when people have gone to work or are on errands.

    Houses that appear to be occupied are less likely to be burglarized. Lights and noise from within and vehicles parked in the driveway or in front of the house are at a lower risk of being burglarized. Having active neighbors is an additional plus.

  • Houses without dogs have a higher tendency to be burglarized. Most burglars avoid houses with dogs because they may either bark and attract attention, or pose a physical threat.

  • Houses with cover – trees, dense shrubs near entrances, walls and fences, especially privacy fences. Entrances hidden by attached garages, solid fences or tall hedges.

  • Secluded houses - such as those near parks, set back on large lots, or otherwise isolated reduce the chances that criminals will be seen or heard by neighbors.

  • Poor lighting. Although most burglaries occur during the daytime, poor lighting makes a home more attractive to criminals at night than well lit homes. A burglar will more often choose the house with poor lighting over an adjacent house with proper lighting.

  • Houses next to alleys - provide easy access and an escape route for criminals by limiting visibility to neighbors.

  • Attached garages - with side doors or unsecured garage doors are prime targets. Open garage doors give burglars easy access to items in the garage, and provide access to the house. Garages with no vehicles in the garage are a sign that the house is probably unoccupied. Once a burglar enters the garage, they have all the cover and time they need to break into the house. Experienced burglars know that the garage door is usually the weakest followed by the back door. The garage and back doors also provide the most cover.

  • Houses with weak entry points. Most of us often gloss over the defects of our own homes over a period of time. We'll take our time or delay fixing an obvious defect sometimes because we can't afford to fix the problem. Criminals use this to their advantage. They can easily spot old windows that have broken latches, or rusting hardware, or just poor construction such as worn door frames due to age. They can also spot new homes built with poor building materials. What we gloss over, they zoom in on.

  • Easy access. Houses whose windows and doors are left open are easy pickings for criminals. During the warm months, many homeowners and family members innocently leave windows open while the house is occupied and unoccupied. Being careless about security is an open invitation for burglars on the prowl. Burglarized houses are often those that have unlocked or open windows or doors.

  • Lack of security. Houses with few or no security devices are higher potential targets. Unprotected homes are a burglar's best friend. The easier and less time a consuming it is for a criminal to break into a home, the better. Studies show that alarms, combined with other security devices, reduce burglaries. Burglars are less likely to gain entry when a house has two or more security devices. Homeowners should look into installing better window locks, dead bolts, high-strength door frames, security lights, and alarms. Burglars may avoid houses with good locks, burglar bars or other security devices. Security devices slow burglars down. This makes them more vulnerable to being seen.

  • Vacant and Foreclosed homes. Years of research over the past decades reveal that vacant houses and vacant apartment buildings increase crime. News coverage across the country over the past two years report on how vacant homes are huge attractions for drug dealers, prostitutes and many sorts of criminals. Foreclosures mean that good residents move out of neighborhoods and crime moves in. It's estimated that 1home in every 200 is foreclosed. Suburban, middle income neighborhoods as well as inner-city or low-income neighborhoods are all effected. When a neighborhood suffers from a lot of foreclosures, crime increases dramatically. Burglars stake out and enter abandoned homes and steal everything including electrical appliances such as refrigerators and stoves.

  • Tips to Prevention Break-Ins /burglaries and invasions

  • Always keep your windows and doors locked – especially when you're home.

  • Secure all accessible windows with secondary blocking devices.

  • Limit your window openings no more than 5 - 6 inches for ventilation.

  • Put a security sign in your front yard or security stickers on your windows.

  • Cut up and place in garbage bags cartons of high-end electronics like TV's, stereos, computers, etc. Whole boxes sitting in the trash attract burglars.

  • Have two locks on all of your doors.

  • Never leave your garage door open.

  • Put a "Neighborhood Watch" sticker on your window or around your property.

  • Keep your car and house keys in your bed room with while you sleep.

  • Keep your cell phone on and in your bed room while you sleep.

  • Put window locks on every window.

  • Get an alarm system.

  • Activate your alarm system when you're asleep or away from the home.

  • Install a light-timer to turn lights on and off when you're not at home.

  • Use light-timers to randomly turn on different lights while you're asleep.

  • Remove toys and bicycles from your yard.

  • Never allow strangers to enter your home for any reason.

  • If they need help or directions, tell them you are calling the police to respond.

  • Have sales people, workers and solicitors Provide identification.

  • Never leave house keys under the door mat, in the mail box, etc.

  • Keep your doors and windows locked when you're in the yard or next door.

  • Keep your shrubs and trees trimmed.

  • Keep your property neat so burglars know that someone cares for it.

  • Keep your porch and yard clear of newspapers and circulars.

  • Keep the grass mowed and the snow shoveled.

  • When away from your home, make sure things appear as if someone were home.

  • Consider leaving the radio, television and lights on when away.

  • Leave a car in the driveway.

  • Don't drive off until you know your garage is completely closed.

  • Install lights over all doors.

  • Mount spot lights on each corner of the house to illuminate all exterior walls.

  • All ladders and tools should be locked in the garage or house.

  • A dog that barks loudly is a good deterrent.

  • Install an alarm system – they do discourage burglars.

  • All doors should be solid-core with heavy-duty deadbolt locks and hardware.

  • Install and use peepholes.

  • When there is someone at your door, yell out “I’ll get it”. This gives the impression that you are not alone.

  • Speak to all visitors through the locked door.

  • Always ask for ID from people you do not know. No matter who they claim to be.

  • If you live alone, lock your bed room doors while you sleep.

  • Consider having pepper spray handy when answering the door.

  • If you don't own a dog, leave an empty dog bowl around the property.

  • If you're a woman, consider leaving a pair of men's boots around the house.

  • Remove tree branches that can help burglars enter through a second floor window.

  • Lower the sound of your phone and answering machine so that they can't be heard outside.

  • Never leave notes on your door that can tip off burglars.

  • Never leave notes on your refrigerator that can be seen from outside.

  • If possible, have your telephone calls forwarded when you are away from home.

  • Don't leave a message on your answering machine that you're on vacation.

  • Don't update your social media sites with alerts that you're on vacation.

  • Consider buying systems that will open and close window draperies by timer.

  • Install motion detector lights around your house instead of just leaving lights on at night.

  • Install the motion detector lights so they light all doors and windows.

  • Protect skylights with metal grates and iron bars.

  • Make sure your house number clearly visible both day and night to make it easier for police to respond quickly.

  • Use video cameras. Criminals don't like to be seen.