We’ve spent some time in previous posts talking about how to best add burglary detection and notification for your home. Some of these posts involve making it harder for a burglar to enter your home. Our post on 6 Ways to Improve Door Security is a good example of this approach. We’ve also spent some posts looking at ways to make your home less attractive to criminals at first glance. (Our tips on Yard and Driveway Security can help you on that front.) In this post, we look at some of the most common security mistakes our customers make.
While some of these blunders may seem obvious, they still occur and are worth reviewing. For all of these mistakes, we offer solutions — some basic and some a little more advanced. Let’s start with some security mistakes with basic fixes. From there, we’ll discuss a few things burglars look for that you may have never thought of before.
Not Locking Home and Car Doors
While this might seem like an extremely obvious tip, it makes this list because so many people fail to do it. You’ll have to look no farther than an article such as this one on your local news website for evidence. Of course, some people forget to lock their home or car due to forgetfulness. Double-checking your house before leaving and your car before entering your home can help. It surprises many to learn that some criminals simply canvas neighborhoods looking for unlocked cars and homes to rob. However, this is absolutely the case. In addition to checking your doors, make sure to lock your windows as well. Homeowners often miss this detail during warmer months, providing burglars an easy entry into their homes.
In addition to using your locks, you should make sure to install locks that actually help turn away burglars. Deadbolts do a much better job locking down your home than standard doorknob locks. Taking this security one step further, we recommend pick-resistant and drill-resistant deadbolts, such as those provided by Medeco. The more work burglars must do to enter your home, the greater the chance they give up before getting inside.
Advertising Your Absence
Burglars prefer to enter empty homes rather than confronting anyone inside. For this reason, they often spend time casing out homes before attempting a break-in. In one of the more comprehensive studies of burglary statistics done in the last decade, in 2010 the Department of Justice reported that 72.4% of burglaries occur in empty homes. Clearly, criminals would rather work without encountering any residents. We recommend taking steps to make your home look occupied at all times. Putting lights on timers and having friends and neighbors occasionally stop in can help you accomplish this goal.
Recently, a new way of advertising an empty home has led to several burglaries nationwide. Sharing vacation plans and pictures on social media can put you at risk. Let’s look at another interesting statistic from the same DOJ study reference above. According to the study, more than 65% of criminals knew their victims personally. You may only allow “friends” to view your social media feeds. However, over the years you may lose touch with many of these friends, coworkers and acquaintances. Advertising your plans of an extended trip can easily lead to a former acquaintance stopping by for an unwanted visit. Therefore, we encourage you to avoid this security mistake and wait until returning home to post pictures and details of your vacations.
Leaving Valuables in Plain Sight or In Predictable Locations
Many homeowners leave things like spare cash and jewelry in easy-to-find places. After all, if you’ll need that money or jewelry on the way out to a night on the town, you want to know where you’ve left it. However, this makes a criminal’s job far too easy. Keeping valuables in the open — especially if visible from a window — acts as an invitation.
In addition, storing valuables in a bedroom makes things easier for burglars as well. A Fox affiliate in Atlanta released this survey and summary of convicted criminals earlier this year. The results show that 84% of the 99 burglars surveyed looked for jewelry, cash, and electronics first. The bedroom was the most popular starting point for these searches. As one participant noted: “Most people keep stuff in the bedroom…Money in the bedroom.” To fight this, we recommend making it harder for burglars to find your valuables. Certainly avoid bedside drawers or tabletops for storing desirable items.
Additionally, consider taking steps to both help secure and hide these possessions. In our post on Home Office Security we discussed how installing a wall safe (pictured) can accomplish both of these goals. We install these small safes behind a picture or mirror to keep your valuables out of sight and out of mind in the case of a burglary. The combination of added security and reduced visibility make these safes a great way to avoid one of the most common home security mistakes.
Leaving Easy-to-Find Spare Keys Outside OR Inside Your House
In our seasonally-appropriate Vacation Security To-Do List, we encourage readers to avoid leaving spare keys outside. Of course, everyone knows to look for a spare key under the welcome mat, making this one of the most predictable security mistakes that homeowners can make. However, we also recommend avoiding placing spare keys under nearby rocks or other places in close proximity to your door. This goes for both outside AND inside your house. Homeowners often leave spare home and car keys hanging in easy-to-find locations. Burglars often take these keys for future use. This puts your home in danger of future victimization, as well as making it easy for a thief to take your car after you return home.
Installing keypad locks or smart locks makes keeping your keys out of the wrong hands much easier. Visitors to your home can use a code to unlock a keypad lock rather than a key. Once you no longer need a particular code to work, you can delete it. Smart locks take this concept one step further. These locks allow for remote access through a smartphone when connected to a smart home hub. The ability to let someone in your home without giving away a key or a code adds a tremendous amount of security. Furthermore, if you have an interactive cellular dialer, such as ours powered by Alarm.com, you already have a smart home hub that will allow to configure these locks very easily. Both of these key-free lock options help avoid one of the more prevalent security mistakes that we encounter.
Failing to Own (or Arm) a Home Security System
Unsurprisingly, 60% of the 99 criminals surveyed by Fox 5 Atlanta reported that they would flee the home they were in if an alarm siren sounded. We always highly recommend that our customers install a home security system. Furthermore, as we pointed out in our 5 Security System Use Tips, even our alarm customers do not always arm their systems. Many of our customers arm their systems when leaving the house, but do not do so if anybody is home.
The DOJ study linked earlier sheds some light on the danger of burglaries occurring in an occupied house. We pointed out earlier that 72.4% of burglaries occur in an empty home. This means that 27.6% of burglaries occur with at least one occupant of a home present — still a significant number. Out of these, just over 1 in 4 (26%) result in a violent crime. For this reason, we recommend arming your security system even when you are home. Most modern alarms include options for activating your perimeter sensors without activating motion detectors. This allows you to arm the system without risking a false alarm caused by a home’s occupants setting off a motion detector.
Avoiding Home Security Mistakes Before it’s Too Late
Hopefully reading this post has informed you of some of the most common security mistakes that lead to burglaries. We also hope that we’ve given you some ideas for preventing them in your own home. If you have any questions after reading this post, feel free to contact us. We provide free site surveys to make specific recommendations for increasing your home security. In addition to installing lock and security hardware, we will also provide ideas that you can follow on your own. Between beefing up your security equipment and implementing any tips we can provide, you will be able to make your own home much less attractive to a potential criminal. This will make you, your family, and your most valuable possessions much safer and more secure.