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Investigating Unexpected Burglary Methods

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Our customers often ask us to “think like a thief” when designing home security measures. Unfortunately, thieves often prove more bold and unpredictable than homeowners expect. To some extent, we can chalk this up to ignorance. After all, not every burglar lives a full-time life of crime. Less seasoned burglars might try a much less sophisticated approach than an alarm customer would expect. On the other hand, sometimes burglars do set out to surprise their victims. This proves especially true when burglars target a home with an alarm system. Knowing what homeowners expect, smart burglars can try to defeat common security measures. In this post, we investigate some of these unexpected burglary methods, as well as how to stop them.

We will begin by discussing some tactics favored by less tactful criminals. “Smash and grab” burglaries often cause the most damage and headache. From there, we will discuss some unexpected burglary methods preferred by thieves who take extraordinary methods to avoid detection. These methods require extra care to guard against. Finally, we will focus on criminals who attempt to bypass your alarm system. After all, bypassing your alarm immediately disables your most potent security measure. Therefore, this subject deserves extra attention. Let’s begin by examining how burglars use brute force to enter their victims’ homes.

Using Brute Force

If you read our post on Taking Steps to Defeat Smart Criminals, you’ve read about security equipment designed to thwart clever thieves. Of course, we always want to take measures to guard against the more “refined” burglary methods. However, guarding against unexpected burglary methods also involves anticipating the actions of less careful thieves. Many criminals use brute force to enter homes and commit their crimes. We recommend using a variety of approaches to guard against this possibility.

From an alarm standpoint, glass break detectors can go a long way towards achieving this security. These contacts can detect breaking glass within a 20-foot radius of the device itself. Window shock sensors can also detect an attempted breach at a window before a standard contact sensor would. You may also consider non-alarm security devices. For example, window security screens can make it harder for thieves to shatter your windows.

Additionally, we offer a variety of door hardware to strengthen doors against brute force attacks. High-security deadbolts, such as our preferred deadbolts provided by Medeco, offer security against sophisticated picking techniques as well as common picking and drilling attacks. You may also install hardware that secures the hinge side of your door. For example, we can install hinge pins on the non-locking side of your door that make it harder to kick the door open at the hinges. For more ideas on securing your doors against brute force attacks, check out our 6 Ways to Improve Your Door Security. Now, let’s take a look at how some thieves stay unnoticed by allowing themselves to be seen.

A man with a paper knocking on a door.

Some burglars attempt to avoid suspicion by working in plain sight disguised as door-to-door salespeople or contractors.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Many people picture burglars as depicted in security system commercials. Designed to create fear, these commercials often dress burglars up in dark clothes and masks, and have them break in during the dead of night. In reality, many burglars disguise themselves as contractors or door-to-door salespeople. You may remember this type of approach from our post on How to Spot (and Stop) Burglars in Disguise. Many of them even approach their victims’ doors and knock before committing their crimes.

At first thought, these tactics surprise many homeowners. However, they do make sense given that people do not take much notice of “unsuspicious” behavior in a neighborhood. Sometimes, “hiding” by blending in proves much more effective than dressing up in dark clothing and attempting to stay out of sight. After all, neighbors will remember that type of suspicious behavior much more easily than they will remember “regular-looking” workers from a moving company or a well-dressed individual with a clipboard. Now, let’s see how burglars surprise homeowners by entering a home through surprising weak points.

Breaking in Through Unconventional Entrance Points

Burglars may have a variety of reasons for using unexpected burglary methods to commit a crime. As we pointed out in our introduction, criminals often know what homeowners expect. Finding a “creative” point of entry can keep them one step ahead of their victims. Additionally, different burglars may have different priorities. Thieves that aim to commit a quick crime may be bolder than those looking to roam through their victims’ homes. On the other hand, burglars who are not in a hurry will value privacy over ease of entry. In this section, we examine a couple ways that burglars surprise their victims, and what you can do about it.

“Hidden” Doors and Windows

When burglars prefer privacy above all else, the results often surprise homeowners. For example, many homeowners do not see their basement doors as especially vulnerable if they are covered with a bulkhead door. After all, why break in through two doors rather than one? Unfortunately, these bulkhead doors often prove fairly easy to open even when locked. Once accomplishing this, criminals can work in a spacious and hidden space. Furthermore, these basement doors are often not built or secured as well as other exterior doors. We recommend equipping these doors with deadbolts and, if needed, additional door hardware to secure against forced entry.

A dog looking through a doggy door.

Doors meant to give your pets free entry and exit can also provide thieves an easy way to break into your home. Photo Credit: Aidras on Flickr. Used under the CC BY-ND 2.0 License.

Additionally, many burglars do not mind getting “down and dirty” to break in through windows that neighbors and passersby cannot see. Basement windows — especially those underneath a deck — can provide this cover. We do offer alarm contacts for basement windows which can provide an alarm response upon activation. Furthermore, basement window covers can make entering these windows a much more difficult proposition. Let’s look at another entry point that burglars have used to enter homes with little to no obstruction.

Doors Meant for Your Furry Family Members

While too small for some burglars, many thieves can squeeze through pet doors designed to let your dog come and go at will. Look no further than this news clip from New Mexico to see this burglary method in action. So what can homeowners do to make these easily-defeated entrances less appealing? For one, many doggy doors come equipped with locking mechanisms. Purchasing the right doggie door can greatly lower this risk. Buying the smallest and least freely-opening door possible can also make this a less viable option for criminals. Now, let’s look at some tips designed to keep burglars from using compromised security information or other methods to victimize homeowners with security systems.

Defeating Your Alarm to Break in Without Fear of Consequences

Very few things pose a greater security threat to your home than a compromised alarm system. Burglars can use a couple methods to render your alarm useless. For starters, many criminals will attempt to cut the communication path between your alarm and the central station. Thieves can accomplish this by cutting a home’s phone lines, as long as the alarm system is monitored traditionally. Adding cellular monitoring to your alarm system can add security against these attacks. A cellular dialer acts as a dedicated communication path between your alarm system and our central station. We recommend this method of monitoring for all of our alarm customers.

An Alarm.com alert showing the security system being disarmed.

Cellular dialer alerts, such as this one from Alarm.com, keep you informed of alarm activity at all times.

In addition, some burglars attempt to use alarm codes to disarm your security system. That “friend of a friend” who somehow learns one of your alarm codes could comeĀ  back uninvited at a later date. We offer a couple solutions that address this danger. Our preferred cellular dialer, powered by Alarm.com, offers alarm activity notifications. These notifications send alerts to your phone when someone unexpectedly disarms your alarm panel. At this point, you can activate your alarm remotely to scare the intruder away.

Furthermore, certain modern alarm panels can even snap pictures of individuals disarming your security system. The QOLSYS IQ Panel 2, which is our preferred alarm system, creates and stores images of users every time your alarm system is disarmed. In addition to receiving the notification that someone has disarmed your security system, you will now have an image of the guilty party! Our post on Catching Unexpected Alarm Activity can provide you further resources on stopping burglars from bypassing your alarm system.

Recognizing and Securing Against Unexpected Burglary Methods

We hope that this post will help prepare you against thieves who use unexpected burglary methods. Perhaps you have an alarm system in place, but would now like to add additional security equipment. Or maybe you’re considering home security and would like to address these methods in your initial system design. Either way, we encourage you to contact us. We provide free site surveys for new and existing alarm customers alike. Together, we can create a security plan for your home that addresses both typical and non-typical burglary methods to keep you, your family, and your valuables as safe and secure as possible.