42 Ex-Burglars, Home Security Experts And Others Reveal Their Secrets For How To Protect Your Home Against Theft (New Answers)
Around 2.5 million burglaries happen in the United States any given year, which means that every 15 seconds, a home burglary is committed. These dire statistics can make anyone wonder: how to tell if someone is targeting your house? Well, hit TV shows may have convinced us that criminals painstakingly plan out their heists, leaving nothing up to chance. The good news is, though, there are plenty of things we can do to beat them at their own game.
When it comes to securing your property, there’s no better place to turn for guidance than those who have previously made a living out of breaking in. In various threads, Reddit users came forward to discuss the very questions of keeping homes safe and preventing theft. However, not only did former burglars offer some solid tips and tricks but also crime reporters, home security experts, and regular folks teamed up to pass on helpful knowledge.
So grab your pens and take out your notebooks because we at Bored Panda have gathered some of the best responses people shared online to help you protect yourself and your premises. Continue scrolling, upvote the ones you agree with, and be sure to share your own tips everyone must know in the comments section below!
Psst! If you wish to reduce this risk even further, check out our earlier posts full of sound advice from ex-criminals right here and here.
#1Not a burglar, but seriously get a secure electric lock, any non-electric lock can be picked in seconds.
Image credits: shvelo
#2A recent study showed that burglars come back to the same houses quite often. They do this because of a number of motives.
1: They want to take tings they, for some reason, couldn't take the first time.
2: They're kinda familiar with the house.
3: It's guaranteed that the people they robbed replaced the stuff they stole the first time, often these replacements are of better quality than the original.
So after you get raided take good security measures.
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#3Not a burglar but you can get tripwire set super cheap. Set up a few of those in your house with blank shotgun shells and if someone does break in it might scare them or alert a neighbor.
Image credits: the_critical_critic2
#4Don't post anything on social media until you have gotten back home. I can't tell you how many neighbors and family have gotten robbed because of this.
Image credits: SecPhase
#5Getting to know your neighbors is a great thing. There were a few times, growing up, that we noticed someone snooping around our neighbors' house, or that they noticed someone snooping around ours. It was always someone who had some legitimate reason to be there, but we always felt good knowing that our neighbors had our backs.
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#6My husband is so good at hiding things from burglars that there are a number of valuable items that we have never found again. So hiding things is fine, but remembering where you hid them is just as important.
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#7I use to do door to door sales for ADT... people would let me in the house and just tell me where all the important stuff was before even verifying I was legit..... don’t do that.
Image credits: Mybigbrowntitties
#8Fun fact - aunt died, and had valuables hidden throughout the house. She was a cranky old cur, the one who had a ton of dough, no offspring, didn't donate, and thought she could take it with her. Well, hell. When she died, I helped out my elderly parents clean out her place. Instead of just being able to throw away the junk and pile up the clothes and other items to donation centers, we had to rifle through every pocket, every damn planter, pot and pan, etc. It was sort of fun, but took a hell of a long time. From what I recall, there was a few hundred bucks inside a few planters, 4.5k in the bottom part of an unused planter, under some little foam brick you stick fake flowers into, that was tucked way in the back of a cabinet, jewelry stashed in the arm of a leather couch, more money in some sewing drawer, a few hundred bucks in several jackets, etc. I took forever to go through every goddamn pocket, sock, drawer, container of nails and buttons, etc. Gotta admit, sorta fun as well. She never told any of us that she had money hidden. My mother just had a hunch.
Image credits: TheSecretofBog
#9One thing on Reddit I read was that having a pair of large work boots on the porch next to the door can deter burglars (unless they know you). It basically says "Someone is home right now, it its possibly a big dude who can hurt you."
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#10Lock your doors and dont leave windows open when you're out.
Dont leave ladders or big garbage bins accessable, they are great for getting to that 1st floor window that's probably not locked.
Going on vacation? dont tell the entire world 2 weeks in advance. Burglars have facebook too.
Dont leave your car keys next to your front door. you're giving potential burglers a great fast exit and a free car.
Leave a light on when you're out. Burglars want empty houses.
If you do hear somebody in your house at night, DONT GO LOOK. Even if you are armed, you're still setting yourself up for a nasty situation. Lock yourself in, baricade your door, call 911.
I'm not a burglar though....
Image credits: joeri1505
#11My grandfather had a huge safe in the basement.
Inside that safe was another, smaller safe.
And inside that other smaller safe was, you guessed it, an even smaller safe.
When he got sick and had to be in the hospital for awhile he started telling everybody, from the people in line at the fast food place to the nurses, how we was okay because all his stuff was in this unbreakable safe in his basement. People thought he was crazy.
Of course what was bound to happen happened and one time when he was out to the hospital someone broke into his home. When he got back maybe a week later, he saw that the first 2 safes we're opened but the guy gave up on the smallest one. Good for him because there wasn't anything in that last safe either. We had a good laugh about it for the 3 years he was still alive, trying to picture the would-be robber's face when he saw the third safe.
So I guess one place you SHOULD keep your valuables is a safe inside a safe inside another safe. Robbers are lazy.
Image credits: lordpanda
#12If a family member dies, leave someone to house sit the house the deceased lived in.
Years ago a bunch of thieves would look at the funerals section and they would go burglarize houses of the deceased, knowing full well that the whole family was away, down to the exact hour the funerals started.
Image credits: MistahZig
#13Put a realistic label outside or fake camera outside, make your house look like it's secured, check out your neighbours see how they 'advertise' their security. Most burglars go for easy targets, if your house looks secure they will avoid it.
having said that do not over do it, otherwise they will think "why are they so secure, they must have something valuable" just 'look' secure to a reasonable level to your area. If the area really is high crime, do not leave or throw away boxes of 'electronic goods' outside, break these up cut them, or burn them, don't stand out, stay under the radar. Be brave but don't risk physical harm to yourself or children protecting material possessions, good luck.
edit - addendum: If you need to leave your house empty, leave a radio on or tv, at night leave a light on. When leaving your house empty, pretend to be ending a conversation and saying bye to 'someone inside'.
Image credits: itsalawnchair
#14Any safe that's not bolted down and is small enough for 1-2 people to carry isn't safe at all.
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#15Your shed. Seriously. LOCK YOUR SHED. Even if your house is well-locked, if your shed isn't, I likely have access to a plethora of tools I can use to gain access.
Image credits: AlphaTangoFoxtrt
#16I’m not a burglar but I wouldn’t rob a house with a camera even if you use a fake one it should still deter burglars
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#17Former crime reporter here. Tampon box and kitty litter are good. I've also seen false outlets that are safe as a safe.
Image credits: DJGlennW
#18You can never be burglar proof, but keep in mind most burglars are simply opportunistic. A motion controlled light at the front and back will deter most criminals. Simple things like that. Leaving a light on or a tv to give the impression there might be someone in the house. A fake camera might help as well, if placed in an obvious location.
Image credits: Comic-Curious
#19I'm not a burglar, but I worked for the largest security company in this country for half a decade.
Burglar alarms do not deter burglars. They just alert you that you have been burglarized. Most of the time the police will take very little action in response due to the fact that 98% of burglar alarm activation constitute false alarms.
The sign that comes with the alarm though? That thing is worth more than the alarm as far as deterring burglars.
My job was to take reports from customers who had been burglarized. (see my first point above)
In all my time doing these interviews and I never interviewed one single burglary victim who owned a medium sized or large sized dog. Not one single time.
That is not to say that no one who owns a dog ever gets burglarized.
I'm just saying that in 5 years of spending 8 hours a day interviewing people who had been, not one single time did I encounter the situation.
I think there is at least SOME statistical validity in that.
TL:DR A big dog is the best burglary deterrent you can possibly have. Better than burglar alarms, signs, guns or expensive locks.
#20Listened to a KFI radio interview when I lived in Los Angeles. Former anonymous burglar said he avoided houses that hung the U.S. flag. Said it told him the occupants likely owned at least one firearm. Would avoid even if it looked as though no one was home.
#21Not a burglar but some broke into my family's house 4 or 5 years ago when we were out on a concert. They checked everything - took all money and jewelry they could find.
Except! My room was a mess to begin with. I left piles of clothes on the floor, my study desk messy af, left piles of papers on both desk and floor (i was in a hurry before we all left and was searching for something I can quite remember now.
Now. I had 800€ and golden earrings on my desk, just sitting there.
The burglars opened the doors... and didn't move a thing. Left my 800€ and golden earrings alone and moved to another room.
From then on I have been using this as an excuse why I don't need to clean up my room.
Image credits: PuzzleBuzzleRuzzle
#22I feel bad being another one of those "I'm not actually one but: people, but:
You know how some landscapers throw bags of rocks with a landscaping ad or business card in them?
Guess what? Some of these are just burglars taking a bunch of pamphlets from a landscaping business, throwing these in your yard. They drive by a day or two later. Whoever didn't pick them up is a much more likely candidate, especially if there was no car in the driveway either time.
#23This doesn't exactly answer the question asked, but it is a tip on potentially protecting your valuables. Bear with me because it's a bit strange: Glue a spare key (not one that opens something important) under your door mat. Weird right?
A few years ago I did this in addition to installing cameras. Over the last couple of years I've seen this exact scenario play out: thief walks to the door, checks under the mat, unsuccessfully tries to grab the key, backs up, looks around to see if anyone is watching (presumably because they think they have fallen for some trap/prank where they are being surveilled), and LEAVES. They don't even search for another way in because it spooks them.
Image credits: aj9811
#24You can't leave any entrance to your house unlocked if you aren't there. Don't leave windows open allowing people to see in and check out your stuff. If you get new stuff, don't leave the boxes by the curb. Nothing screams I just got a new 55" TV than leaving the box by the curb. If you are going to be gone for an extended time and want to put your lights on timers, make sure that you stagger the timers to come on and go off at different times, and have someone look in on your house.
Image credits: Tomcat1108
#25Leaving the television on and a few lights on downstairs can be a help, depending on how many windows you have and where they're positioned. Thieves won't break in if they think someone's home. But, important note--if they wise up to the fact that no one is watching the TV, then it's like hanging out a sign that says "I HAVE VALUABLES!".
Take some self-defense classes. Everyone can and should do this.
And of course, make sure you don't have valuables on display. Crimes of opportunity are the things to avoid.
Image credits: Moridyn
#26Buy a Mastiff.
Image credits: voltairevillain
#27Here are things that would make your house a less attractive target than your neighbors:
When you're not at home, keep your windows closed and locked. Use a bar to keep them from opening. It also helps communicate to the burglar that they would have to break the window to get in. Locking all your windows before you go out takes discipline.
Throw away all of your locks. Not your knobs necessarily (though they may be junk too), but the lock cylinder inside them that your key goes into. Buy Medeco replacements for all your doors. This will prevent the use of super simple to make/use "bump" keys. Don't know what those are...google it and be amazed. 10-12 bump keys (you can get them at most gun shows and sometimes on ebay) can open 90+ percent of US home locks.
Buy an alarm system. Some don't like these because it's a perpetual monthly fee. If money is an object, this one might have to suffer. If not, get the usual door/window alarms, but also get one for glass breakage, and motion.
Buy motion sensitive lights and put them all around your house. Sure your neighbors will hate the false alarms caused by your kid sneaking out to hook up with his friends at the local pub, but removing dark places really sucks for burglars.
Keep your junk in a safe when it's in your house. Credit cards, checkbooks, jewelry, and other stuff that a) is valuable and you want to keep it, and b) that could be used for identity theft, all goes in a safe. Oh, when buying a safe, if you're trying to save money, you're thinking about it wrong. You want a good one, and you want it BOLTED TO THE FLOOR. It's so easy to rob people who leave all this stuff out in the open.
Don't do anything stupid like put a spare key outside your house. Rocks, lockboxes, whatever -- you might as well put a bow on it.
Make sure your garage door and opener aren't from the 80's. It's too easy to buy/make a device that can open your garage. Get a newer one, they're much harder to deal with when trying to brute force the codes.
If your car has a garage door opener in it, you now have to make sure your car is secure -- otherwise, break into your car and you can walk quietly into your home.
And for the love of all that is holy, don't use your twitter or facebook feeds to let people know when you're going to be away from home!! Duh! Not one of these will prevent access to your home if the robber really really wants to get into YOUR house. However, if you do 6/8 to 8/8 of these, most robbers will move on -- it just won't be worth their while when your neighbor's upstairs window is always open. Climbing isn't hard.
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#28Don't keep valuables in the open. Keep keys in a locked container. Have a home safe that's bolted to the ground. Get motion lights around the home. Don't leave ladders outside.
Image credits: Dried_Apple
#29Worked my way through college as a locksmith.
Securing the car: Cheap radio. Leave car unlocked if you have nothing in it; maybe they'll try the door before they smash a window. Have a local mechanic put in a "kill switch," which shuts of electricity to your fuel pump. If they manage to try to start the car, it won't turn over- or, if it does, there'll be just enough gas for it to conk out in the middle of the street, forcing them to abandon it. The switch gets installed somewhere not readily apparent by the driver; I know one clever person who put the switch behind the dash, using a magnetic reed switch. A magnet had to be placed on the right place (with the correct polarity) for the car to start.
Leave an oil filter (preferably used) and a filter wrench on the dash, or maybe a socket set and some dirty screwdrivers; anything that makes it look like it needs maintenance. Some kid who wants to joyride your car might go steal someone else's car.
House: Get decent locks. Kwikset is junk. Schlage is mid-line, but probably the most you'll want to spend on the place. Get deadbolts, and secure the "strike" using the screws that come with the deadbolt. The screws go into the wall stud, to defend against kick-in attack. Most locks are installed by carpenters, who don't want to bother with the screws; disassemble the strike, remove the strike cup, and look for the hardened steel thingie with two 3-4" long screws that secure into the nearest stud. If they're not there, put them in. Tip: drill a pilot hole to keep from cracking the stud, and then swipe the long screws on a bar of soap so they can be driven home relatively easily.
No alarm system? Well, a sign that says you have one might help- or it might indicate you have valuables you wish to protect. (The same wisdom goes for an "NRA" sticker- yes, you have guns- but if you're not home, I can break in and steal them, fucker!) Alarm on the cheap: save up aluminum cans, and stack them inside the windows. At least it'll make noise.
Thieves do not think like conventional security: they do not go for strong doors, etc. They go for the weak spots; check your house, and look for the obvious. Examples: windows near the ground, made with plate glass; dog doors or glass-paneled doors that allow access to a deadbolt lever on the inside; ANYTHING you can simply kick/smash to get in; large rocks, etc. that can be picked up and thrown through a window for entry. Some of these are easy to fix; the windows can be replaced with tempered glass, or with Plexi. A hollow-core door (bad stuff for an exterior door, but you see it now and again) can be "fixed" by using short screws driven in from the inside so they will impale the foot during a kick-in attack. Double-cylinder deadbolts will prevent someone from turning the lock from the inside- but they are a fire risk for when people are at home. Either leave a key in the interior lock when occupied, or put a key on a hook, down near the floor, out of reach from exterior attack.
Don't let newspapers build up outside. Keep the exterior of the house neat and clean. Plant nasty shrubs with stickers and needles under any ground-floor windows. Cover the tops of walls with broken bottles embedded in cement. (Useful in a demilitarized zone- but readily bypassed with a bit of carpet and maybe a hammer.) Squad automatic weapons, Claymores, seismic sens- nevermind.
ETA: Interior defense: aluminum softball bat, ball peen hammer, golf clubs- anything you can swing. In the event of an intruder, call 911, stay on the line, and repeatedly cuss out/warn the intruder the police are on their way. Use a cell phone; sometimes they'll cut the landline.
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#30Always went with what was easiest. Your door may be locked but I guarantee that there's at least one person on this block who's door isn't. Don't be that person.
Even something as simple as the "protected by alarm company" stickers. Why would I bother taking my chances with that when 2 houses down has no alarm company?
Edit: Feel free to PM me/ ask follow up questions
Image credits: Thesaltysnal
#31I used to be an opportunist for a while, so far from professional, but this is what I have done to my house:
large dog behind privacy fence (dog is a goofy black lab, but sounds awesome)
cameras on the front door / driveway. I always knocked first and would walk away if I knew they took a picture of me doing that.
curtains .. this should be an easy one, but walking down a residential street at night can feel like a best-buy isle.
look your doors and windows when you're not home. always.
don't have all your valuables visible from the front door. pizza delivery pays shitty.
On the car:
keep your car dirty, messy and leave the GPS in plain view. makes even most crackheads quote ackbar.
visibility is the best deterrent i.e. driveway should be well lit and open, otherwise use the garage.
bumper stickers and other aspects that make your car more unique make the vehicle identifiable to your neighbor/coworker - and in turn notice that the person messing with it is NOT you.
The key is to introduce unknowns and to be less attractive then your neighbor.
Image credits: usingstoleninternet
#32Not a burglar, but one thing that def helps, is my house looks like crap on the outside (inside is so much nicer old house that the inside was renovated about 10 years ago) And the entrance of my house is not easy to find unless you know where you are going (getting food delivered is even a hassel i have to wright a paragraph out just giving directions to my door haha )
Image credits: Therealbenji17
#33Not a burglar, but a homeowner.
Tips that we have followed:
Do not "hide" a key outside of the house. Under the flowerpot or one of those fake stones? Yeah, professionals can spot those immediately. We have a key safe located in a not-so-obvious location outside of the house, so even if someone sees the box, they still can't get to the key without knowing the combination.
Motion detectors and automatic lighting. We have motion detectors all around the house. If you come up the driveway, into the carport or walk around the side of the house, a floodlight will light your way. This makes it hard to remain undetected if there is a light shining on you.
We have installed locking window handles in our basement and all of the windows in our house are triple-pane glass, so if you want to break in, it is going to be loud and pretty dangerous for you.
Basically, all of these things are related to the "Saint Florian principle" - we try to make our house less attractive for burglars so that they go break into someone else's house instead.
Image credits: Count2Zero
#34Not a burglar use your burglar alarm whilst out, lock all doors and windows when you are out and in the house. Upload your photos and status when you get back from your holiday, in fact dont bother having social media.
#35I have to assume that the 18 steps up from street level are at least some deterrent. We don't even get Jehovah's witnesses.
#36When I was young and dumb I would boost rims off cars, cause you could make quick money and it was less then a felony. The number one deterrent hands down...... Lights. If a place is lit up like a Christmas tree on the outside of a house you stay clear cause it means anyone can see you and see you clearly
#37I'm going to assume having a cop for a neighbor that parks his cruiser in the driveway facing my house is a nice burglar deterrent.
#38There's not much you can do to stop a determined intruder. Fortunately, those are very, very rare. Most neighborhood crimes are those of opportunity. I.e., someone left something valuable in an unlocked car or someone left a garage door open all night.
Make your home an undesirable target by installing/maintaining some outside lighting at night (at least a porch light, more if possible). Keep your bushes trimmed and change the landscaping if necessary to prevent natural hiding spots near doors and windows.
Window treatments should include some kind of shear material in addition to any curtains, drapes, or blinds that can be closed. The shear material stays in place (particularly in the front) even when the curtains/blinds are open. This allows light in and you can generally see out, but effectively prevents passersby from seeing inside your house. Leaving the curtains/blinds closed all the time is a bad idea because it leaves the impression people aren't there.
Don't leave toys, yard tools, bikes, or other items outside when you're not using them. Keep the garage door closed, except when you're entering, exiting, or actually outside near it.
Use several lamp timers (I prefer the electronic ones) and compact fluorescent bulbs (to keep the cost of energy down) to turn several lamps on around 5pm-ish and off at 11 or 12pm-ish. You'll use the lights anyway when you're home and the house will appear more occupied when your not.
A neatly kept home that doesn't flaunt valuables is a decent deterrent. Hoodlums might pick a wealthy-looking home hoping to get valuables or a run-down home thinking the owners aren't around much or don't care. You don't have to make your house burglar proof, just less desirable than your neighbors' homes to broken into.
Consider a professionally installed alarm system. I prefer the wired systems that protect the doors and windows over the inside motion detector systems. I'd rather the alarm go off while the burglar is trying to get in rather than waiting until entry is gained. A perimeter (doors and windows) alarm system can be armed while you are home without worrying about a motion detector. The best ones will be monitored by an alarm company, but even one with a loud local siren will scare off someone trying to get in.
#39Had my house burglarized by a so-called friend. He missed by far the most valuable thing. it’s just a safe sitting on the laundry room floor. He missed it because I’m a scumbag and had it covered with a mountain of dirty clothes and towels. So not being tidy saved me upwards of $35K.
#40Only tip I have: go to a local Home Depot or something like it. Look for a door brace. Get it.
Mine was maybe $20 and I can't force the door in for shit when it's up. I'll probably die if an ambulance comes wailing to get me in my 4th floor apartment, but fuck if anyone's getting through my front door without completely destroying it.
#41There is no excuse for not being able to protect yourself.
Take some self-defense courses. Your husband should as well.
Put one of those stickers on your door that says it's protected by such and such security.
Place various weapons in secret spots throughout your house. Easy access.
Get some of those door jam things and stick them under/on the doors at night before bed.
Put a muddy pair of steel toe boots outside your door.