53 Ex-Burglars Share How To Deter Criminals And How To Tell If A Home Is Being Targeted
Safety isn’t binary: it sits on a sliding scale. Though a lot of things in this world are outside of our control, the actions that we take every single day can either improve or decrease our total sense of security. And it doesn’t just work on the scale of a single individual, either—it works for entire households, too.
Reddit users have been discussing a very important topic about keeping homes safe from being broken into. And the people giving out advice on what attracts and what deters burglary? Former burglars themselves, so you know that these tips and bits of advice come from (ironically) legitimate sources. Of course, regular folks like you and I pitched in with their own advice, as did security experts whose jobs are to make sure that people's homes are as safe as can be.
Have a read about some of the things that make homes a target for burglars, how to make your home safer, and how to tell if a house is being targeted by burglars, dear Pandas. If you have any additional tips that you think everyone else simply must hear, be sure to share them with us in the comments.
#1Don'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
#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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#3If 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
ADT points out that a whopping 3.7 million homes get broken into in the US each year. They suggest that you start thinking about the security of your home by getting into the mindset of someone who wants to break in. Take a walk around the exterior of your home and try to think like a burglar.
Check out some of the weaknesses that you spot. Maybe there’s a door that you always keep unlocked. Perhaps there are lots of low windows that would let a burglar get inside easier. Maybe it’s time to trim the bushes around the house so nobody can hide in them.
#4I'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.
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#5When 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
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#6One 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."
Image credits: dougiebgood
What’s more, while you’re walking the perimeter, take a peek through the windows of your own home. Ideally, you wouldn’t have any high-value items visible. Something valuable that’s proudly displayed for everyone to see can invite criminals in. You don’t have to go as far as hiding all your tech in the basement, though—getting some curtains can be a simple solution.
That’s the same reason you don’t want to leave your phone, laptop, or iPad on the seat of your car. It’s also why you should think about taking your car stereo out when you park. You don’t want to tempt fate.
#7I have to assume that the 18 steps up from street level are at least some deterrent. We don't even get Jehovah's witnesses.
Image credits: TacticalLeemur
#8I stuck with commercial burglary, residential burglary carried a risk of getting hit with a home invasion charge which increases your sentence if convicted (not to mention, you run the risk of getting shot by some redneck with a spring-loaded magnum under every flat surface in the house).
Anyway, I'd pick places based on the upkeep of their equipment. If the cash register was out of date, so was their camera system. If the clerk leaves the register open a crack while they're behind the counter, that means the safe is likely open in the back room.
It also helps to hit the places that hire felons (fast food joints, video stores, etc.) because the cops are gonna waste a lot of time looking into the staff members who have a criminal history. The closer they're looking at them, the better off I am.
Of course, this was ~15 years ago, things change.
Image credits: DownvotePlusSoulTrap
#9Signs painted on or near buildings/residences that are deemed to be 'easy pickings', so to speak. Also signs that act as warnings. For example, the sign for 'alarmed' looks like a W with a line drawn horizontally across the top, while a simple X could mean a good target.
This is true where I am in England, but I know not whether these symbols carry over to other countries.
*not a former burglar. I would be wealthier if I was. I would also have a cat called Dingo who would help me on my missions.
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Something else that you should definitely consider is keeping your yard tidy. Don’t leave your bikes, grills, and other expensive equipment lying around. Lock it all in your shed. Sure, you might have planted your roots in a secure community, but you never know who might be winding their way down the path in your quiet suburban paradise. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Consider making your territory very well lit. It’s harder for burglars to do their nefarious deeds in the light and they’re more likely to avoid such homes. Motion sensors, security systems, even cameras are also potential weapons in your arsenal.
#10I'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.
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#11I 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.
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#12I live in an area with a large homeless population, many which are drug addicts. Lots of smash and grab car burglaries. I can tell you this for certain. Theft is 99% visual meaning if you've left something valuable within view, your gonna lose it. And of value could even mean even an empty bag. Tweakers not gonna assume its empty they will take the chance but at the same time dudes not gonna smash a window then take the time to start rummaging around hoping to find something of value. Too time consuming especially after a large crash from your newly busted window.
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#13In the autobiography of Malcolm X, he said that if he went to a house, and the bathroom light was on, he didn’t go in. Said something like ‘a guy in the bathroom could come out anytime’
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#14Young redditors may not have heard of this thing; it's called 'radio'. Leave a talk station on when you're out. No burglar's gonna come in if he hears voices, unless it's a home invasion. Leave a light on, doesn't matter if you put a timer on it or not. Just a low level light, like it's a night light for going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A dog is another big plus. Hard for anyone to get past a dog in the dark. They don't need to see you to bark and bite you. Have never been burglarized, ever, and I'm 67 years old. That is all.
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#15Listened 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.
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#16Not a burglar but lots happens in my area.
• People coming by who are either sketchily fundraising for something or "working for so-and-so company" when you weren't expecting anyone. They're casing your house and figuring out when you're home. They're also probably figuring out the best way in and out of your place.
• Leaving boxes of big ticket items visible in your garbage or alley.
• Depending on who/where, sometimes they'll stake out near your home or do drive-bys several times to see when you're home.
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#17I only broke into a house once. It was my ex-girlfriend's place. She announced on Facebook she was out of the country for the weekend with her new lover, and I was still pissed she cheated on me a couple of weeks with that person earlier, so I decided to break some of her stuff. -- I had a duplicate key to her front door. And I know it sounds creepy looking back at it, but I had it made the day she mentioned she wanted the key back, so I got in there pretty easily.
Once inside, I poured water into every single electriconic device (laptop, tv, playstation, etc.) -- I also fed the cat, and gave the poor bastard a bowl of water, since she forgot to do so. Then I left.
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#18Motion sensing flood lights outside.
No big bushes in front of windows where someone could hide. Thorned bushes are always good for under windows, if you keep them close enough.
A dog is nice.
If you can't afford an alarm and security cameras, fake cameras and alarm contacts on windows can be a deterrent, hopefully. Better to just get the real thing. Remember any security footage could possibly be obtained and used against you if something goes down. If you do shady things, cameras could be a bad idea.
Dead bolt locks on all exterior doors. Keyed outside and inside if there's windows in or next to the door... but then only take the key out when nobody is home, for fire safety.
If you aren't always home at night, get a few timers for lamps inside.
Get a cheap tv. Like a CRT 13 inch that nobody wants. Put it in a cabinet or wall unit type thing, so you can close the door to hide it when guests come over. Put it on a timer to stay on until very late, and set a light timer in a bedroom to come on when it goes off.
Install vertical blinds on a window across from the tv. Vertical blinds are great, because you can angle them for a very limited view, so the house looks less closed up and more inhabited. Anyway, in this case, angle the blinds so you can clearly see the tv, but nothing else in the room. Set volume so you can just barely hear it outside.
This does two things: the light and sound make it seem like someone could be home. And, a thief may look in, see the old 13 incher and just be like damn this dude's stuff sucks, I'm going somewhere else.
#19My neighbour got robbed because he installed a dog flap.
I.e. he put a man sized hole in his door.
We don't even live in a particularly nice area.
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#20If you open your door and a $1/2/5.00 etc, bill floats down, somebody is targeting your house.
When I was a precious angel, I used to wedge a bill on top/side of the front door. I'd check again in the early hours to see if the money was taken or put back in the wrong place. If it was, I'd leave the place alone.
I'd recommend if it happens, wether it be money or other that falls when you unlock the front door, to let the police know someone is targeting houses for a robbery.
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#21Turn on exterior lights. Have an alarm sign in front yard. Alarm stickers on windows. Barking dog.
Id skip that house
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#22When people proudly advertise their security system. You can usually find a forum of people who've found the latest ways to crack the system. Also if they advertise being a gun owner without being a vet(I knew before I enlisted that veterans advertise their status and branch) that's a solid target. Usually kept in an outdated safe by an owner who hardly knew how to use it let alone be able to control nerves from affecting things like trigger control or aligning their sights. You could always sell a gun for more cash as jewels or a laptop if you has the right connections.
I never tried neighborhood's with an active watch, usually meant any targets had a good relationship with the cops and any calls would be handled with a lot more care. Also i'd never rob a place with a dog, especially a pit bull, rottweiler or German Shepherd from the pound.
Drug dealers were a natural target for home invasion if you had the confidence. Crowbar open the door and put the main occupant on their ass. Once they see you're not a junky and have every intention to kill them if they don't listen to you they usually give up solid cash and/or flashy valuable's you can pawn by going to a county and hour or two away. They can't really call the cops and draw attention to themselves.
#23Not a burglar, but when I drive to work in the evening when it is dark.... I can't tell you how many big-screen TVs I can see through large unshaded windows in people's homes. They are just advertising.
I keep all my windows shaded. Also, I dont have any big screen TVs. I prefer smaller TVs that are closer to me (within a few feet) instead of a giant tv that is across the room.
#24Not a burglar, but a guy who is paranoid about keeping his [stuff] from being stolen....
Buy a $3 blinking LED (from ebay) and install it on top of your car's dash. Especially a blue one as that screams fancy aftermarket alarm. Keeps the neighborhood 3am car-hoppers away.
Car-hopping is basically what kids do. They walk around neighborhoods and apartment complex parking lots trying car door handles to see if any are unlocked so they can steal anything they can inside. Some are not above breaking into a locked vehicle if they spy a purse, backpack or something else theft-worthy within sight. I've read that 3am is THE optimal time to hit an apartment complex parking lot.
#25I'm not answering the question directly, but I am answering it indirectly:
The vast majority of burglaries are perpetrated by people who have been inside your home before
This is very important to realize. When you have guests over that you don't know well (maybe at a Halloween party), lock all of the doors to bedrooms, and don't have anything super valuable just laying out to show. Most of the time they won't take anything during the party, but they will come back later... with friends.
#26I would check out a house several times over two days. If there was no sign of movement -- no lights coming on or off, no curtains moved, newspapers left on the driveway -- I was interested.
Is the house in a nice neighborhood? Is it well kept? If so I figured they had nice stuff.
Next question: Is there an easy escape route? Woods in the back yard were excellent.
Next question: Is there a window hidden from view that I can smash if I have to?
#27Don't leave anything around for a burglar to climb or move to help in entering your house....get timers for your lights...conveniently forget your mouse trap genius youngest son at home.... Don't leave tasty burgers around for any random burglars
#28Not a burglar but here's my tip: if your neighbor gets robbed in broad daylight, you have to assume you're next.
I once lived in a converted garage behind a house. My four roommates all lived in the main house. I was unemployed for several months and since I had no kitchen in my shack, I'd go in and out of the main house often. The landscapers knew I was there and anyone watching from the street could have seen me puttering around. One day my neighbor told me she'd been robbed in the middle of the day and asked me if I'd seen anything, which I hadn't. But you bet your ass as soon as I moved out and my four roommates were left without me home all the time, they got robbed almost immediately. At 4:00 in the afternoon.
#29A common scam in my neighborhood is to come to the door trying to sell a security system and try and get you to let them in and talk about what you need. This way they find out about what kind of security you already have. Some come as proselytizers too, carrying a bible and dressed nice, then they ask for water or to use your bathroom so they can get in and case your place.
#30Best thing you can get is a couple IP network cameras and a computer to run Blue Iris (software). For a few hundred dollars, you can get video notification when someone comes to your door(s).
#31very few references to CCTV in here, my dad's place got broken into the day before the sale closed, likely by the previous owner. (bank repo).
He installed CCTV cams all over the property and hasn't had an issue since.
They are really very inexpensive, you can get a full set of 8 cameras at costco for under 1000$ us last time I looked, with a NVR. The hardest part is stringing the wires, so if you arent handy you may have to pay someone.
It goes without saying that you need to stream at least motion events to an offsite location however, as it is possible a burglar could just take your recordings.
The added benefit is you get recordings of every time you wipe out shoveling the drive way, or when the purolator man throws your package at the door and runs away instead of placing it down like a non-savage.
#32A nice place in a rural area, no close neighbors, and a short driveway. Pay attention to a strange vehicle driving by at different hours. Get a camera, put it on your front door, they will generally knock first. Do not keep valuables in a portable safe. Good luck.
#33Not a burglar, but one night we came home late, garage had been egged. Cops promised to step up patrols that night. Next morning wake up and 4 houses broken into, stolen car dumped, and one stolen from the house next to us, all within 10 houses of us....
First off - way to go on stepping up patrols officer...
But we also found other neighbors had been egged, turned out they came through at 11pmish, egged houses that had dogs to mark them I guess????? Came back at 2am and robbed the non-egged houses...
#34For kids or whatever that are alone and someone is knocking on the door, what I always did if they looked legit (as well as their vehicle) and my parents were actually expecting someone at some point, when they asked if anyone was home I'd say that my dad was in a conference call. It implies that an adult is home, as well as on the phone with other people, and gives a reason why they otherwise wouldn't be disturbed.
#35Don't leave empty boxes from high end electronics on the curb outside your house. People tend to do this right after the holidays. Put that in your car and throw it out somewhere else, like the local recycling center. Any burglar casing your neighborhood will see that and know without even coming near your house and looking suspicious that you just got a bunch of valuable stuff just ready to be taken.
#36BBC had a show called Beat the Burglar, where they had security experts and former burglars rob people houses and give advise on how to improve security.
Keys being in reachable distance of letter box/pet door was one and lot of time they advised spikey hedges in areas where people might jump over fences.
#37Open garages. Unlocked doors. Doggy doors. I was a small kid that was able to fit through a dog door, and probably had stolen the most valuable items right out of the garage. Leaving your keys in your unlocked car. Stacked newspapers. Dogs are the best deterrent; the louder the better.
#38If you're moving into a newly built complex, CHANGE THE LOCKS. Just over a year ago, my housemate and his girlfriend came back to our place to find that laptops and jewellry had been nicked, and there was no sign of forced entry - also we live in South Africa, so doors are always locked.
Turns out the builders were cheap, and used the same three types of locks for the front doors. Strongly suspect that ex-employees of the company did a short term rental of a unit (three months probably) and just took notes of everyone's comings and goings. Then just wander to a unit, try one of the three keys and then casually stroll out with a laptop bag stuffed with goodies. We weren't the only unit to be hit, and the HOA only sent out a notice to be vigilant after I spoke to the niece of one of the people who were on the board.
#39Drive through your neighborhood during daytime, late afternoon and nighttime hours. Do the neighbors even look out of their windows at me? Do they notice that a stranger is slowly cruising through their neighborhood? Are there people working on their lawns, walking the dogs, kids out playing? How are the houses physically secured? Do they have fences, gates, dogs, etc? Are the garages open with no garage doors? Can I see what's inside? Tools, fancy cars, motorcyles, a door that leads INTO the main house via the garage? The best neighborhoods are the ones that have neighbors who do not look out for each other. The ones where you can drive through and no one gives a rat's ass that you are coming or going. Elderly neighbors are a plus, too. Also-- is the neighborhood located near major freeways, onramps? Looking for escape routes should the cops come. Is there signage/stickers stating that the houses have alarms? Motion sensing lights?
#40Obligatory "not a burglar", but my aunt's house was burgled three times, twice while I lived there. One sign is: your pets acting weird. The day my aunt left out of town, my cousins came to pick me and my sister up and her dog would NOT come into the house. He ran outside and hid under a bush. We suspect the burglar was either inside the house at the time (there were many hiding spots), or around the corner of the house, hiding.
Either way, next day my sister and I get home from school and the cops and one of my other cousins are there because the neighbor noticed the front door was open.
#41No (ex) burglar, but this past summer when my parents were on holiday, we were staying at their house while we remodeled our own kitchen. One morning I found some dust/sand on the windowsill inside the windows at the front of the house, but didn't think much of it ('what the have our weird cats done this time?'). Cleaned it up a bit and went about my day.
When my parents came home from their holiday a week later, they called me saying that they had found the shutting mechanism at the top window screwed loose, so it could open all the way. They also found more dirt in the windowsill (apparently I didn't clean it all) and said it looked like a footprint. Nothing was stolen, but we think someone came into the house but had to run because they heard something (my brothers are often home but upstairs, so it may have looked like no one was there).
When I went to my parents next, I checked out the window and found that the outside windowsill had a white cross in chalk on it. I assume this was a sign to other burglars for something?
Anyway, we got lucky.
#42if you get home and your garage door opener doesn't work, there is a chance you are in the process of being robbed or were just robbed. burglars will pull that cable in the garage so the garage door doesn't work that way they have more time to get away if you come home while they are still there
#43Sorry not a burglar, but I have some info to share.
I used to live alone in a small bungalow in Central Phoenix. My house was broken into TWICE while I was home and in the afternoon even. Both times, my dog alerted me by her low, guttural growl and then some loud, violent barks. I'd never heard anything like that out of a dog. She knew the difference between a visitor getting ready to knock, and someone working on the door itself.
Thank goodness for that fearless little Bichon.
I once owned a house that had been built in 1950 by a civil engineer who ended up with a debilitating condition which eventually created a situation requiring a wheelchair, and then eventually he was bedridden. He decided he needed to make sure he knew when someone was in the house. So he had a system installed which consisted of a bunch of small areas with wires beneath the carpet. There was a toggle switch on the wall near each area which they would switch on every night, and if walked on, a loud buzz would sound throughout the house. We couldn't figure out what the toggles were for but didn't worry too much about it. But when we pulled up the carpet and found the wires, my spouse started doing research and figured it out.
#44If you live in the snowbelt, check for tracks and shoe prints.
#45Also not a burglar but my parents house got broken into a few years ago because they had a big Douglas fir tree on the lawn which blocked the view of the front door from the street.
The robbers knocked on the door around 10 on a weekday and when no one answered they busted the door jamb.
#46A lot of burglars that break in threw a window will throw a rock at the window and break it and then wait while hidden for about an hour. If nothing happens, then they go in.
#47Not a burglar, but grew up as the "rich" family in a rough area, we were burgled several times.
I noticed that most burglars are not exactly intelligent. It is a high risk occupation that does not pay well, don't expect the best and brightest to do it.
If you look carefully you'll see things being tampered with. Your gate will be opened and not shut, random extra trash for no reason, that's them casing the place checking to see if there's anything visible. They also like to shift things to see if they can create a blindspot to break in.
Some things you can do to prevent it, basically the things I wish my parents did when I was growing up.
Your best bet is just to slow them down. Make it faster for them to target someone else and they will.
There are window coatings that resist breakage, if you live in a high risk area get these.
Dual pane windows. Only slows them down but they're looking for quick in and out.
Window locks. Sure they seem like stupid little whatevers, but they slow down entry.
Any recessed doors should have security screens.
Be friends with your neighbors. They are the most likely to be the burglars, you don't rob friends, and if there is an issue a friend is more likely to interrupt.
Keep clear visibility to your windows from the street. Windows that are not visible from the street are where they will break in.
Keep garbage cans away from windows.
Keep expensive objects out of windows.
If someone is a known thief don't invite them to move in. Yeah that's probably the biggest problem my family had.
Really anything you can do to make the burglars more visible or to slow them down deters them.
#48Double pane windows. Bitch to smash with anything short of a sledgehammer.
#49Being gone at set times paints a target on your back. If you're casing a joint and it's always empty on Sundays at 10 AM you know exactly when to strike.
As for things that deter burglars, if someone wants in, they're going to get in. Cameras and Security alarms can scare people off from an attempt or upon trying to enter, but it's not a guarantee. My advice is to keep a TV or Radio playing when you're away from home. If you can hear it from outside of the place, it will be difficult to establish if someone is inside or not. People don't generally leave them on while they're away.
#50My friends used to break into houses until they tried drunk and got caught. They would keep an eye on a house and note things down like what times cars were there, when lights were on and off. Just for patterns. When they were positive no one was there, they would do the "does she live here" test. They would send a girlfriend to knock. No answer would mean it's a go, if someone did answer the girl would just ask if a random girl lived there and apologized when told they didn't. Then it would be called off.
#51There was an old show on Discovery or A&E called 'To Catch A Thief' where 2 ex-B&E guys would get an owerns permission to break in to the house in the future. Then they would do it and video it and give security improvements. Excellent watch if you can find it. One of the biggest things was people being too lazy to lock their doors or thinking they could hide their valuables (a good theif can completely trash a house in 10 min and find everything of value).
#52My mom's house had been broken into four times. Then she glued shards of glass on the wall surrounding her garden, and it stopped.
#53I look at home security as concentric rings of defense. Outer: •Don't peacock, keep a low profile • Don't let people know you're out of town except trusted neighbors who'll pick up the paper. Stop the mail, make the house look lived in via timers, radio or tv. • Get an alarm and put up stickers everywhere, install cameras if possible • Lock your doors at all time, even when home, use deadbolts and door bars • Motion detector security lights • Security fence. Locked. • Random work schedule, come home for lunch or work from home on occasion
Inner: • Big dog(or little yappy bastard) I wish you could have seen the low running happen when a canvasser rang the bell and our Neopolitan mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux launched themselves at the window • Gun safe bolted to the slab and hidden in a dead bolted closet • Insurance to replace what gets taken
So: Nothing to see here>hard to get in>dog to make em think>safe if they're in the house>insurance if all else fails