How to Burglar-Proof Your Home—According to the Experts

burglar with crowbar trying break the door to enter the house
How to Burglar-Proof Your HomeWitthaya Prasongsin - Getty Images

There's nothing quite like hearing news stories that a convicted murderer escaped prison and is on the loose to make you reevaluate your home security measures. Authorities in Pennsylvania (with major help from a police dog!) took an escapee into custody on Wednesday in Chester County. But the killer had been on the lam for a couple of weeks and, at one point, broke into a resident’s garage and stole a rifle, according to news reports.

While you're more likely to see drama to that extent unfold in a movie than IRL, run-of-the-mill burglaries are a somewhat common occurrence. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's crime database, there were 583,178 burglaries in the United States 2021, the most recent year statistics are available.

A couple of things to know about burglaries: They often happen through back doors, and homes of older people are frequently targeted because seniors tend to have more valuables and medications in their homes, says Kirk MacDowell, home security expert at Batten Safe, a marketplace with home security solutions.

Luckily, there are measures you can take to make your home less attractive to burglars. Here are six recommendations from security experts to help you stay off the evening news.

Have Good Lighting

illuminated outdoor porch light sconce fixture
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Bad actors hate light and prefer darkness to conceal their crimes, says James Kerr, the founder and CEO of Boss Security Screens. Use outdoor lighting to make everything around your home visible, even in the middle of the night, he suggests. Motion-sensing lights near doors and windows can also deter criminals without wasting energy.

Keep Your Greenery Trimmed

front door
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Eliminate hiding spots by making sure that your trees and bushes are well-trimmed, Kerr suggests. That way, your neighbors and anyone from the road can see what’s going on should a burglar be creeping around in your yard.

Lock ALL Your Doors

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It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure all of your doors and windows are locked—and that means all of them, including doors that lead into your garage, doors to freestanding sheds, pool houses, guest houses, and so on. You'd be surprised how many people skip this vital step.

"The first floor bathroom window, for example, is usually unlocked," Kerr says. "We often see burglars on surveillance video quietly walking around the home, testing doors and windows, trying to find one that's unlocked."

Pause Deliveries if You’re Out of Town

golden retriever dog sitting at front door holding newspaper
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Request that the post office put a hold on delivering your mail while you are away, pause any newspapers, and ask your neighbors to pick up any packages that are stacking up on your porch, suggests MacDowell.

"It's common for burglars to look in mailboxes," he says. "If they look in your mailbox and can see three to four days of mail or see packages on your doorstep, it's a telltale sign that someone is out of town and away from their home."

Make it Look Like Someone is Home

cottage in forest in the evening
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Keep the yard tidy, leave some lights on, and you might even want to play music while you're out, Kerr says. Homes that look occupied are far less enticing to criminals.

Invest in Security Cameras, Alarms, and Signs
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If their goal is just to rob a house, most burglars don't want to confront someone in the home, MacDowell says. They also tend to be wary of cameras and alarm system signs in front of the home that let them know they are being monitored, he says. No need to choose between cameras, alarms, and signs—opt for all of the above.

When you're burglar-proofing your home, you want to have a security system that has multiple layers of security. Some alarm systems use motion sensors that only detect movement near the front and back doors of a home, he explains.

"This can cause an issue because it will not detect a burglar coming in through the window—it would only detect them once they create motion within the house," he says. "Many burglars are aware of these systems and will use them to their advantage."

Look for newer alarm systems that combine cameras, video, and alarms and can help signal motion near your windows, doors and any other points of entry into your home. Or, if you already have the old type of alarm, it might be time for an update.

Keep in mind that the faster you can detect someone trying to break into your home, the sooner they're deterred, MacDonald says. You won't need to wait for that trusty police dog after all!

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