No one wants to return to their home and find that it’s been picked apart by strangers. Sadly, there are typically more than one million burglaries in the U.S. every year, and in 2019, the total amount lost from victims of burglary offenses was estimated to be $3 billion, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Thieves are eager to get ahold of your valuables, but that doesn’t mean they’ll break into just any house—instead, they look for easy targets. And if your house is properly secured, they’ll probably just move onto the next. But even if you think you’re properly protecting your home from burglars, there may be crucial steps you’re missing. Read on to discover what home safety tips experts say most people tend to forget.
If you know you’re going to be away from your home for an extended period of time, don’t allow deliveries to pile up outside. “The accumulation of post in your mailbox or newspapers in your driveway is clear evidence of inactivity in your home,” the experts at ADT say. “That’s exactly what opportunistic burglars look out for.”
According to the security company, this includes packages left outside as well. To avoid this, you can either ask someone you know to collect and hold onto your deliveries until you get home, or you can request for your mail not to be delivered. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offers a Hold Mail option, which allows customers who are going to be away from their home to request that their mail is held safely at their local post office until they return.
Many people assume that installing fences and gates will strengthen the privacy and security of their home. But Laurice Constantine, a home expert and founder of Casadar, warns that this is not always the case. Instead, she cautions that fences and gates actually “give burglars places to hide and cover” when snooping around your home. “A burglar may break into your house unnoticed if you give them too much privacy,” Constantine explains.
In the same vein, your landscaping decisions “might influence how welcoming your home is to people with bad intentions,” according to Constantine. The expert says that brushes and trees that line the side of your house offer the same type of cover that fences and gates do. “Correct this oversight by keeping low-growing or thin-shrubs close to the house while keeping taller, denser plants farther away,” Constantine recommends.
Your garage is a “common point of entry for burglars,” warns Joshua Haley, a home expert and founder of Moving Astute. According to Haley, keeping your garage door shut and locked is a simple step you can take to deter criminals from trying to gain access to your home.
“automated garage door locks are very secure and will engage with just a touch of the button,” says Edward Flower, the managing director of Hollington Doors Ltd, a door company that specializes in garage doors. “It is a simple job and reasonable to upgrade.”
This may seem like the most obvious step in protecting your home from burglars, but Yasmin Purnell with home insurance provider Surewise says a “a shocking number of people don’t actually take the time to secure their doors and windows” when they leave the house.
“Burglars, by and large, are looking for an easy target to hit,” Purnell explains. “An unlocked window or door rapidly increases your chances of having your home [broken] into—even if you don’t think it’s obvious the window is open from the outside.”
It’s not only a necessary safety step for when you’re outside of the home either. According to Haley, it’s also important that you make sure all your doors and windows are locked even when you’re there. “People often think that if they’re home, there’s no way a burglar would try to break in, but that’s not always the case,” he warns. “If a burglar knows you’re home and they think they can get in without being seen, they’ll try.”
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One thing “many people underestimate when protecting their home from break-ins is the power of a deterrent,” Purnell says. According to the home expert, video security cameras are a big example of this. “A burglar is far less likely to attempt to break in to your home if there’s a high likelihood their actions will be caught on camera, so many will avoid homes where a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera, or even a digital doorbell, can be seen,” she explains.
If even the cheapest option is out of your budget, you could still achieve your intended goal with something that is not real or doesn’t actually work. “Even installing a CCTV camera that is simply there for show can deter a burglar in that split-second decision,” Purnell explains. “If you’re going for this option, just be sure that it’s not obvious that your camera isn’t actually operating, and be aware that if someone does break in to your home, you won’t have any video evidence of them doing so.”