Every 18 seconds in the United States a burglary occurs. In 2017, 1.4 million burglaries cost property owners $3.4 billion in losses. The average burglary lasts ten minutes or less, and nearly 30% of the time the criminal enters the property through an unlocked door or window.
Thankfully, there are things you can do today to enhance your home security.
We’ll look at twelve simple steps you can take as soon as you finish reading this article to make your home more secure. By using these techniques, you’ll be ready to better protect your home from burglary and harm.
Do These 13 Things Today To Make Your Home Less Inviting To Burglars
1. Lock the Doors
Your home has a lock on every exterior door. Some doors may also have a deadbolt lock. The simplest thing you can do right now to improve home security is
If you have single cylinder deadbolt locks, give the knob a turn and lock those as well to protect your home. Our house has glass near the doors so we utilize double cylinder deadbolts, meaning our locks require a key on both sides. We keep a key near our doors, but well hidden.
Don't forget about locking your sliding glass doors, too! Whether it's a sliding door in your backyard or a sliding door on the second floor that leads out to a balcony, they should be locked. (Criminals can and will use a ladder to climb on to a balcony to enter a house.)
Consider using a PVC pipe in track to secure your sliding door. This will force criminals to break through the glass, which can give you an audible alert and more time to prepare.
Using safety and security window film on your sliding doors is also a great idea. The film will make it more difficult for a criminal to break into your home.
2. Lock the Windows
Window security is probably one of the most important aspects of home security that often gets overlooked. Most windows are pretty easy to get in. If the supplied latch is not locked, it’s a simple matter of sliding the window open to gain access. Some sliding windows can be tipped enough, even when latched, to remove them from their tracks.
The simple solution to protect your home is to make sure the windows are closed and latched. To prevent them from being tipped, place a length of dowel or 1×2” board in the bottom track. It should fit snugly so the window cannot be tipped. This simple window security trick is cheap, easy, and incredibly effective.
We also utilize inexpensive sliding window locks on our window frames to keep the window from moving at all. These window security devices keep a window from opening and thus, keeping would-be burglars out.
Tip: Carry a couple in your luggage; if you end up on a low floor, it gives you some added piece-of-mind. I found that most hotel window latches do not function at all. This is a simple way to make your room a bit more secure.
3. Secure Your Balconies
Criminals will climb up balconies if they spot an easy way to enter your home via your balcony. I
As a result, it's vital that you secure all of your windows and doors that can be accessed from your balcony.
Don't keep valuables on your balcony as this can attract the attention of criminals. Put anything of value away. Also, if you keep your balcony doors open, be aware that you are leaving yourself vulnerable.
4. Turn on the Outside Lights
Take a quick walk around the outside of your house and check your yard and house lights. Replace any bulbs that are burned out. Be sure the lights come on when you walk in front of them if they have motion sensors. Adjust the sensors if needed to protect your home.
If you're thinking about lights with motion sensors, there are many options. Here are some that we recommend:
- Amico LED Security Light
- ZxLight LED Light Outdoor/Waterproof
- Glorious-Lite (2 and 3 light configurations)
- Sansi LED Security Motion Outdoor Sensor Lights
- Topele JSL-03W LED Outdoor Light
If you do not have motion sensor lights, just turn them on and leave them on. This way you will never forget to turn the lights on at night. If you are away during the day or on a trip, the lights are always on and it becomes harder for a criminal to determine if you are home or not.
5. Put Your Stuff Away
While you are out checking the lights, take a look around the yard. Do you have gardening supplies or tools laying around? Do your kids have toys that are not put away? Do you have tools like ladders or step-stools that are stored outside?
All of these things are easy targets for thieves. Get in the habit of storing your outside tools and appliances in the garage or a shed. If you don’t have room for a ladder indoors, lock it up somehow. Leaving it accessible could be a home security threat as it could become a burglar’s tool to get to the lesser-protected second level.
If you don’t have room in the garage with the car parked inside, park the car outdoors and secure your belongings. A car in the driveway usually signals that someone is home and can be a deterrent for those targeting your home.
6. Keep the Garage Door Closed
This is just like locking your entrance doors. Your garage door is huge and usually faces the street. If you leave it open, everyone can see your lawn mower, tool boxes, washer and dryer, maybe your gun safe, and your fancy new barbecue.
These are all appealing targets for a burglar and if the door is open, it’s a simple matter of walking in and taking your stuff. Get the family in the habit of closing the door and enhancing your home security.
Your can also hang a tarp inside the garage, so when you do open the door there is still a visual barrier. Cut a slit in the middle or to one side to allow you to get the lawn mower out or the kids to get their bikes out easily. Then shut the door.
We have a tarp hanging inside the back door of our barn where the tractor parks. We have some shifty neighbors on that end of our property and I don’t want them to see all the tools, building supplies, and my tractor. (FYI…if you live in a rural area, tractors are one of the most commonly stolen items). When I open the door to access my equipment, the tarp blocks the view to the inside of the barn.
7. Lock the Garage Door
Again this sounds simple, but many times the doors are not locked and can’t protect your home from invaders. If you have a door opener installed this provides some level of protection. However, it is not uncommon for someone to steal the remote opener from your car and then use it to gain access, bypassing your normal home security measures. There are also code scanners available that let a thief determine your remote opener code and then program a universal remote to open your garage door.
A simple solution, use the disconnect on the opener so the door cannot be opened remotely. Use the slider locks on the garage door so the door cannot be pushed up. Finally, if you are leaving town for a few days, protect your home by putting a simple C-clamp on the door rail right above one of the rollers. This will jam halt the door and no one is going to open your garage door no matter what they try.
8. Trim the Shrubbery
While you are out checking on your lights and cleaning up the yard, take a look at the shrubbery and landscaping near the house. Do you have overgrown plants that would allow an intruder to hide while trying to open a window or door? Do your plants create shadows or dark areas near entrances that may give a burglar more time to gain access?
If so, get out the loppers and pruners and give those shrubs a makeover. Trim them back or remove them so as not to give the burglar an advantage.
If you want to have some nice landscaping around the house consider planting roses or some other easily pruned but thorny plants under first story windows. This natural home security defense makes it much more uncomfortable for someone to try to access those windows. Not something you can necessarily do today, but something you can plan and take action on later.
9. Turn on the Security System
If you have a security system installed, use it to protect your home! Only 27% of homeowners turn on their system when they go to bed! You’ve invested good money in a system and you likely pay a monthly service charge. Why would you not turn it on to provide an extra layer of protection for your home?
Learn to use the features that will allow you to have the system active while you are at home as well. This will alert you to doors or windows being opened while working inside your house. Keep the remote key fob near you at all times so you can hit the panic button if needed.
Note: Most burglaries take place between 10am and 3pm – when you are usually away at your job. If you work from home or are home for some other reason, it is nice to be able to hit the alarm if an intruder enters your home.
10. Situational Awareness – Change Up Your Day
This is simply being aware of what’s happening around you, around your house and around the neighborhood. Check out this article for a more in-depth look at Situational Awareness: 14 Ways to Improve Your Situational Awareness.
If you work away from home, change the times you leave the house and return each day. Just enough to throw off someone who may be watching your place and learning your habits.
Drive to work by a different route every few days. Change your return route home as well.
Take note of folks you don’t recognize hanging around the neighborhood or cars that are parked where they shouldn’t be.
Pay attention to any cars that seem to follow you home from work or the store. If you see the same car multiple times it could be someone trying to learn your routes and schedules.
11. Pay Attention To Your Garbage
Try not to pile boxes at the curb that indicate you have a new flat screen TV or XBOX or computer. That box is just an advertisement for a burglar to come and take your fancy new toy.
Flatten the boxes and take them to the recycling center, or cut them up and dispose of them bit by bit.
At our house, any box with surfaces large enough to hang targets on gets cut up and stacked in the target box in the barn. That way I get multiple uses from the box and no one knows what I may have purchased.
Consider partnering with a few neighbors and getting a dumpster instead of everyone having separate garbage containers. The dumpster service is usually cheaper and you can more easily secure the garbage of several families out of sight.
12. Watch Your Mail
When leaving for more than a couple days make arrangements to have a hold placed on your mail or have someone pick it up for you. Stop your daily newspaper delivery as well. A stuffed mailbox and a pile of papers in front of the house are a sure sign that no one is home.
Consider securing a post office box at a local mail store for all your paper correspondence. That way nothing comes to your home address and any packages are delivered remotely.
No one can access your mail but you. And no delivery drivers come to your house dropping off the big box from Amazon. A separate mailing address is an added layer of security not only physically but also helps protect you from identity theft.
13. Remove Your Bumper Stickers
It’s cool to see stickers on cars and trucks that tell you a little bit about the folks behind the wheel. However, now I know about the person behind the wheel.
The Vortex sticker or Glock Perfection sticker tells me a gun owner is driving that car. More than likely the driver is armed. For a burglar, it probably means there are more guns at their home. Now that truck can be followed and the homeowner patterned for a potential break in.
I’m a proud Life Member of the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International. Guess what? My stickers are coming off my Yukon. Why? They are a blatant signal that the person who drives that Yukon likely has firearms, optics and other hunting and outdoor gear ripe for the picking.
Keep your memberships, political beliefs and brand loyalty to yourself, not on the back window of your truck.
Additional Home Security Measures – More Time, Money, and Planning Required
Install A Home Security System
Above we discussed actually turning on the system if you already have one. If not, now is the time to start shopping and comparing systems that will work for your home and family. This is an item you need to plan and budget for. Remember, on average every burglary costs homeowners $2251 in losses. A security system is a bargain if it helps protect you from a break-in and all the headache that comes with it.
Upgrade Exterior Doors
If you have older doors or doors with glass panels, you should consider upgrading to exterior solid core door wooden doors or steel doors. A hardened door system will make a burglar search for an easier home to access. Remember to install a new lockset and deadbolt when you upgrade your doors.
Install a Door Reinforcement Strike Plate
We have installed these simple upgrades on every home we have lived in because it helps protect your home in one of the most important ways. Door reinforcers, like Door Armor Max, reinforce the entire door edge and locking components on your door in addition to providing extra long lag screws to secure your hinges to the house frame, not just the door frame.
The home security device may not keep someone out indefinitely, but it will prevent a door and frame from being kicked in and easily defeated.
Video Cameras and Recording Devices
Only 13% of burglaries result in a conviction. With the introduction of better and more affordable video surveillance, convictionsd are beginning to rise.
Installing cameras near entrances or gates to your property create an invisible boundary that alerts you when anyone enters your property. These modern home security devices can give you an edge by alerting you before you hear someone trying to jimmy a lock or pry open a window.
The new video doorbell devices allow you to see who is at your door and can alert you via smartphone if someone is at your home while you are away.
Here are a couple of video camera systems we really like:
Lights and Sound On Timers
When you are going away set lights in the main areas of your home on timers. Program the lights so they come on and go off about the normal time you usually get up and go to bed when you are at home.
We leave a timer with a random on/off program on each side of our house all the time. That way, a light is coming on or going off all the time, every day. For someone watching they don’t know if someone inside is controlling the lights or not.
You can also program a radio or TV to be on during certain hours to provide noise from inside the home. Turn the volume up so it can be heard from outside a door or window.
Here are a few options to consider:
Safes For Your Valuables
Whether you have firearms in your home or not, a safe is a good idea.
Everyone has important documents such as passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and insurance policies. Having at least a fireproof document safe to keep all these items it makes a lot of sense.
If you have to evacuate because of a wildfire or flood you can easily grab your document box and have everything you need in one place.
For those homeowners with firearms, I believe a well-made gun safe is absolutely necessary. When I was growing up, mostly everyone with guns had a cool, glass-doored gun cabinet in the living room or basement. I loved seeing the guns when visiting friends and family. Today, that cool display is an invitation to be robbed.
A safe not only hides firearms visually, but also protects firearms and other valuables from fire, floods, and thieves. A good safe will have room to keep your documents safe, and maybe some extra cash and any valuable watches or jewelry. Camera gear and computers can also be stored in your safe when not being used.
Here’s a suggestion for those of you thinking about buying a safe; get the biggest one you can afford. Your collection of firearms will grow. You will accumulate other valuable items that should be stored securely.
From personal experience, bigger safes are better. I have a little tiny safe in the bedroom, the first one we purchased. I have my current safe, stuffed to capacity in the garage. I have a new safe still in the box and on the pallet waiting to be moved to the garage and secured because I have outgrown the current safe. My plan is for the new safe to store firearms only. The current safe will store all important documents, jewelry, cameras and optics, computers and backups, and some ammo.
A well-constructed, properly mounted safe should keep your prized possessions out of the hands of burglars. Here are a few we recommend:
- SecureIt Gun Storage
- Vaultek VTi Full Size Biometric Handgun Smart Safe
- Steelwater Heavy Duty Gun Safe
Get a Dog
Dogs are awesome. Even if you don’t have a big, intimidating watchdog, a dog is a valuable early warning system for your home. Man’s best friend is also one of man’s best home security assets.
Often, even the most mild-mannered dogs will bark when a stranger comes to the door or a car pulls in the drive. Having that few extra moments can alert you to something not right happening at your house.
I have two beagles who are the sweetest dogs ever. One barks all the time and sounds way bigger than he is. The other rarely barks, but when he does, I know to pay attention. When they are in the house and they start barking, I take note and begin a scan outdoors around my home.
My neighbor has a dog that barks at every car on the driveway that is new to the neighborhood. When his dog sounds off I pay attention because that car is headed toward my house.
For a burglar, a dog means an early warning system as well. The dog’s owners now know something is up. The burglar also doesn’t know if the dog is big, mean, friendly or what and that may be enough to send them down the road.
Dogs are not an inexpensive addition to your home. You need proper fencing, bedding, food, vet care and time to be a responsible dog owner.
A “Beware of Dog” sign on a fence is a wonderful deterrent. We also have signs warning people not to open gates because dogs may be out of kennel.
Reinforced Window Film
3M and Hohofilm make some amazing window film treatments. Several types not only help maintain your home’s temperature and make it hard to look in from the outside, they also reinforce the glass so it does not shatter when something like a bat or rock impacts the glass.
There is also a method to fasten the glass to the window frame so it is nearly impossible to gain access to a home by breaking the window. Some film is even rated to absorb impact from small arms fire.
Window films are not cheap, but may be another layer of home security protection to consider when you have successfully implemented some of the other tactics on this list.
Neighbors Are Important
Last week I attended the Northwest Preparedness Expo. One of the speakers made a profound statement that really stuck with me.
“You can like your neighbors and help out with neighborhood cleanups and such, but you don’t have to – and maybe shouldn’t – trust them.”
Her point was that you don’t just share everything about your travels, belongings, groups you belong to with your neighbor just because you’re neighbors.
Now, with that being said, it pays to get to know the folks who live around you. Offer to host the National Night Out and get to know folks and let them know you are serious about keeping your home and neighborhood safe. Invite a local police officer or sheriff’s deputy to share ways to keep your homes safe and how to organize a Neighborhood Watch program.
These types of activities can serve two purposes. First, you get to know your neighbors and which ones are also concerned with neighborhood security. Those who show up will likely be good resources to help keep an eye out for anything unusual. Second, you have publicly put on notice that people are watching, communicating and working together to keep their homes safe.
It pays to develop a relationship with at least one neighbor that you can trust to watch your home while you are away and that you can call on if you need immediate help.
We have a neighbor we have shared some flooding issues with and that we call and let know when we will be gone. Sometimes we have a niece house-sit and take care of the dogs. We always let our neighbor know someone else will be at the house and ask if they will assist her if she needs help.
Your Personal Security and Social Media
Social media is a blessing and a curse. We can keep in touch with friends and family nearly instantaneously. But remember, when you post a selfie on the beach in Hawaii, it’s not just your friends and family who see you with a tall drink in your hand getting a tan. Everyone you have invited to be a ‘friend’ can see you are not at home.
Your social media updates about your vacation just became an instant advertisement to “come rob me, I’m not at home and won’t be until next week.”
Social media is hacked constantly, so whatever you decide to post is rarely very secure.
Bottom line, don’t post anything about travel for work or pleasure. Don’t post pictures while you are away from home. You can let everyone know about your trip when you return.
Firearms For Home Defense
An entire book could be written about which firearms are best for home defense. The short answer is the best gun for defense is the one you are most comfortable with.
One of the things that deter burglars from entering a home is the possibility that someone is inside. If someone’s at home, that means there could be someone on the other side of the door with a gun ready to defend that home.
My personal preference is to just strap on my normal carry gun when I get ready for the day. I have a home office so I have the freedom to carry all the time. If I am not carrying my gun in and around the house, it is nearby on a desk, a chair, or table where I can access it very quickly.
At night my handgun goes in a Hill People Gear Kit Bag with my SureFire G2X flashlight, an extra magazine, and the keys to my deadbolt locks. The bag sits right beside the bed. If I have to take the dogs out or if something goes bump in the night, I can quickly put the kit bag on and determine what is going on.
We also keep a small gun safe in the corner of the bedroom with a fully kitted up AR-15 with a red-dot sight and a Surefire light mounted to it as well as an extra 30-round magazine. Occasionally, I keep a handgun with a Streamlight TLR-1 light mounted in the safe as well.
A firearm may not keep someone from breaking into your home, but it may very well protect you and your family or bring a burglary to a screeching halt. You must decide if having a firearm or firearms is right for you. If you choose to keep guns for home defense, be sure to get proper training and practice regularly. I absolutely believe you need to invest in a quality safe, or safes, depending on your collection to keep your guns safe and out of the hands of criminals.
Check out the various platforms for firearms-mounted lights as well. The super bright LED lights today can potentially disorient a burglar and give you the upper hand. Just remember, if the light is mounted to your gun, you must point the gun at the bad guy to use the light.
I prefer to use a separate flashlight most of the time. If you do choose a flashlight, be sure to practice with the light and the gun of your choice. One-handed shooting in the dark is not as easy as it looks on TV.
With regards to the light on my carbine; I figure if it has come down to me grabbing a rifle, the rifle is going to likely be pointed at bad guy anyway. May as well light them up and give them one last chance to leave or give up.
Take Action Now To Secure Your Home
Your home is likely your most valuable physical asset. Your family depends on the home to keep them safe. Start right now by taking action on some of the suggestions above to make your home a less inviting target for criminals.
When you finish reading this article grab a notebook and pencil and take a walk through and around your home. Make a list of the things you are already doing to secure your home. Next, make a list of things you can do right now to start improving your home security.
The simple things listed at the beginning of this article can be done today. It is a simple matter of paying attention and creating habits that provide better security.
Once the easy things are done, prioritize the items you would like to buy, install, or upgrade to make your home even more secure for your family.
Tell us about your home security and the things you do to keep your family safe in the comments below!