Home security isn’t a new phenomenon. People have always wanted to protect themselves, their families, and their belongings, however, as criminals have become more sophisticated, so have home security measures.
A castle and moat were once the height of what was needed to keep a home safe, but gunpowder and ingenuity took care of these defenses pretty swiftly. Today, the threat of a cannon attack is low, but screwdrivers, hammers, and crowbars have taken their place as the tools of choice for forcible entry.
According to FBI statistics there are more than 1.5 million break-ins reported every year in the US. This amounts to one break in every 15 seconds. As a homeowner, it’s something to be concerned about, especially as only 17% have a security system installed.
The good news is that burglaries are down 30% since 2007, largely in part to online banking (less money kept at home) and improvements in home security systems.
The cost of a break-in
The average burglary costs the homeowner $2,361 in stolen goods. This doesn’t include the cost of refitting doors, windows, or anything else that might be damaged during a home invasion.
With around 4 million uninsured homes in the U.S., this cost could be catastrophic for homeowners.
Even though the number of Americans with bank accounts has risen, 43% of Americans are still keeping some form of savings at home. Much of this is driven by a lack of trust in banks since the 2008 crash.
Aside from monetary damage, one-third of all residential assaults are caused by robberies. Only 10% of robbers carry a firearm, so the chances of being robbed by gun carrying criminal might be low, but it’s still there.
How to deter burglars
On average, burglars spend 60 seconds trying to break in to a house, any longer and they risk being seen. If they do get inside, they will usually spend 8-10 minutes searching for valuables.
The first line of defense for homeowners is to make their house look unattractive to potential thieves. Houses with a security system are 33% less likely to be broken into with a home security system.
“Home security system” is a broad term that covers many different defenses, but here are some of the most effective ones that can be employed -- with the stats to back them up.
Install a home security system
According to a study by UNC Charlotte, 83% of burglars check to see if there is an alarm, and 60% look for a different target if there is one present. So even without the alarm sounding, an alarm system can protect a home. Most of these systems have a sensor on doors and windows that go off if the sensor is activated. Even simple systems that cause an alarm to go off can be enough of a deterrent to would-be burglars.
Don’t overlook the security camera
A study from Rutgers School of Criminal Justice found that the presence of security cameras reduced suspicious detections by 92% after 5 weeks. This means that the mere presence of the camera deterred crime, so it’s paramount that the camera be visible as well as in a location where burglars would gain access.
The other advantage of home security cameras is that they aid in the conviction of burglars. High quality video can aid police in identifying and finding criminals. There are also remote video systems which allows users to see a live stream of what’s happening in their house on their phones. This can allow the homeowner to call the authorities and have them catch the burglar in the act.
Save power with motion sensors
A standard 1080p HD recording will fill up 1 Terabyte of space every two weeks. Home CCTV systems add an extra layer of safety but recording 24/7 can become cumbersome. This is a huge amount of data to store and search through and this is where motion sensor cameras can be more useful.
Motion detection cameras only record when there is motion in the frame. This conserves memory and power, making them longer lasting and less cumbersome. They can also be calibrated for pets so they don’t set them off by wandering through the frame.
Deter potential break ins with indoor light timers
Convincing burglars that the house is occupied is a huge deterrent as 70% of burglaries happen when nobody is at home. Most burglars are opportunists and just want quick cash and don’t want confrontation. Another effective method of using a timer is to have one on your TV. A TV that turns on for an hour or two everyday will make a house seem more lived in and a less viable target.
Outdoor motion detecting lights
Only 12% of intruders plan their attacks, this option can have an effect on the opportunistic thief. If a house is in a particularly dark area, maybe somewhere rural or on a poorly lit street, then outdoor motion detecting lights could be an option. The theory is that a sudden beam of bright light would scare away any would-be intruder.
Put up gates and fences
Studies have shown that a house with an alarm system, motion lights, and a sturdy fence are 300% less likely to be broken into. Building a physical barrier can give great peace of mind to the homeowner and can act as a deterrent to break-ins. It’s important to be aware that although gates can be used to protect, some criminals interviewed said that they used high fences as cover for break-ins and that it indicated that the homeowner had something of value.
Improve neighborhood street lighting
A study found that improving street lighting decreased burglary by 20%. It also found that the cost of adding street lighting was less than the cost of damage caused by home invasions, making it a net gain for local authorities adding the lighting.
Although 65% of burglaries take place between 6am and 6pm, that still leaves 35% of burglaries potentially taking place under the veil of darkness. The presence of good street lighting can have an impact on burglaries, both in terms of actual break-ins and for burglars location scouting without being noticed.
Get to know your neighbors
According to a study by City Observatory, one-third of Americans don’t know their neighbors. Knowing who lives next door is crucial if a house does not have a monitored alarm system. An alarm is only useful if it notifies someone, and if it’s just making a noise neighbors are more likely to be annoyed than worried about your possessions.
Knowing your neighbors creates what is known as social cohesion , this sense of community has been shown to help create safer neighborhoods as people will look out for each other.
It’s also a good idea to ask a neighbor to park in an unoccupied driveway a few if the owners are away as burglars see an empty driveway as a clear sign that the house is empty.
Join or create a neighborhood watch
There have been many studies done on the effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch and in a study of 18 major studies on this topic they found that out of every 100 crimes, 26 crimes were prevented.
People who moved in and out frequently had less social cohesion and were less likely to look out for each other. As this is increasingly common, neighborhood watch has become increasingly common and now 40% of Americans live in an area with a neighborhood watch program. These community led projects also have the advantage of introducing neighbors to each other and creating closer communities and making it more difficult for people not from the community to break in unseen.
Get a dog
According to former burglars, the main deterrent to breaking into a house was a CCTV system, but a close second place was the presence of a dog. The type of dog also had an impact on whether or not criminals chose to proceed. The obvious type that was cited was large guard dogs. Think German Shepherd, Doberman and Pitbull types. The other type was the smaller “alert” dogs. These dogs basically act as an alarm and can notify neighbors if something is wrong.
Hire a pet-sitter
Burglars are 84% less likely to burgle a house if they believe it is occupied. This gives the homeowner peace of mind for the wellbeing on the family pet and their home. In contrast to what Home Alone would have us believe, winter is when homes are least likely to be burgled. In fact July and August are the most likely times, and this coincides with school holidays.
If homeowners are going on holidays and leaving their pet behind, they could consider a pet-sitter rather than a kennel for their pooch. Not only is this less stressful for the animal, but it also means that the house is occupied while they are away from home.
Stay silent on social
Nowadays, 84% of burglars are now using social media to find out if a target’s home will be empty. A recent revelation in the world of burglary is the use of social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Homeowners can avoid this method by taking a few simple precautions. Avoid posting about being away home until after the trip, don’t share photos of the inside of the house, and make sure your address isn’t visible on any social media.
Make sure you have strong doors and windows
In reality, 70% of burglars come through a door, either front, back or garage. The romantic image of an ingenious thief lowering themselves from the ceiling or using futuristic technology to cut a hole in a window is almost exclusive to Hollywood. The second highest entry point are first floor windows.
It’s notable that 95% of break-ins require some force, and burglars will attempt a break in for 60 seconds. If a door or windows offers huge resistance, a thief is likely to give up and move on.
Keep shrubbery low to increase visibility
According to a study by The U.S. Department of Justice, visibility is a more important factor to most burglars than which security measures are in place. If burglars feel that they are concealed, they will spend more time disarming an alarm, or breaking a door.
The reasons burglars don’t like spending more than one minute breaking into a house is the risk of being seen. As a homeowner, it’s important to do everything you can to give criminals the least amount of opportunities, and that includes visibility. This can be prevented by keeping hedges trimmed, trees low, and the view of the street unobstructed from the house’s main entry points.
Look into defensive landscaping
Defensive landscaping is the practice of using short, thorny bushes around windows, or areas where visibility can’t be improved. This is a proactive way to ensure that the most vulnerable access points have some protection, and The Crime Prevention website has a list of plants and shrubs that would create a good physical barrier.
Secure valuables in a safe
The most simple option is to have a safe. Homeowners need to avoid avoid having a freestanding safe, and they need to especially avoid keeping it in the master bedroom as this is the first place burglars look.
A hidden safe is the best option. Inaccessibility is crucial. Hidden wall safes offer the best protection, and there is a list of options to suit different homes. In general, the more expensive it is, the less likely to be stolen or broken into quickly.
Find a unique hiding place
Most people have jewelry and cash in their homes, however, 21% never hide their valuables and 37% of people leave their gadgets on when they leave home. Avoid leaving items out in plain sight, some form of hidden storage is ideal. The most common hiding places are the sock drawer, under the mattress and in the freezer so they should be avoided.
Fake bottomed drawers, false stairs and inside fake potted plants are all good hiding places where a burglar won’t bother looking. Also most burglars don’t bother with children’s rooms, so finding a secure place in a child’s room can be a good idea.
Consider smart home security
According to NextMarket, the U.S. smart security market will increase from nearly 3 million users in 2014 to over 22 million by 2020. Technology now makes it possible to control household appliances with an app - including home security systems. This projected growth is based on how integrated technology is into homes now with 39 million Americans already using a smart speaker, like the Amazon Alexa.
Adding security measures to this already integrated ecosystem is simple, and Americans are taking advantage of that to add in remote door locking, live camera feeds, and alarm notifications.
Don’t forget to protect your smart home
Cybersecurity is becoming a bigger and bigger issue with a hacker attack every 39 seconds which affects one in three Americans every year. The convenience of an interconnected smart home is obvious, but it does come with some potential issues.
With hackers potentially able to connect to people’s wireless network and monitor their activity, it opens up potential threats. A burglar could get access to a live camera stream, or be able to remotely turn off an alarm if they hacked into a smart home.To prevent this, homeowners can invest in a firewall to protect their network. Techadvisory recommends what is known as a “Cloud firewall”. This is a piece of hardware you will have in your house that works with software to create a barrier between you and cyber threats.