6 Tips to Burglar Proof Your Home

Early in the morning of January 18th, some local troublemakers tried to break into my house. They didn’t make off with anything, but they did manage to evade capture. Here’s what I learned from the process.

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Early in the morning of January 18th, some local troublemakers tried to break into my house.

As best as I can tell, there were three of them – one African-American, and two Hispanics. I was first alerted to their presence by our dog, an 85 pound American Bulldog, and our alarm system that sounded when they opened the sliding glass door that led from my deck into my kitchen. This appears to have been their second attempt at entering, as our front door did show some marks of forced entry.

They didn’t make off with anything, but they did manage to evade capture. Here’s what I learned from the process.

#1 – Security Systems

Zmodo Smart Wireless Security Cameras- 4 Pack- HD Indoor/Outdoor WiFi IP Cameras with Night Vision

A home security system is a must, but it won’t do much for you in a case like mine, when the criminals didn’t manage to get away with anything of value.

We have a smart home system set up with Samsung’s Smartthings, and we have window and door monitors throughout our lower level that will sound in case anyone opens doors unexpectedly. These sensors trigger two different sirens, one on the top floor of our home, and another in the family room, near what I considered to be the likeliest break-in point. This system has proven to be slightly annoying, as the door locks require you to arm and disarm the system every time you open or close a door, but worthwhile in this situation.

We also have timed and motion-sensitive lights on our front door and near the patio. There are also security cameras watching the front and rear doors on both the inside and outside of our home, thus allowing me to identify the burglars somewhat.

When I showed the footage to the local police who reported on the incident, the pictures were clear enough to identify some facial features, but not enough that they felt it would be worth their time, energy and effort to run them through a facial recognition database. The use of technologies like this, while common on TV programs, is something that cannot be utilized for common neighborhood crimes, and is reserved for instances of high-value theft, repeated incidents and for murder or other violent crimes. If I were to meet them on the street, I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable identifying the individual participants.

All in all, I felt like the security system was one of the most valuable preps that I made in investing in my home, but ultimately, the cameras (the most expensive part of what I put together by a mile) returned the least value. This is something I’d seriously consider skipping if I needed to build a new system from scratch.

#2 – The Dog

Our American Bulldog Golem is a sweetheart who wouldn’t hurt a soul. He’s well-trained to be around all kinds of people, and had these burglars gotten into our home, I’m not entirely sure that he would have attacked. He heard the noises they were making, though, and was waiting at the window to see what they were doing while they attempted to open our front door, and as soon as they made their way around the house to the kitchen, he was in full defense mode.

He scared the bejeezus out of these lowlifes with a single bark. So much so that it was his bark that caused the one operating the tools on the door they were using to pick the lock to jump, and his jump jimmied the door enough to cause the sensor to go off.

Practically speaking, many preppers believe in the power of smaller, more yippy dogs like terriers or spaniels – they make more noise, are generally less trusting of strangers, and can fight with surprising quickness – but I believe in the power of a larger, scarier breed.

It is Golem’s size that scared these home invaders, and ultimately what drove them away. He didn’t need to be a physical weapon because he’s such a good psychological one.

These were not the brightest young men – their feeble attempts at forcing my front door were proof enough of this – but even those slightly more intelligent invaders would have brought treats that would have distracted him. Had the alarm system not gone off, however, Golem’s bark woke me up and got my attention, and I was already reporting to the location of the noise when it happened because it was unusual. His training and his love of our family were major assets in dealing with this crime.

#3 – Weapons

My guns are locked up in a gun cabinet in my basement, where they are out of sight of my wife (who doesn’t like them), and out of reach for my teenage daughter (who isn’t responsible enough for them). Unfortunately, if someone is breaking into my house, they’re sitting there doing absolutely nothing whatsoever. I should be armed before heading towards this conflict – an obvious idea that did not occur to me as I grabbed my flashlight (the dinky kind that would do nothing for me in a fight), and wandered down the hallway to investigate.

Gunvault GV2000S Multi Vault Standard Gun Safe

Before this incident, I did not have the ammunition I needed to justify keeping a handgun in easy reach of the bedroom door, but I certainly do now.

For those without access to guns, I think that it’s important to keep some kind of weapon near at hand for every member of your family. Find something that works for each of them, and require that it be kept in their room, behind their door or in their nightstand. My wife and daughter both chose retractable heavy clubs after looking into options following these events, but a simple pocket knife, tactical flashlight or pen, pepper spray or even a long stick or spear would be useful in a crisis.

#4 – Authority

How much time do you need to buy yourself? Knowing this is an important part of home security, because it’s a lot longer than you might think.

My initial response to the crisis was to go at it. I know how to fight and am going to protect my assets. My wife and my daughter both independently called the police and hid in their bedrooms – maybe a better option considering that I was armed with only my flashlight and walking into an unknown conflict.

Ultimately, the police were called in almost immediately at the start of the incident. It took them more than seven minutes to send one officer into our backyard, another to the front door, and two more to patrol the street outside my home.

I live in the exurbs of Chicago, in a generally safe area that is not very population dense. Seven minutes is a long time, and the officers on the scene reported that they thought their response time was pretty average for the day and the time of night that they were reporting.

Asking your local police and fire authorities how long it might take for them to get to your home at various times throughout the day is a question that most officers will gladly answer. They will likely give a wide range, but that is normal considering the circumstances of where patrol officers might be, and what type of call you are reporting – in this instance, the police waited to get four officers on the scene in case the burglars were armed and dangerous.

This knowledge is important information to have, as it’s going to define what our plan is for future break-ins. I’m not going to give them a full seven minutes to wander my home in search of valuables, that’s for sure.

#5 – Home fixtures

We bought our home before we became preppers, and ultimately, we chose many of the features of our home based on price and looks rather than on protection.

The police immediately pointed out that they felt like the intruders were almost certainly amateurs looking to see what they could get away with. When I asked why, I figured that he would say that they didn’t have a treat for my dog, or that they didn’t notice the sign that indicated that I have a security system. Instead, one officer grabbed the handle of our vinyl framed patio door, lifted it out of its track, and carefully placed it to the side.

We had no idea that it would be that easy to dismantle. “It’s a low-quality door that’s fairly common around here,” he said. “I’ve seen dozens of them, and the problem you have with it is that I probably could have done that even if it were locked because I can lift it out of the locking mechanism.”

Wake up call.

We have since called in professional door installers to replace this old door. We made the unconventional decision to put a front door into the space instead of another sliding glass one since it offers more locking mechanisms and less glass to break into. Yes, it looks a little awkward and lets less light into the kitchen, but it is a significant upgrade in safety.
As for the sign that advertises our security system, we received a window decal from one of the alarms we purchased instead of the kind that stick out in the grass. I had placed it in what I considered to be a very conspicuous location – a ground floor window at eye-level near the front door. Neither the police nor the burglars had noticed it. Those lawn signs, according to police, are easy to steal and duplicate, but offer much better advertisement of your preparedness, and are a better burglar deterrent. Ask your friends to see if they can spot your window decal – they might not be able to.

#6 – Know Burglars

The police officers were more than happy to talk with me about burglars when I pressed them for some more tips. Here are some of the more useful tidbits that they gave me:

  • The most sought-after item by burglars is not electronics or car keys, since most can be tracked easily. Jewelry is a good target, but only if you’re not home, or if you live in a prosperous area (almost all jewelry in the average American home is worth very little). Guns are what they are looking for – not only are they fun for criminals, but they can be pawned or sold very easily, and they’re hard to track down once stolen. One officer pointed to my bumper sticker advertising the 2nd Amendment and noted that this would attract serious burglars hoping to cash in.
  • Burglars are going to try to get in and get out with as little notice as possible. Very few are going to come in the front door like the dinguses who attempted to get into my home. Windows at ground level, patio doors, and even basement window casings offer them easy entry. They are unlikely to break glass since it’s a safety hazard for them when they’re climbing in and out, and it makes a very obvious noise that will alert neighbors.
  • Smart burglars strike when they think you’re not home. The fewer people they run into, the better. The officers who responded to our incident noted that since we don’t park in our garage, it’s probably easy for anyone who cases our property to know when someone isn’t home – our cars will not be there. If we were to make a habit of parking one in the garage, there’s always an element of uncertainty – have they left yet, or not? This is yet another small change that anyone can make that might help to deter a would-be burglar.
  • Where will burglars go first? The garage and basements (that’s where they think your guns are). They will stay away from bedrooms unless they’re looking for violence or they assume you’re not home.
  • Burglars tend to attack homes in pairs or threesomes, not alone. They often do not carry weapons since that increases their punishments severely if they are caught. If a burglar does attack you, or if you attack them, their weapon of choice is likely to be a kitchen knife that you store on the counter in a knife block or one that’s drying near the sink. Keeping knives concealed in drawers is significantly safer.
  1. A dog is the key. If he is the type who will alert you, you have an edge.. I know the different barks of my dog. Theres the bark of ” what is it” and he theres the bark of alerting you, ” trouble is here”. Get to know your dog.!!!

  2. Not sure why you felt the need to mention the races of the intruders. It’s completely irrelevant to the rest of the story. But I appreciate the advice you shared. Thanks.

    1. And I’m white, by the way. Just looking out for all my friends that are tired of being painted as criminals just because of the color of their skin. (But again- great tips, seriously. You saved me money on an expensive camera system. I appreciate it.)

      1. In tv commercials, the perpetrators are almost always portrayed by whites. The reality is that most of these types of crimes are committed by blacks and hispanics.

    2. It does go to show that he could see their faces and features enough to identify them somewhat, but not enough to actually identify them beyond that…

      1. He could seemingly identify them because he has already seen them.

        With good cameras you can easily identify.

    3. About 55 % of those convicted of murder are black males. They constitute about 7% of the population. About 35% of convicted murderers are hispanic, usually male. They constitute about 10% of the population.

      A lot of people are unaware of this because it is “politically incorrect” to say so, and it is not taught in schools or disclosed in the media. There was a 25 year old white male who was beaten to death because he walked right by a fight between two black gangs. It is helpful for people to know that about 90% of violent crime, and a similarly high rate of non-violent crime are committed by black and hispanic males, so that they can take precautions and not become victims.

  3. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/10906954b58ccc6e2946fc3686d75d2f4f0ea564aa098fc910120660a6f37f01.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a4e49710f7d66e4148a20487891783bdcef59fa61e62f081ddfceb1f5fefa0ec.jpg I am a professional K-9 Dog Trainer and have been the victim of crime! I live in a 6000 square foot house and it’s an inside job, meaning that the thieves knew me, my dogs and when I was and was not home! When I reported theft to the Police , I live on 10 wooded acres and the response time might be as long as 30 minutes! I ran into the same problem of not having a million dollars worth of jewelry stolen but only a few thousand. I have considered getting a small dog as an alarm dog to accompany my German Shepherds but if I’m not home and they know my dogs, this does not help me. I train K-9’s for this same type of problem , so I’m frustrated as to why this is happening to me! I can not afford round the clock surveillance video , have neighbors that watch out for me, have changed the locks , everything in my home is upgraded for Hurricane Protection , I have Safe rooms ; video surveillance on the dirt Roads as part of our Road Association but feel ridiculous for not being able to stop these drug addicts from sneaking onto my property and stealing 1 item. The cops think I’m a crazy person who calls “Wolf” Does anyone, including the author have any suggestions for this type of Robbery?

    1. What are they stealing? Where is it stored/located? How are they gaining entry to your house? Is your property fenced or at least the acre closest to the house? How do they “know” your dogs and how are they able to get past them? How do they know you aren’t home?
      My recommendation would be to get at least the minimum that ADT or another company offers. Their monitoring may help deter or catch the criminals. Also, depending on the questions above, take away the temptation. Finally, I assume you live alone, have you thought of a roommate or asking a family member to stay over for awhile?

      1. While the ADT monitoring stations are top notch, the authorized ADT dealers seem to go out of business within14 months.

        If you get an ADT alarm, you will probably get one that talks (see post above), because they are the cheapest to install, and you will never see the same technician twice.

        I know, I have worked for 8 authorized ADT dealers that all went out of business (within 14 months).

  4. Nice article.
    Kind of surprising what the cops said were the focus for your area, but I know it varies by location and age of burglars some.

    Get some motion-sensor lights for near your doors if there’s truly not enough light to see. Usually there’s enough residual light from electronics and suburbia that a flashlight is really only needed for post-threat detailed checks or actual interior clearing.

    Know your house well enough to navigate in the dark – it’s not just an intruder thing; it’s also handy if there’s a house fire or you get sprayed in the eyes by something.

    Depending on what you did and when, counting the number of stairs and judging open areas by full steps, fast-short steps, and darting becomes habit. It’s a good habit to have for all kinds of emergencies, in all locations.

    A flashlight is a great tool, but hold off on turning it on – there are all kinds of drawbacks associated.

    There are motion-sensor alarms and simple magnetic alarms you can stick on either side of a door when you lock up at night, or rig to a line across your porch.
    Even dumb dogs can be trained to do their big-dog woof at the sound of an alarm when there are Beggin’ Strips or chicken liver involved.
    (I apologize if they start responding to kitchen timers and the Hamilton Beach coffee makers.)

    Get your wife and daughter into a Refuse To Be a Victim class. They avoid guns (or are supposed to). However, a lot of instructors DO find that it’s a gateway drug/class to getting people INTO a basic firearm familiarity and safety class.

    If and when they open up to those potentials (willingness or maturity), there are lots of women-only clinics and classes in every area.

    A LOT of women are more comfortable and learn better NOT one-on-one with the male figure in their lives (same with all kids). Some do want their dads/husbands/brothers there for security blankets, but there’s a somewhat notable difference in attention paid, willingness and take-home skills level when they’re in what we call a no-pressure, no-competition environment.

    One other thing:
    You mention keeping items by a bedside.
    I 100% endorse – because it’s handy to roll to the other side, snag and be dialing 911, and be out of eye shot.
    You might also consider stashing something like a ball bat, sturdy frying pan, or taser bug and powerful flashlight closer to the door.

    A LOT of people are up and moving before they think about “what if” or arming themselves, OR (some of us freaks) set up shoes and pants/robes where we can be stepping to them on the way out of bed, and snag up a toolkit from near the foot or nearer the door.

    A gun or whip baton or taser bug accessible from my headboard is there, but if you didn’t burst through my window or door, I’m two steps from the bed before I decided that noise might be a problem. I may also have rolled over Mr.P and the bed to get to the door and be even further from my bedside/headboard tools when anything else occurs to me, and experience tells us that I pretty well launch and levitate cartoon style at the sound of the cat screaming in rage or the dog yelping.
    (Which then leads to mutters and remaking the bed.)

    Having an innocuous art bag, backpack, or lunchbox near doorways lets me swim into that even while I’m still pulling up pants or one handed if I snagged my headboard tool or the closet gun. It also means that I am that much closer to a solution or Plan B if I was somewhere else like my bathrooms, my desk, my breakfast nook, and can grab it on the fly on my way out the back or side or pushing family into the book-lined or water-lined rooms without having to get as deep into a room as nightstands usually are.

    R. Ann

    1. Great Article however…..and I speak with some knowledge, I am a retired LEO from a large North Eastern City. A couple of points I digress on some of the things mentioned only because I have investigated hundreds of these events. In no particular order:

      Yes Burglars do like to work in Pairs, HOWEVER— YES they are ALMOST ALWAYS ARMED, OR ARM THEMSELVES ONCE INSIDE. Very short anecdote I investigated a burglary of an apartment where one of the tenants walked in while the bad guys were inside. She had no idea she assumed one of her roommates was in the back of the apartment, after she realized it was a Burglary and the cops were called along with the detectives (me). While doing a walk through as the uniforms were filling out the report. I noticed a stand up shelf that was next to the open window (where the bad guys came in and left) there was a Kitchen knife on the shelf, Not unusual right? well it was because the kitchen was immaculate and the knife had come from the knife rack on the opposite side of the kitchen. When the bad guy heard the tenant come in he grabbed the knife. God only knows what would have happened had she walked to the rear of the apartment when the burglar(s) were inside and that knife was in his hand. Something to think about. Alot of burlgars also carry weapons in gun friendly areas because they KNOW that homeowners that have guns are a Threat to them. SO YES BURGLARS ARE ARMED many times, if the cops are on to them they just toss the guns in the bushes.

      No 2 Do not just alarm the ground floor, Alarm the 2nd Floor even the 3rd Floor Why? I have seen Burglars use ladders or ropes to circumvent alarm systems, they will climb like monkeys to get to that open window on the 2nd floor. In an apartment building one time we had a burglar jump from the fire escape ONTO a window air conditioner to gain entry into the WINDOW NEXT TO THE WINDOW HE WAS STANDING ON! we called him Spidey man!

      No 3 If you know a Burglar is in your home it is best to get your family to a safe place within the house lock the door and call the Police Immediately, WHY? because even though you know your house intimately, You may not know WHERE the BURGLAR is or HOW MANY of them are there. You may get the drop on one guy but if his buddy is behind you and armed then you may end up on a Morgue Slab. Let them take whatever they want, your insured, also if you go down who is going to protect your family. Better to do so from a vantage point that you control I call it the Tunnel of Fire i.e. at the top of the stairs before they gain entrance to your bedroom where your family is in the master bathroom behind a locked door calling 911. You can set up an ambush from there and probably get at least 1 or 2 of them if they come at you.

      no 3 Invest in those security cameras yes they may not be able to positively identify the perpetrators, BUT they will give the investigating officers lots of clues, possible height, weight, skin color, age, CLOTHING description, type of equipment, M.O. Modus Operandi. All of these things can help cops catch them at a later date.

      No 4 Harden Doors and windows 3M film works very well to harden a window use deadbolt locks good ones not cheap ones. minimize the amount of windows on your doors” yes yes yes they look nice let in sunlight and dammit I don’t want to live my life in fear of intruders “! (then don’t b-tch when you get Burglarized).

      No 5. Outdoor lighting, install and use it Burglars hate light, motion lights work well too. The more the Merrier all around the house not just the doors WHY? because they won’t be able to hide in the shadows, LED lights are economical and last a long time and won’t hurt your electric bill.

      In closing Burglars are very resourceful buggers they will always find ways to defeat defenses, the harder you make it for them to get in and the more light is shined to keep the darkness at bay the better your chance of a burglar bypassing your home. I do not recommend confronting a burglar because I have seen some of these situations end badly for the homeowner, not to mention the liability of killing someone in your home and the bad guys family sues you, (yes it happened, yes the homeowner won the case but he had to hire a lawyer out of his own pocket, and Yes the insurance company dropped him it cost him alot of money and aggravation). BTW our response time on average was 2-3 Minutes but we were a very large department with lots of resources. So yes 7 to 10 minutes is a long time to wait for the cavalry.

  5. Get in the habit of locking your door when you walk in. It will be locked if you forget to check at bedtime. If you have double hung windows, cut a piece of half inch dowel to insert vertically in the side channel. It will block opening, and it cant be seen. A small string at the lower end allows you to easily remove. A very bright LED flashlight with a strobe function is very disorienting when shined into someones face; mine, at the bedside, doubles as a significant club. Practice announcing in a calm voice something like ” I have a weapon. I’ve called the police, they’re on the way; I’ve called my next door neighbor, and if HE gets here first, you will die”. This makes the intruder now need to worry not only about being outnumbered, but also about an attack from the rear. Most will begin to see this as alosing proposition.

  6. Having been installing security systems and surveillance systems for the last 20 years I can tell all of you out there in the ether that “smart home” devices are anything but smart.

    There is absolutely NO security in smart home devices, NONE.

    Any smart device that is worked through your smart phone or the internet can be hacked.

    Have you gotten one of those security systems that talk to you? “Front door” “Disarm system now” Etc.

    If I kick in your front door, I have a factory built in 30 seconds to smash your talking keypad. Smashed keypad = no call to police, because all the brains are in the keypad.

    Thinking about getting cameras? Call a professional and get good cameras. The camera kits you get from Sam’s Club, Walmart, Harbor Freight, et al (Z-Modo, Qsee, Defender, Bunker Hill, etc) are GARBAGE. Don’t waste your money.

    No home is burglar proof to a dedicated burglar. One can only make it as difficult as possible for the bad guys to enter; and when they do, shoot them.

  7. I bought alarm security signs and stickers on eBay . No need to actually have an expensive security system.

  8. Crooks will often knock on the front door and if they get no response go around back to get in. If you don’t want to open the door at least sound off and tell them your’e not interested in what they’re selling

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