The Ultimate List of DIY Home Security Tips.
Home security is something that affects nearly everyone, but it is also something many people don’t know enough about. It is common for people to have a false sense of security when they are at home, which can lead to carelessness resulting in burglary, robbery, or worse.
Obviously not all instances of burglary can be prevented, but there are simple steps that everyone can take in order to reduce their risk of a break-in and make their homes more secure. Our DIY home security guide outlines the basics of burglary and the tips and tricks you can use to keep it from happening to you.
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The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines burglary as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.
Forced entry is not necessary for an offense to be considered burglary and neither is theft. Burglary is simply when someone enters a building they are not allowed to be in with the intention of taking something that does not belong to them.
This differs from robbery, which is defined as the theft of either property or money with the threat of violence. Violence does not have to be used, but it does have to be at least insinuated.
Burglary can be divided into three different subcategories including unlawful entry, forcible entry, and attempted forcible entry.
Unlawful entry and forcible entry are both classified as forms of completed burglary. The first is when someone enters a building without using force but in which they are not lawfully allowed. The second is when someone gains entrance to a building by using force, such as picking a lock or breaking a window. Attempted forcible entry is when someone uses force unsuccessfully to try to gain entry to a structure.
In 2014, the FBI reported 1,729,806 burglaries in the United States, which is greater than the number of gallons of water that go over Niagara Falls every second.
These burglaries made up 20.9% of the property crimes committed that year resulting in the loss of $3.9 billion dollars worth of property. Of these burglaries, 58.3% were classified as forcible entry, 35.2% as unlawful entry, and the remaining 6.5% as attempted forcible entry. Click to Tweet
On the Clock
Burglaries most commonly occur during the day, with about a two-thirds, one-third split between daytime and nighttime.
Usually break-ins happen between the hours of 10am and 2pm when people are away at work and school. While this is the generally the case, the summer months of July and August actually see the most burglaries, and this is largely due to the high number of vacations taken at this time of the year.
February is the month that typically has the lowest number of burglaries. The reasons are hard to determine, but they could be due to unfavorable weather and the fact that it is the shortest month of the year.
Meet the Typical Burglar
While anyone has the capability of becoming a burglar, there are certain characteristics that seem to be more prevalent than others. An overwhelming 95% of all burglars are male. So even though Catwoman may be seen as the ultimate cat burglar, she seems to be the exception and not the rule.
The majority of burglars also tend to be under the age of 25 and are amateurs, rather than professional criminals.
More than half of the burglars in the United States are white, with Hispanics trailing around 30% and African Americans at 10%.
The average burglar is nonviolent and two-thirds don’t carry a weapon of any kind while committing their crimes.
When someone says burglar, most people tend to think of a high-stakes professional with an elaborate scheme like something out of Ocean’s Eleven. In reality, that image is far from the norm.
There are professional criminals out there, but chances are they are not interested in targeting you. The majority of burglaries that occur are performed by amateurs that need to score a quick buck.
This could be good news for you, though. A common criminal is going to be much easier to deter by following simple DIY home security tips than a professional would be.
While the majority of burglars claimed money to be their main objective when burglarizing a home, drug addiction is the most common underlying motivation for burglars today.
The thief is often trying to find money in order to support a drug habit, and even when burglars claim to be stealing to meet their basic needs, often any excess money ends up going toward drinking and drug use.
With this in mind, it can be said that most burglaries are committed on a need-basis rather than as a choice of profession.
How Do They Get In and Where Are They Going?
Around 80% of all burglars enter the home through either the front door, back door, or a first-floor window. Other entrances that are used include the garage, basement, second-floor windows, and other unlocked entrances and storage areas.
Once inside, the master bedroom is often the first room targeted because it tends to be where money and other valuables are kept. After that, burglars are likely to try either the home office, where electronics are kept, or a formal room possibly containing antiques, paintings, and other valuables.
Almost $4 billion worth of property was stolen in burglaries in 2014. The average loss per burglary was $2,251.
This wasn’t just $4 billion in cash though. The other items that are often targeted in a burglary include jewelry, electronics, precious metals, office equipment, personal documents, firearms, household goods, clothing, drugs (both prescription and illegal), and consumable goods.
Money is the most commonly stolen item in burglaries, however in terms of monetary value, jewelry accounts for the greatest property loss.
Burglars are usually looking for things that are valuable, portable, and easy to pawn. Cash is ideal because it doesn’t have to be sold, plus it does not take up much room and is not heavy. It is important to find things that are easy to pawn because that makes them harder to trace back to the burglar.
Sadly, the recovery rate for property lost in burglaries is relatively low, and cash has the lowest recovery rate. Thankfully, there are several DIY home security tricks you can use to protect your possessions in the event of a break-in.
Does it Matter Where You Live?
Almost 50% of all the burglaries that occurred in the United States took place in the South. Click to Tweet
The West and the Midwest both came in at about 20%, with the Northeast trailing at only 10%.
New Mexico (a Western state) was the state with the most burglaries, followed by Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi (all Southern states).
The city with the most burglaries per 100,000 people was Fayetteville, North Carolina. However, Houston had the greatest overall number of burglaries not taking relative population into account, followed by Chicago.
Urban areas see significantly more burglaries than rural areas when comparing raw data, but this does not take into account the vast population differences between the city and the country. When calculated in terms of burglaries per 1,000 household, the disparity decreases noticeably, though urban burglaries still remain more prevalent.
7 Most Common Home Security Missteps
1. Leaving a Spare Key
Hiding a spare key under a flowerpot or your doormat is not safe. This is as good as leaving your front door unlocked for a burglar to waltz right in.
2. Advertising Your Valuables
It is okay to be proud of your brand new flat screen or the expensive heirloom your mother passed down to you, but you don’t want to broadcast the contents of your home to the rest of the world. You may not think anything of putting the empty boxes of expensive items out on the curb for the garbage collector, but other people might take notice. Placing valuables near windows where they can easily be seen by passersby, especially if you are going to have your blinds open, is also something to avoid.
3. Using Cheap Locks
The saying “You get what you pay for” definitely applies when it comes to locks. Your home security should be a top priority, so it is worth it to splurge on better quality locks.
4. Looking like You are Gone
Nothing says, “Come and take it!” quite like a dark, empty house. If you are going to be out late, leave a few lights on. If you are going to be gone for a few days or longer, be sure to discontinue your mail and newspaper or ask a friend or neighbor to pick it up for you. Allowing it to accumulate is a sure sign that no one is home.
5. Not Locking Your Doors
As brazen as it may seem, most burglars will try the front and/or back doors before trying to break in. Leaving your doors unlocked is an open invitation for burglars to come on in.
6. Announcing Your Whereabouts on Social Media
As excited as you may be about your week-long trip to Cabo, telling the world your house is going to be sitting empty for a week is probably not the safest idea. It is wise to be cautious about who you disclose personal information to and where you share it with them.
7. Not Using Your Alarm System
This is the time to stick with the advice, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” An alarm system is only useful if it is working properly and activated. It doesn’t hurt to put the sign of your security company in your yard as a deterrent either.
Do It Yourself: How To Burglar-Proof Your Home
1. Always keep your bushes trimmed in order to reduce the available hiding places in your yard. Also, a well-manicured yard tells a burglar you are attentive to your property and deter him from targeting your house. Click to Tweet
2. If you are going to be out of town, you should discontinue your mail and any newspapers you may receive. An overflowing mailbox or a driveway full of newspapers is a clear sign that no one is home and can make your house a more attractive target for burglars. You may be able to have a family member, friend, or neighbor collect your post for you if you do not want to have it temporarily discontinued.
3. Install deadbolts on all of your home’s entry doors. Deadbolts are an extra layer of security on top of standard home locks. If you want to take this measure one step further, you can also increase the strength of your deadbolts by replacing the screws in your doorjamb with SPAXⓇ screws. These screws are longer (2 ½ inches in length) and stronger (200% more) than traditional screws, reaching all the way down to the studs in your doorframe. This fortifies your doorframe against excessive force, making it harder for a determined burglar to kick in your door.
4. Enlist the help of your neighbors. While nosy neighbors may seem like a nuisance, previously convicted burglars admit that neighbors were often a deterrent when considering whether or not to target a house.
5. Protect your valuables. While ideally your home will never be broken into, in the event of a burglary you want to make sure you do not lose the things that are most important to you. Storing your valuables in a safe is one way to keep them out of a burglar’s hands. You can also use discreet hiding places, such as falsely labeled containers in the cabinet, wrapped in foil like leftovers in your freezer, or stored in mislabeled old boxes in the garage, to decrease the likelihood of the burglar finding your important possessions (be sure to avoid the worst hiding places).
6. Routinely check your alarm system to ensure it is working properly, and actively use it. While homes without security systems are 300% more likely to be broken into, your security system won’t help you in the event of a burglary if it does not work. It is also a much more effective tool when you turn it on. The presence of a security alarm system may scare off some burglars from targeting your house, but it can decrease your loss significantly should someone attempt to break in.
7. It is imperative that you always lock your doors and windows. Remembering to lock your doors at all times is one of the easiest ways you can increase your home security. It can be tempting to think nothing could happen in the few minutes it takes you to walk over to your neighbor’s or even run a quick errand. The truth is that most burglaries only last 8 to 12 minutes, and an unlocked door only makes a burglar’s job that much easier.
8. Remove anything that could be used as a tool to break in from your yard or around your house. Do not leave a ladder out in your backyard or leaning against your house, and do not leave your toolbox sitting out where it can be easily accessed. Burglars want to get in and out of your home as quickly as possible, so the harder you make it for them, the less likely they are to try and break in.
9. Install exterior lighting with a timer or motion-sensor. Keeping your house well-lit at night increases the visibility of your home to passers-by and exposes places a burglar’s potential hiding places. Lights triggered by a motion detector can serve as both a safety precaution and an alarm of sorts by surprising a would-be burglar when they approach your house. They are also handy because you do not have to remember to turn them on and off.
10. Make sure you know who has a set of keys to your home. Leaving a key hidden outside your house is dangerous, as is having too many spare keys floating around. If you want to keep a spare on hand in case of a lock-out, entrust one to a neighbor or nearby friend or family member, rather than leaving one out for anyone to find. If have ever lost a key, changing or rekeying your locks is an efficient way to eliminate the possibility of an old key being used to gain entry to your home.
What If I Have Already Been Burgled?
Being the victim of a burglary can be a traumatic experience and leave you feeling bewildered and violated. If your home has been burgled, there are a few important steps you need to take:
- Call the police and report the incident
The first step you should take is to notify the police of the burglary and file a report to make sure the incident is on record. This is important for insurance purposes and so that the criminal and possibly your belongings can be located. It is best not to touch anything before the police arrive because you do not want to disturb any potential evidence.
- Record everything
After calling the police, it is best to collect all of the information you have about the break-in. Write down all the details of the burglary, especially if you caught sight of the burglar. Be sure to include the time you arrived, how things looked when you entered, and any other details that stand out in your mind. Taking pictures (without disturbing the evidence) is another good idea, both as an aid to the police and for insurance reasons. This is also the time to review any security footage you may have.
- Call your insurance company
By filing an insurance claim, you will most likely be able to recoup a portion of the value of what was stolen. The sooner you contact your insurance company, the better, and they may want to send a claims adjuster to investigate the situation.
- Clean-up and come to terms with the break-in
The damage done by a burglary can be both material and emotional. Once the police and insurance company have the information they need, it is time to clean up anything broken or damaged during the break-in. Dealing with the physical mess can help begin the processing necessary to deal with the emotional mess of the burglary. Having an intruder in your house can take away that innate sense of security most people feel in their home. Allow yourself time to recover, and don’t be afraid to seek out support from friends and family.
- Take action to strengthen your home security
The best way to move forward from a break-in is to use it as inspiration to improve the safety of your home. Take the time and effort to make your home more secure by pinpointing your security weak points and taking the necessary steps to strengthen them. You can use check-lists like the one provided here to make sure all your home security bases are covered.
Safer Locks, Safer Home
While there are plenty of DIY home security tips and tricks, there are some things you just can’t do on your own.
Mr. Rekey is a trusted residential locksmith in 30 major cities across the country. We can help you make your home more secure by replacing or rekeying your locks, installing keyed window locks and sliding patio door security bars, and strengthening your deadbolts against excessive force.
All of our work is priced upfront, and you always receive a 100% Lifetime Workmanship Guarantee to complement our efficient, expert service. Call Mr. Rekey to secure your home locks today.