Burglars rarely select the first house they see to break into at random. Before making their entry, a thief usually spends days or weeks casing the house. The casing is the process of observing from afar and determining whether the property has desirable traits and vulnerabilities that make it easy to access.
Learning what burglars look for when planning a break-in is the best way to know where your weak points lie and which aspects of home security you should invest in reinforcing. Find out the top seven things home invaders want in a house and learn how to avoid becoming a home invasion statistic.
1. Signs That Nobody is Home
Telltale signs that no one is at home are perhaps the most critical factor for a burglar planning a successful home invasion. The top priority of a home invader is to stay alive and not get caught.
Robbing a house when there’s no certainty the occupants are away is like playing a deadly game of chance, particularly in states where the use of lethal force for home defense is legal (Castle Doctrine).
Two of the most common signs that nobody is home and the house has been empty for a while are a full mailbox and an unkempt lawn. An old countermeasure is to leave the lights or the TV on to deter potential intruders. However, most burglars are fully aware of this tactic and may observe your property for a while to watch the light patterns. If they see the lights remain on at nonsensical times, they will view it as confirmation that you’re away.
2. No Security System
When staging a break-in, the ideal targets have no alarm systems. Some potential intruders may walk away if they see security company stickers or signs on your lawn. Still, others will remain unfazed and will continue looking for signs to see whether your house is genuinely protected.
Some homeowners use fake signs and stickers; all it takes is for someone casing your joint to look up the names on a search engine to see right through the deception.
Even if you use signage from a legitimate company, a sufficiently determined burglar will continue casing your property and look for evidence of that company’s services, such as alarm systems, security cameras, or keypads. If they find none, they may view your house as a target.
On the flip side, if you own a dog – the larger and more aggressive the breed, the better – there is a much lower chance of you becoming a home invasion victim. Your canine friend may well be your best home security asset!
3. A House in a Good Location
Your house’s location is another critical factor for burglars — the fewer potential eyes on them as they get in and out of the house, the better.
Homes with plenty of visibility from other, nearby properties, for example, corner lots are among the hardest and least appealing targets for a housebreaker because there are too many risks involved.
The best target houses are those offering burglars an opportunity to approach and leave without being seen. Examples include homes closer to the center of your lot or neighborhood or houses near unguarded areas, like at the end of a cul-de-sac or near a forest.
Check whether there is a neighborhood watch or a similar community-driven security plan in your area, as they can be a powerful deterrent against casing and burglaries, even if your house is in a desirable location for a home invader.
4. A Well-Concealed Property
If would-be robbers enjoy houses where neighbors and onlookers can’t see them while breaking in and leaving, they also like properties where they can’t be spotted while inside.
Houses with tall fences or hedges mean fewer eyes can peek inside the property while they’re busy ransacking it. Other desirable elements include large trees, bushes, and shrubs.
Anything that conceals the view from the street to the windows or the house’s interior is to the home invader’s advantage. Keeping your fences low and your hedges trimmed is a better deterrent than it might seem.
5. Vulnerable Access Points
It might surprise you to learn that the home invader’s most common method of entry is through the front door. Although it may seem brazen, this is because housebreakers try to avoid actually breaking into the houses they target. Causing damage, especially to a window, makes a lot of noise.
The best way into someone’s house is through an unlocked or poorly secured natural access point. If they can jimmy their way through a window, under an unsecured garage door, or find an unlocked door, they will use it.
Even windows above the ground floor are not outside their reach; climbing to an unsecured window on the second floor is a better proposition than breaking a back door open. Don’t underestimate pet doors either. Some burglars are fit enough to pass through the openings generally reserved for your animals. Keep every access point secured, even the most unlikely ones.
6. Expensive Cars Parked in the Driveway
While casing your property, burglars will take note of any external signs of wealth. Modern, expensive cars are at the top of the list, making your house an even better target. Potential housebreakers may ignore the station wagon or the family sedan on the driveway, but if they see an expensive SUV, a luxury sedan, a modern electric vehicle, or a sports car, they’ll be tempted. All they need to do is find a way inside the house and swipe your car keys.
7. Evidence of Things Worth Stealing
All it takes is for the wrong person to look through your window and notice anything worth stealing inside your house to have an incentive to break in.
Take a look around your own home and peer through your windows. If you can spot your valuables from where you’re looking, potential burglars can as well. If your home looks like it has plenty of valuables within sight, it may provide an incentive for someone to break in and take them.
The top 5 most frequently stolen categories of items include:
- Electronics (TVs, mobile devices, game consoles, computers, laptops)
- Prescription medication (especially oxycodone, alprazolam, prescription amphetamines, diazepam, codeine, and other benzodiazepines)
- Loose cash
- Firearms (some burglars look for signs that gun owners live on the premises, such as politically charged bumper stickers)
The Bottom Line
The best way to keep your home protected from theft and unwanted visitors is to make sure your property is secure, inconspicuous, and monitored by someone you trust.
Install a home security system, keep your valuables and signs of wealth concealed or out of view, and recruit the help of your friends, family, or neighbors to pick up your mail or mow the lawn when you’re not home.