Have you ever wondered how burglars typically break in to a home? Alexia A. Chianis is a former police officer for the Baltimore County Police Department in Baltimore County, Maryland. During her time as an officer, she responded to hundreds of calls, including many residential burglaries. Today on NetTips, Alexia provides us with some valuable information about how to protect your home from the perspective of a police officer.
During my years as a police officer, I responded to more than my share of residential burglaries. Listening to victims ramble off a list of stolen heirloom jewelry, cash and electronics never got easier. The emotional wreckage inflicted by a burglary trumped the loss of possessions every time. It’s no understatement; a burglary can change your life. It is invasive and devastating.
How do Burglars Select Their Target Homes?
Believe it or not, many burglars conduct criminal surveillance. That means they’ll watch a house for a period of time to determine if it is a good house to “hit” (burglarize). Here are a few things I’ve discovered that a burglar will watch for:
When cars come and go.
Burglars are mapping out your schedule.
Signs the residents are vacationing.
For example, snow isn’t shoveled, the cars in driveway are covered in snow, the grass isn’t cut, newspapers are in the driveway, flyers are on the front door, and mail is in the mailbox. While burglaries tend to occur most during the warm months, areas with a heavy “snow-bird” population are also vulnerable during the winter.
Is there a dog at the home?
Or is there a “Beware of Dog” sign? A dog’s bark will alert neighbors and frighten the burglar; its potential bite encourages the burglar to hit another house.
A security system is an excellent prevention tool. Homes without functioning security systems are 2.7 times more likely to be targeted, according to “Securing Home and Business” by Simon Hakim/Erwin Blackstone.
Does the home have security lighting, such as flood lights or motion detector lights? Are the entry points to the home well lit? Does shrubby offer concealment while breaking in through a window or door? Where can they break in undetected? Remember that time of day can play a factor, too.
Where is your home most vulnerable?
If you took a security check of your home right now, I bet you would find at least a few unlocked doors and windows, inadequate locks, and shrubs that offer concealment. These are the four most common entry points:
- 34% of burglars enter through the front door.
- 23% of burglars get access to the home through a first floor window.
- 22% of home burglars use the back door.
- 9% of burglars access homes through the garage.
A burglar is ready to exploit every opportunity you give him, starting with the easiest and most concealed entry points. Burglars that strike residential areas know they don’t have much time to get into your home. If entry can’t be accomplished quickly, they’ll usually move on to a target that’s easier. If I were going to enter your home, here are the top five ways I’d do it.
How to Break into a House
1. Easy Access.
Garage doors and basement windows are popular entry points, but any window or door that’s unlocked is begging for trouble. Keep windows and doors locked at all times, even when you are at home. I’ve seen a number of burglary cases where the criminal entered the home through an unlocked door or screen door while mom and the kids played in the backyard.
2. Pet door.
Burglars will use children or petite female counterparts to crawl through windows a homeowner would not think could be penetrated. I’d check for unlocked pet doors or small bathroom and basement windows and crawl right in.
3. Smash and twist.
Do you have a door with window panes? It may look appealing, but it’s also inviting me in. All I do is break the window pane near the lock-set, reach in and unlock the door. This is not a secure door. If you have one, I encourage you to replace it with a security resistant, metal or steel door.
4. Burglar’s tools.
If I must, I’ll bring along some burglar’s tools. A crow bar, a credit card or a bump key make ideal burglary helpers. If I have a quality bump key (a key that is filed and manipulated to unlock nearly any door) I can enter your home nearly as fast as you can.
While some burglars are just criminal minded addicts looking for a way to get their next hit, many are skilled professionals that trade information and technology with other burglars. Some even make a living off their craft. I’m here to warn you: Don’t underestimate the talent of a professional burglar.
According to the FBI, a home was burglarized every 14 seconds during 2012. A burglary stings even more when reasonable security precautions may have thwarted the burglar’s attempt. Now that you know how a burglar thinks, inspect your home from his point of view, and strengthen your vulnerable points of entry immediately to deter burglars.