Purchasing a home is a major investment, so most homeowners take extra precautions to ensure their home is secured. But are some of your home security measures providing you with a false sense of security?
“You have to think like a bad guy to really protect your home,” says Sean Ahrens, a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) with over 20 years of experience in security management. Each homeowner knows their home the best. If you were a burglar, how would you break into your home? The answers you come up with have already been done or thought of by the crooks.
So, what do these bad guys see when they look at your home? Farmer Insurance asked a series of questions to professional home security experts to give answers to the most common questions asked regarding home security.
Will my dog scare off an intruder?
Security Professional: “We hear stories about thieves bragging online about taming pets with treats. I wouldn’t rely on a dog as a primary security measure.”
Burglars won’t always dismiss your home just because you have a barking dog or a “Beware of Dog” sign hung up. Chris E. McGoey, a retired security consultant who has spoken with incarcerated burglars, shared this thought: “As a rule of thumb, most burglars hate dogs,” says McGoey.
Dogs bark for various reasons, but ultimately they are trying to get their owner’s attention. A barking dog may alert the homeowner or a neighbor and cause unwanted attention to a burglar. Depending on the type of dog you have could be an advantage or disadvantage for your home’s security. If a burglar is faced with a 60-pound Pitbull, there’s a greater chance they won’t even attempt to mess with your pup. In contrast, if you have a five-pound Chihuahua with a loud bark, it probably won’t be as intimidating as the Pitbulls. Having a dog shouldn’t be your primary source of protection, but it never hurts to have one, according to McGoey.
Will motion-sensor lights stop a burglar?
Security Professional: “The burglars I’ve talked to admit they avoid making hits at night because that’s when most people are home. The vast majority of burglaries occur during the day.”
Every night before you go to bed, you probably ensure all the doors are locked, your alarm is set, and your motion-sensor lights are on. These basic home security measures are meant to protect you while you sleep because most homeowners assume burglaries happen at night so the bad guys can steal under the darkness. According to a report on residential burglaries, most burglars hit your house during the day when everyone is at work or school. According to McGoey, afternoon crimes tend to happen Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. because that’s when most people are out of the home.
Houses with visible activity, such as the interior lights being on or a car parked in the driveway, all indicate that someone is home and has less chance of getting broken into.
There are still burglars who take advantage of the darkness. These types of crooks don’t put much thought into their break-ins, so when they see an easy opportunity to steal, they act impulsively. Always lock up your exterior sheds and garages to protect your home from nighttime theft.
Will a high fence or hedge keep a thief from snooping around?
Security Professional: “I’ve heard some burglars say fences or enclosed yards make it easier for them to break in without being seen, but there’s nothing inconspicuous about scaling a fence.”
Some homeowners have tall privacy fences or flourishing landscapes to act as a source of protection and privacy. But in some cases, they can do more harm than good. Fences and landscapes can offer more coverage for thieves, which makes it harder for them to be noticed by someone else.
McGoey mentions that tall fences offer coverage after a burglar scopes it out. “It still takes time to get over the fence.” Regardless of how protective or towering your fence is, it can constrain burglars looking for an easy escape. “A fence only 3 feet high with a locked gate can have a deterrent effect. A home with no fence means burglars can walk up to your door without looking suspicious.”
A confident thief won’t even worry about the height or security of a fence. Sometimes they will just fearlessly knock on your door to see if anyone is home, and if no one answers, they will quickly kick in your door in broad daylight.
One way to secure your home is by replacing standard screws that attach the hinges and strike plate on all exterior doors with three half-inch star-drive screws anchored into the heavy wood stud behind the door trim.
Will a loud security alarm stop a thief from breaking in?
Security Professional: “Determined burglars are aware of police response times. If an alarm sounds, they know how much time they have to grab valuables before the police arrive.”
While alarms seem like the best source of protection, most professional thieves have learned to work around them by cutting the wires or have mastered the time of how long it takes for the police to show up. Police response times to non-emergency household burglaries fluctuate, but according to a survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found, response times ranged from 11 minutes to one hour. Even though this statistic provides a broad time range, think about how many things a burglar can take in just 11 minutes. Such items like jewelry and electronics can easily be snatched in a short period of time. An ear-piercing alarm isn’t scaring away an experienced thief, but it could still help deter some thieves or at least shorten the time a potential burglar is in your home.
McGoey says, “An alarm system’s real benefit is the sign in your front lawn, backed up by decals on your windows.” Depending on the type of burglar, when they see the signs and decals, they know there’s a good possibility that an alarm will go off and notify the police.
Can Extra Locks and Security Windows Make a Difference?
Security Professional: “Burglars are in a hurry. Anything that slows them down can stop them.”
Michael Silva, a CPP home security consultant, compares home security to an onion. “Each layer of the onion is a concentric circle of protection around the home, starting at the perimeter, at the curb, and moving all the way inside the home,” says Silva. “The more layers you add, the better.”
Security devices include a secured fence, motion-sensor lights, a high-security lock, a deadbolt lock, or a safe. These items individually might not seem like an obstacle for a professional burglar. But, all of them together increases their chance of being seen and adds more time to a break-in, which increases their chance of getting caught.
“The majority of burglars want to come through doors. Fortify those doors,” says McGoey. “Glass breaks, but you can put bars on glass. Get windows with laminate in between two sheets of glass built into the frame. You almost have to chop it with an axe to get through it.”
Is Your Home An Easy Target?
A burglar considers a house with good curb appeal by looking for the following:
- No interior or exterior lights turned on at night
- No garbage cans at the curb on trash pickup days
- Newspaper or mail piled up
- Overgrown grass and foliage
- Pizza and takeout flyers hanging on the door
McGoey says, “They put all these visual clues together, then confirm it by walking up and knocking on the door.”
Home break-ins can be a traumatic experience that invades your and your family’s privacy. Understanding the mind of a criminal is a step in the right direction for outsmarting them. Combining your knowledge of how burglars break-in and taking the extra steps to protect your home will decrease your chances.
Are Home Burglaries Covered Under Home Insurance?
Your home insurance policy will offer financial protection against any theft. Your policy will help replace any stolen valuables (both inside and outside of your home) and also cover the cost of any repairs to any property damage that occurred because of the burglary. Remember, you’re only protected up to a certain limit, so if you’ve got valuables that exceed your policy limits, you’ll need to talk to your insurance agent about supplemental policies to bridge any gaps in coverage.
Top 5 Items Stolen In Home Burglaries
The Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte determined what items professional thieves are on the hunt for when breaking into homes.
- Cash (79%)
- Jewelry (68%)
- Illegal Drugs (58%)
- Electronics (56%)
- Prescription Drugs (44%)
Do You Have The Right Home Insurance Policy?
No one ever wants to become a victim of a home burglary. It can be a traumatic experience for anyone leaving you feeling gutted about your valuables and sense of security. Though your home insurance policy can’t protect your home from theft, it can provide you with financial assistance to replace your items should they be stolen. Talk to TGS Insurance about getting a home insurance policy that offers the right protection for your home.
Source: Farmers Insurance