How to deter burglars: 11 top tips
Author: Josh Jackman
Published: Friday, 14 June 2019
The idea of being burgled is terrifying – and with good reason. Claiming hundreds of thousands of victims every year, burglary can take an enormous financial and emotional toll on families, and even pose the threat of violence if someone is able to break into your home.
According to figures released by the government-run Crime Survey for England and Wales in March 2019, three out of five burglaries are successful. These burglaries lead the average victim to lose more than £3,200 – and with an 11% increase in robberies during 2018, the cause for concern is greater than ever.
What are the best home security tips?
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It makes complete sense that you would want to know how to deter burglars, how to scare them away, and generally how to stop them from targeting your home and the people you love.
We’re here to provide you with all the information you need to choose how to make your home as safe as possible. Make sure to also fill in the form at the top of this page to see what deals you can get on home security.
1. Visible alarm systems are a proven deterrent
Our first and most obvious tip about how to deter burglars is to get a burglar alarm. It just makes sense: if you’re trying to prevent break-ins, what could be better at putting off thieves than the knowledge that breaking in will alert the police and everyone in the area?
But like anything which you only need in emergencies, it can often seem like an alarm system is expensive and inconvenient, leading you to wonder: is it even worth it?
The answer is a resounding yes. Scientific research published in the Security Journal in 2013 found that there are fewer thefts in areas with more security alarms. Meanwhile, a 2012 survey of 422 burglars conducted by Professor Joseph B. Kuhns of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte showed that the majority of them took alarms into consideration, while 60% said that if a property had an alarm, it would completely put them off burgling it.
Installing a burglar alarm is especially important because you likely won’t be in when burglars target your home, since 70% of all domestic burglaries take place during the week.
However, don’t fall into the trap of buying a fake alarm – former burglar Michael Fraser has told The Guardian that experienced thieves will know the difference. A dummy alarm could even work against you by making the burglar think you’re skimping on security.
2. Get CCTV cameras
Surveillance cameras are only for businesses, the police, and the government – right? Nope. Turns out that when you’re asking how to deter burglars, the best way is to install powerful CCTV cameras. According to 12 burglars surveyed by the Co-op in 2017, this is the biggest deterrent for home thieves.
Unfortunately, this same study found that just 14% of British adults use CCTV cameras at their homes. If you join this minority, you can feel like you’ve truly done everything you can to keep you and your family safe.
3. Install outdoor lighting – and use it
The idea of a man in a balaclava breaking into your home in the dead of night may seem clichéd, but it contains a large dollop of truth, with 61% of burglaries taking place after 6pm. Unlike in the US, where FBI data from 2015 shows the great majority of burglaries happen during the day, thieves in Britain use the cover of night to cloak their entry – so don’t let them!
Light up the outside of your home after sunset, leaving nowhere for prospective intruders to hide. Burglars don’t want to be seen going in or out, so they’re likely to avoid well-lit homes.
Looking through the different types of home security system, your ideal option for this objective is a set of motion-activated lights. When the Co-op survey mentioned above asked a panel of ex-thieves how to deter burglars, this was one of the main points they raised – and only one in four UK adults report having them installed.
Make sure to also schedule your lights to turn on and off when you’re away. There is of course a financial cost to this, but it won’t outweigh the value of keeping your home protected – especially if you follow the Metropolitan Police’s advice and use energy-saving LED bulbs. These don’t use as much power, last longer than standard bulbs, and don’t present a fire risk.
4. Home automation is worth it
While you should be wary of being hacked (install all the latest patches and system updates, please), it’s also worth prioritising a wireless camera system for your front door when you’re deciding on the best security system to deter burglars. This will allow you to get an instant video feed whenever someone walks up your driveway – a crucial tool, given that government statistics show most burglars both enter through the front of the house and use a door to get in.
The Co-op survey also came to a resounding conclusion in favour of creating a smart home in order to deter burglars from targeting your premises. A huge 89% of the study’s burglars said that a smart home would immediately put them off.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Fraser agreed with this verdict, adding that he rated a wireless security camera as the best piece of hardware you could add to your home. “It won’t surprise you to learn that my house is very secure,” he said. “I’ve got one camera outside and a few inside.” So follow his advice: be one of the smart ones, and get a smart home!
5. Put bars on your windows
Nearer the other end of the technological spectrum, there are metal bars. They may seem unsightly, but they’re an excellent way to ensure windows are burglar-proof. In Kuhns’ study, 25% of the 422 burglars he surveyed said that steel bars would dissuade them completely from targeting a home. And when you’re talking about how to deter burglars, it’s always best to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
As well as looking imposing, they also present a physical barrier. And though they may also look unwelcoming to your guests, never fear – they can be customised to suit your style, so that your home is safe, secure, and stylish.
6. Use blinds to block a burglar’s view
Another good way to stop prospective burglars from using your windows for their own purposes is to stop them from seeing anything you own. You can achieve this by blocking the view with blinds or shades, particularly when you’re not in or on a higher floor.
Again, take it from the ex-criminals themselves: shutting the blinds is a simple tactic, but it works. Veteran thief Mark McNally said as much when he spoke to Indiana TV station WTHR in 2012. The convicted burglar – who reportedly stole from hundreds of homes across two decades – explained how he chose a place to ransack, saying: “It's as simple as walking up to the door and knocking on the door to see if anyone's home. Looking in the window, listening for a TV, something like that.”
And speaking to the Mirror, the aforementioned Fraser advised the public: “DON'T let your front windows become shop windows – hang net curtains or blinds to stop people looking in.” Speaking to The Telegraph, the reformed thief clarified that this method for creating burglar proof windows should always apply, regardless of where you are. “You should pull your blinds down, even when you’re at home, so that no one knows if you’re in or out, and can’t see what you’ve got in there.”
7. Keep your valuables out of view of ground-floor windows
If you don’t want to make your home look threatening or shut-off with bars or blinds, at least make sure that you remove anything on the ground floor which could be attractive to criminals. Burglars are most attracted to your small, expensive items, so keep these possessions out of sight. In 45% of successful burglaries, the thief will take your purse, wallet, money or cards, while in 38% of cases, they’ll steal your jewellery. But if a criminal doesn’t see anything worth stealing, they’re much less likely to take the risk of entering your home. This strengthens the case for burglar-proof windows – a crucial string to your bow when 29% of successful burglaries in the 12 months up to March 2018 involved a window.
8. Keep your front hedge low and your side barriers thorny
Burglars are also more averse to stealing from you if you place enough obstacles in their way. Your garden is there to be beautiful, but it too can be a weapon in the war against intruders. Listen to the Metropolitan Police and keep your front hedges and walls under a metre tall, “so burglars have nowhere to hide.”
You shouldn’t have a short back and sides, though – keep those hedges, fences or walls over 1.8 metres, and top them with trellis and spiky plants. The Met has even provided a list of recommended thorny plants, including Climbing Roses and Osmanthus. This will make your home a much less attractive proposition for most thieves, with ex-burglar Fraser agreeing that “prickly hedges are a major deterrent to burglars.”
Make sure that your garden looks presentable and cared-for as well. This prevents any passing thieves from thinking that you’ve gone on holiday and left an easy target.
9. Keep your radio and/or TV on
If a loud enough sound is coming from your home, a burglar will be less likely to burgle you – and a radio or TV will provide this deterrent with ease. The thieves in the Co-op’s survey ranked a TV that’s turned on as the fourth-most effective deterrent to a home burglary attempt.
This is especially useful if you have to leave for the evening, but don’t want your home to be vulnerable to potential intruders. Providing you also ensure your unwelcome visitor can’t see enough of your home to prove you’re not there, your home has a much better chance of remaining secure. If you’re after cheap ways to burglar proof your home – and who isn’t – this is an easy win.
10. Get a dog – or pretend to have one
Continuing with this theme of ‘fake-it-so-they-don’t-break-in’, you can reduce your chances of being robbed by convincing burglars that you have a dog – whether or not you actually do. Obviously, it’s preferable for them to see a big, loud, talkative Fido or Rex for themselves – but if not, then a recording will do just as well. Thieves who spoke to the Co-op said that the sound of a barking dog was the second-most powerful go-to method when looking to deter burglars.
But if you do have the real, four-legged thing, even better. In 2017, most of the 86 burglars to speak to Idaho-based TV station KTVB said if a home had a big, loud dog, they would give it a miss. One convicted burglar revealed: “Dogs are a deal breaker for me. Big breeds, home protectors, are the best to keep people out.”
Research by insurance company Churchill in 2015 quoted burglars advising homeowners to “get a dog,” with one thief adding that “even a little dog making a noise will put you off.” A sign telling criminals to “beware of the dog” may also work, though it certainly won’t be as effective as the sight of an actual mutt.
11. Show you’re not a good target for identity theft
As well as your precious belongings, you could also have your identity stolen. A 2018 report by not-for-profit fraud prevention group Cifas found that identity fraud reached an all-time high in 2017, with more than 170,000 cases. Burglars are a large part of this, stealing your bank cards or passport so they can sell your identity to the highest bidder.
The government’s most recent crime survey found that 44% of successful burglars will also take either your phone or your computer. While there’s some resale value there, they’re mostly taking these items because they give them access to your details.
Take former convict Fraser’s advice, and make sure to “store important papers upstairs and out of sight. Burglars are increasingly looking for official papers, passports, driving licences, and credit card statements that will allow them to steal your identity.”
But if you’re looking at how to deter burglars before they set foot in your home, make sure to leave a bunch of shredded documents in your wheelie bin. This will prompt burglars to move on as quickly as possible – to someone else who wasn’t as smart.
Now, let’s sum up all that information in an easy-to-digest list, which you can treat as a checklist if you fancy. Working out how to scare burglars away can be boiled down to several key pieces of advice, and if you follow them, you’ll be that much closer to creating a thief’s worst nightmare: the off-putting, impenetrable fortress you deserve to feel safe in.
How to deter burglars
1. Install an alarm system which you can trust
2. Buy high-definition CCTV cameras and display them prominently
3. Put outdoor lights in place – preferably motion-activated – and use them every day
4. Set these energy-saving LED lights on a timer to turn on when you’re away
5. Say yes to all the latest patches and system updates for your smart home
6. Get a wireless camera system for your front door to prevent and catch intruders
7. Put bars on your ground floor windows
8. Get blinds or curtains, and use them to block any valuable items from view
9. Buy a big dog – burglars are understandably scared of getting hurt or caught
If you’re thinking about how to deter burglars, but you’re put off by the price of some of these options, the following list contains some more affordable ways to place obstacles between your prized possessions and any prospective thieves. After all, there’s no reason why protecting yourself and your loved ones needs to cost the earth. Speaking of which, you can also improve your home's defences by filling in this form and getting a tailored quote for a cutting-edge security system.
Cheap ways to burglar proof your home
1. Use curtains to block a burglar’s view of your belongings
2. Play a recording of a dog barking, or get a cheap “Beware of the dog” sign
3. Shred any documents you throw away which contain your details
4. Keep your TV on, even when you’re out
5. Lock your windows and doors
6. Keep your valuables out of sight
7. Plant spiky plants at all of a burglar’s entry points