1. Install Fake Security Cameras
According to a University of North Carolina study,1 53 percent of burglars would unquestionably skip a home that had visible security cameras present. But who says they have to be real?
Pro Tip: If you’re interested in some for-real equipment, check out our roundup of the best security cameras on the market. They may not be cheap, but there are some budget-friendly options on the list.
There’s a pretty impressive array of realistic-looking but nonfunctional security cameras out there. They won’t actually record anything, but from a distance a would-be robber won’t be able to tell the difference. Remember: The name of the game is making your home as undesirable a target as possible.
2. Put Up Signs
Slapping a “Beware of Dog” sign on your gate is often more than enough to make burglars think twice about entering your property. So is a “Protected by So-and-So Security Company” sign. Many of these signs are available at hardware stores or online. Just because you didn’t pay for an ADT home security system (although we highly recommend you do), it doesn’t mean you can’t make the burglar think you did.
3. Change Up Your Routine
Experienced burglars won’t just run up to a random door and try to kick it in. They’ll start by casing your property to get a sense of your routines. The more predictable you are, the easier it will be to figure out when you won’t be home.
If you always go to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon, change it up and throw a Saturday in there a couple times a month. If you go into the office five days a week, ask your boss if you can work from home every now and then. Leave your TV on at odd hours, and leave some lights on upstairs when you go out for your morning walk.
4. Keep Things Tidy
Burglars are looking for an unoccupied home. That means when you’re away on vacation, call the post office to stop your mail or have a neighbor pick it up for you. Keep your grass mowed and your hedges trimmed too. Burglars see overgrown shrubs and knee-high grass as both places to hide and indications that no one is around (or, if someone is around, they are likely too infirm to keep up with the housework).3
Pro Tip: Don’t think it could happen to you? Think again. On average there are 2.5 million burglaries every year, and about 66 percent of those are home break-ins.4
In the same vein, be careful about what you throw away — particularly around holidays. If you scored a new laptop or flat-screen TV, don’t just toss the box on the curb. That’s a dead giveaway that there are valuables in the house. Take a few seconds to break down the box and stuff it in a black trash bag.
5. Lock Your Doors
No, seriously. Lock your doors. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who post on social media apps like NextDoor footage from their video doorbells of strangers walking up and just … trying to open the door. Middle of the day, in broad daylight.5
Regardless of whether you’re home, your doors should remain locked unless you are actively walking in or out.
6. Install Longer Latch Plate and Hinge Screws
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a door is only as strong as the screws that hold it in place. Pull out the ol’ power drill and see how long the hardware is that connects the door to the frame. If you see small wood screws, you should upgrade to something longer that will not only screw into the door frame, but also the frame of the house itself. Three inches should be enough to prevent someone from kicking in your door with one swift boot.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to install longer screws, make sure to drill pilot holes first — you don’t want to split the wood. If you’re unsure of which bit to use, ask an employee at your local hardware store. Wood drill bits are a dime a dozen.
7. Use Impact-Resistant Sheeting on Your Windows
A lot of retail stores use these clear plastic sheets to prevent smash-and-grabs. The glass will likely still break if hit with enough force, but the sheeting will prevent it from shattering. It will also likely confuse the burglar who just threw a rock at your window expecting it to break, only to have it bounce off. When they expect a quick entry and are immediately stymied, a lot of burglars will just run away instead of trying again. A roll of security window film costs about $25 on Amazon.