How to think like a burglar to prevent theft from your home


Whilst burglary might be thought of as an ‘impersonal’ crime, it certainly doesn’t feel like one when you arrive home and find that your property has been ransacked and your treasured possessions have been stolen. If that has happened to you, you know just how ‘personal’ that feels. You feel vulnerable and exposed, you probably feel that you have been specifically targeted and singled out by the thief, and as a consequence you’ll probably believe that you’ll never feel secure and content in your home ever again. That’s what having your house burgled does to you, and that’s what makes this horrific crime so upsetting.

Burglars will always have the advantage until home owners start to thinking like them

You may have gone to great expense trying to secure your home to prevent a burglary happening: you might have paid for expensive high-security locks, installed a burglar alarm and even have had an IP camera monitoring the points of entry at the front and rear of your property, and yet even that didn’t stop the burglar breaking into your house and stealing your possessions.

So, naturally you start to ask yourself questions. Why did the burglar pick on my property? Did I do something which made my property a more attractive target than my neighbour? How did the burglar get into my property despite all the security precautions I paid for, and could I have done any more to prevent the burglary happening?

There isn’t a simple answer to any of those questions sadly. Bad things often happen for no apparent reason. A thief may have targeted your property simply because it just happened to be there and because it was convenient. Maybe they sized up the property’s location and thought its location would make it easier to escape from undetected if they encountered difficulties. You may even have done something silly and advertised the fact that the house was unoccupied – silly things like leaving unopened post in the letter box, or leaving a note for a delivery driver explaining where to put deliveries because you weren’t at home.

Could you really have done more to prevent the burglary happening? Well, the answer is probably no. Professional burglars will always find a way to get into a property. If they are determined enough, no amount of expensive security precautions will stop them. The only small crumb of comfort that you might be able to salvage from the whole sorry saga is that you may have just made their lives a little bit harder, and made them sweat for their ill-gotten gains.

What lessons can you learn from a burglary, and what steps can you take to stop it happening again?

The most important lesson you should learn is that no matter how hard you try, most burglars will usually be one step ahead of you. So does that mean the battle is already lost? Are you doomed to be a victim because a thief is so switched on? No, of course not. What you need to do to stop burglaries happening again is to figure out what makes a burglar tick, and then start thinking like the burglars: understand how they think, know how they work and learn about what methods they use to break into houses. Once you’re armed with this information, you’ll find that you’ll be less of a target in the future.

Don’t advertise your information

Before ‘professional’ burglars decide to break into a home, they’ll case it out. They’ll look for information and try to gather as much intelligence as they can: if you provide it, albeit inadvertently, then you’re making their job easier. Burglars will probably start with the post box.  It you display your name prominently on the post box, any sensible burglar will try to get your phone number from the directory or the internet. Once they have that information, they’ll call the number, and keep calling until they don’t receive an answer. At that point they can safely assume you’re not at home.

Your name might not be on the post box, but it will be on letters and packages delivered to your home. If you fail to remove the post, the burglar will be able to find this information, and follow the same procedure. Ring and check when you’re not in.

If you have installed a burglar alarm, display it prominently at the front of your property to let potential burglars know you are ‘protected.’ If the alarm company suggest you also display a company sign, tell them you’d rather not. Professional thieves know how most companies wire their alarm devices and generally where they’ll place the sensors. They’ll therefore know which wires to cut and where to disable the entire alarm system.

Tips for making a burglar’s life more difficult

  • Give intruders as little information as possible. Remove your name from your post box, and, if possible, lock it. They may still try to force the lock, but neighbours might spot them doing this.
  • If you do display security signs on your property, opt for generic ones. Burglars might be alerted by the sign, but they’ll have no idea what sort of device they’ll have to deal with, which should make them a little more wary.

Professional thieves always come prepared

Burglars no longer wear stripped clothes and carry their ill-gotten gains away in swag bags. They come prepared. They’ll have access to ladders, and will have a change of clothing in most cases to protect them from thorny shrub injury and to aid their getaway. So, don’t be tempted to simply alarm the ground floor entry points and leave the upstairs unprotected.

Tips for making a burglar’s life more difficult

  • Install point-of-entry sensors to install on every door and window. You can even install security bars on all your windows if your home is in an isolated position, but use long, robust screws and make sure the bars are securely fastened.
  • Keep your hedges low so a thief has no potential hiding places, and make sure your garden is open and as clearly visible as possible to neighbours to deter thieves.

It only takes one wire cut to disable an alarm

Most alarm systems are connected to both a power source and a telephone line, so they are potentially at risk. If a burglar cuts the power source, your alarm will stop sending a signal.

Tips for making a burglar’s life more difficult

  • If it isn’t possible to hide power sources or phone lines, then consider investing in a cellular alarm service. If this is too expensive an option, consider getting a back-up generator for your alarm.
  • Make sure your home security company agrees to send you an alert if a power outage is noted on your alarm system.

CCTV cameras can be disabled just as easily as alarms

It only takes a pair or wire cutters to disable a CCTV camera. Once that has been done, then your home is unprotected and vulnerable. Even wireless CCTV systems aren’t immune from sabotage.  Hackers can try to break into the feed and send false signals or jam the Wi-Fi signal completely.

Tips for making a burglar’s life more difficult

  • Wired security cameras are usually better able to cope with the threat of vandalism from burglars, but only if the IP cameras and outdoor bullet cameras servicing the system have hidden wires.
  • If your surveillance system is wireless, make sure you set up a private network for the device to prevent hacking or jamming. Also, placing cameras discreetly around gardens and grounds, and out of sight of burglars, can give them some semblance of protection.

Be social, but don’t air your business online 

Sharing information on social media has its place, but it becomes a problem when you overshare and give away information that burglars are eagerly searching for. Determined professional burglars are, in some ways, a little like stalkers: once they know who you are and what you have to offer them, they’ll follow you on social media, and check your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.  So never give them information they can use against you, like you’re going out to watch a film, or you’re going away on holiday for an extended period. This is the gift that keeps on giving for burglars.

Tips for making a burglar’s life more difficult

  • Be careful what you post online. Keep on top of, and constantly update, your privacy settings on social networking sites.
  • If you are going away on holiday, don’t advertise the fact and ask your friends not to post about your holiday while you’re away.

Beat the burglar

It might be a depressing admission to make, but if a burglar wants to break into your home, then he/she probably will be able to do it. The best you can hope to do to discourage this, and minimise the chances of you becoming a victim of crime, is to install the most comprehensive home security system you can afford, and to habitually lock your doors and windows both when you’re at home, or away. Over and above that, try to make a burglar’s life as difficult as possible, by learning all the tricks of the trade and beating him/her at their own game. 

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