You, of course, never want to be the target of a burglar, but the unfortunate reality is that many people are every year.
You’ll often hear the term casing a home to describe when burglars are looking for a target. Most thieves aren’t random—they’re methodical when choosing a home to burglarize. At a minimum, most thieves will watch a house for several hours before they do anything.
Thieves focus not only on the individual house but they’ll also watch the neighborhood. When a burglar cases a potential target, they’re trying to identify certain patterns and find the best time to enter the home.
Around two million homes are the target of robbers every year in the U.S. That means the crime rate is around 376 burglaries per 100,000 people.
According to the FBI, there’s a break-in every 13 seconds in the U.S., and 72% happen when homeowners aren’t there. Unfortunately, around 20% of break-ins that happen when someone is home become violent.
An estimated 60% of break-ins happen between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when people are at school or work.
The average burglary takes only 10 minutes, and the time goes down if the thief can gain fast access to the home.
The following are some of the things to know about what could compel a burglar to target your home.
1. What They Like to Steal
Burglars may case homes based on a variety of factors, including looking for targets where they think they’ll have access to the items they’re most interested in.
Some of the items favored by many criminals include expensive, brand-name clothing, liquor, and prescription drugs. Also popular among thieves are keys, art and collectibles, private financial information, and even groceries.
2. How Burglars Case a House
If a thief is targeting a property, they want to find ones that look like they’ll be easy to break into. They’ll usually surveil an entire neighborhood and try to find houses that have the most predictable patterns of coming and going.
They might also look for properties in more isolated parts of a neighborhood or homes that are well-maintained with expensive cars out front.
Burglars are trying to find what’s going to be the easiest way for them to get in, whether that’s a pet door, an unlocked door, or an open window.
Other entry points they often use are front and back doors and garages.
If your house is empty during the day, this is ideal for most burglars. We tend to think about robberies happening shrouded in darkness, but it’s much better from a thief’s perspective if they don’t encounter anyone at home.
It can be fairly easy to watch your house for a few days and figure out when everyone leaves.
There are some burglars who will even just knock on the door to make sure no one is home.
Burglars also like a house with tall fences because they can get in without being seen, and shrubs and trees cover the doors or windows.
3. Not Locking the Doors
We talked about this above, but many break-ins happen because people don’t lock their doors. Burglars don’t have a lot of interest in forcibly entering a home in most cases.
Forgetting to check your doors before you leave can make you a much easier target.
An unlocked garage door is often the route that criminals will take. Once they get into the garage, the thief can use the tools already in your garage to gain access to the rest of the home.
Similarly, before you leave the house, make sure all of your windows are closed.
4. Properties Without Security Systems
You may not think those security signs people put in their front yards do much, but they actually do quite a bit. If a burglar doesn’t see any signs a house has a security system, they’re much more likely to target it. Burglars are also looking for doorbell cameras and outdoor cameras.
5. Homes Without Dogs
A dog can be anything from a nuisance to a robber to a danger to their personal safety. Dogs make noise, they can get aggressive, and they can make things much harder for someone trying to break in. If you have a dog, make it apparent. Something as simple as leaving a dog bowl or toy outside might show that there is indeed a pet inside.
If you’re going on vacation, the last thing you should do is make an announcement on social media. Wait until you get back from your trip to post your photos.
There are other signs that you might be away from a burglar can look for too. For example, maybe your mail is piling up, or there are a few newspapers on your driveway. Maybe your garbage can didn’t get taken to the curb for the week.
Try to have someone come and check on your house while you’re away, and you can use a lighting system set on a timer to make it look like you’re home.
7. Valuables in Plain Sight
We talked above about some of the less obvious items criminals like to try and get access to, and with that in mind, if you’re leaving any valuables or appealing items in plain sight, it’s problematic. If a burglar sees your valuables, they’re going to have a clear line of sight to what they want. You’re making it all too easy for them.
8. Easy Things You Can Do
There are a few easy steps you can take to make your home less of a target. First, set timers for the lights in your house. Double-check your doors and windows when you leave, and don’t leave pet doors open when you aren’t home.
Keep your garage door locked, and don’t create hiding spaces for burglars. Make sure you trim all the trees and bushes around your home.
Finally, motion-activated lights around your home are inexpensive but helpful in preventing burglaries.