Contrary to the Hollywood stereotype, most burglaries are not planned weeks in advance by grizzled criminal masterminds. Eighty Percent (80%) of burglars are green opportunists who choose their targets on the spur of the moment, using gut instinct and telltale signs as a guide.

Recognizing and avoiding the signs that scream "target" to neighborhood criminals is an effective way of making a property less vulnerable to burglary.

broken window

Basic precautions

First, before even thinking about how secure their property is, residents must adopt the routine of making sure that all windows and doors are securely locked when they go out and when they go to bed.

For many this is patently obvious, but remarkably 1 in 5 burglaries don't involve any force, it is just intruders taking advantage of lax security, such as an open door or window. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how good the locks are. If they are not put to use, then they're worthless.

  • Make your home look occupied, and make it difficult to break in.
  • Leave lights on when you go out. If you are going to be away for a length of time, connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on in the evening and off during the day.
  • Keep your garage door closed and locked.
  • Don't allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers build up while you are away. Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to take them regularly.
  • Arrange for your lawn to be mowed if you are going away for an extended time.
  • Check your locks on doors and windows and replace them with secure devices as necessary.
  • Pushbutton locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.
  • Sliding glass doors are vulnerable. Special locks are available for better security.

Don't tempt a thief

  • Lawn mowers, snow blowers, barbecues and bicycles are best stored out of sight.
  • Always lock your garden sheds and garages.
  • Use curtains on garage and basement windows.
  • Never leave notes on your door such as "Gone shopping."

Through a burglar's eyes

A good way of judging the security of a property is to try looking at it as if through the eyes of a burglar. If you were attempting a break-in, where would be the best place?

  • Is there a rotten window at the back that wouldn't put up any resistance if it is forced?
  • Is there a side door that someone could shoulder open without being seen?
This is a good method of assessing what a property's vulnerable spots are. Once the weak points have been determined, then efforts can be made to eliminate them.

Targeting the outside

  • Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.
  • Trim trees and shrubs so that they cannot be used as hiding places for intruders.
  • Make sure your door hinges are on the inside.
  • Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other "secret" hiding places -- burglars know where to look for hidden keys.

If your home is broken into

If you come home to find an unexplained open/broken window or door:
  • Do not enter - the perpetrator may still be inside.
  • Use a neighbor's phone, or your cell phone, to call police.
  • Do not touch anything or clean up until the police have inspected for evidence.
  • Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
  • Note the descriptions of any suspicious persons.

Other precautions you should take

  • Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase and original value, and serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from home -- this is a good precaution in case of fires or other disasters. Make a photographic or video record of valuable objects, heirlooms and antiques. Your insurance company can provide assistance in making and keeping your inventory.
  • Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious in your neighborhood, call 9­1­1 immediately.
  • Mark your valuables with a unique identifier. Marked items are harder for a burglar to dispose of and easier for police to recover.
  • Form a Neighborhood Watch Group. We can help you work with your neighbors to improve security and reduce risk of burglary.
The MOST important thing YOU can do is CALL THE POLICE to report a CRIME or any SUSPICIOUS activity. You have to be the eyes of your neighborhood. And remember you can always remain anonymous!