How to Use the Best Burglar Deterrents in Your Home

I was researching burglary statistics recently and came across an interesting research paper that provided some insight into the minds of burglars.  The focus of the paper was to delve into the decisions made by burglars leading up to and during a burglary.  The paper is “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective” by Blevins, Kuhns, and Lee and was published by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

I was particularly interested in what it had to say about the effectiveness of certain burglar deterrents that could change a criminal’s mind before they break into your home.


The study surveyed 422 randomly selected, incarcerated burglars across three status to gauge motivations and methods used in their previous crimes.  There are some very interesting facts to be taken from the motivation of burglars borne out in the survey responses, but we’re just going to uncover the best burglary deterrents for now.

Broad Brush Conclusions about Burglar Deterrents

A review of relevant research papers indicates that burglars assign a high importance to the visibility of the property, as it indicates how exposed to scrutiny they will be when breaking into the home.  That’s why you often see recommendations to remove large bushes and trees that provide places for criminals to hide out of site while they break into your house.

Additionally, single family detached homes are preferred because there is more spacing around the home and less chance of being seen or heard during the crime.

As far as deterrents that are considered before a crime is committed, the presence of alarm systems and cameras as well as people and dogs in the house were the best deterrents.

Prove it – Survey Results about Burglary Deterrents

Here’s a list of factors that were addressed in the survey questions to convicted burglars.  Responding to a set of questions, the following are factors that would cause a criminal to bypass a particular target.  The colors indicate how effective the preventative measure is.
[skill_bar heading=”People inside” percent=”60%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Officer nearby” percent=”55%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Noise inside” percent=”48%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Alarm” percent=”46%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Seeing neighbors” percent=”45%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Cameras/surveillance” percent=”43%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Traffic nearby” percent=”41%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Limited escape route” percent=”37%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”People walking nearby” percent=”35%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Car in driveway” percent=”35%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Dog inside” percent=”34%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Steel bars” percent=”25%”]

In a separate series of questions, the survey gauged which factors would be considered when selecting a target.  The percentage indicates that respondents considered them when choosing targets.
[skill_bar heading=”Cameras/surveillance” percent=”57%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Alarm” percent=”54%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”People inside” percent=”53%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Dog inside” percent=”51%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Car in driveway” percent=”51%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Officer nearby” percent=”46%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Traffic nearby” percent=”41%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Proximity to neighbors” percent=”40%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Visible security sign” percent=”38%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Escape route availability” percent=”37%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”People walking nearby” percent=”35%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Lights inside” percent=”33%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Distance from others” percent=”33%” style=”background-color: #ffc400″] [skill_bar heading=”Hiding places” percent=”29%”] [skill_bar heading=”Steel bars on doors/windows” percent=”27%”] [skill_bar heading=”Distance from road” percent=”25%”] [skill_bar heading=”Types of doors/windows” percent=”24%”] [skill_bar heading=”Outdoor lighting” percent=”24%”] [skill_bar heading=”Beware of dog sign” percent=”24%”] [skill_bar heading=”Neighborhood watch sign” percent=”22%”] [skill_bar heading=”Newspapers in driveway” percent=”21%”] [skill_bar heading=”Empty mailbox” percent=”21%”]

The Effectiveness of Alarm Systems

There were also some questions directed specifically at the effectiveness of alarm systems. All in all, most burglars considered them when choosing targets. A little under half said they would never continue a burglary after finding an alarm.

[column type=”one-half”][counter num_start=”0″ num_end=”83″ num_suffix=”%” num_speed=”1500″ num_color=”#272727″ text_above=”In the survey” text_below=”of the burglars would try to determine if an alarm was present before breaking in”][/column] [column type=”one-half”][counter num_start=”0″ num_end=”43″ num_suffix=”%” num_speed=”1500″ num_color=”#272727″ text_above=”” text_below=”of the burglars would never continue a break-in with an alarm present”][/column]

Also of interest, only half of the burglars indicated that they were familiar with the alarm alerting process, a source of criticism from some of monitored systems. When asked, only about half of the survey respondents were aware that an alarm had to be manually verified before dispatching the police.

The Bottom Line of Burglary Deterrents

So there you have it.  The primary deterrents that you can control are your home looking and sounding like someone is home, the presence of camera and alarms systems, and, to a lesser extent, a dog inside the home.

There are a few cheap deterrents that you can infer are effective given the data:

  • timers for lights, radios, and TVs
  • alarm system signs and a few sensors to lend some credibility to them
  • fake cameras

And even though they will cost more, you’ll get the most benefit from:

Of course, your mileage may vary. It would be interesting to also analyze how the responses may differ since only convicted criminals participate in the survey. But, I won’t hold my breath for a comprehensive study of non-convicted burglars. Something tells me that participation rates would be pretty low.

On the other hand, there are clearly some useful conclusions that we can draw to improve our own homes (check out our DIY home security tips). That way, we reduce our change of being targets in the future.

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