It is scary enough to experience one home intrusion. Multiple break-ins are even more frightening. Unfortunately, after one “successful” burglary, intruders are likely to come back and target the same home again. Some studies show that only 1.2% of burgled residences experienced 29% of all burglaries. Repeat burglaries also often occur quickly after the first one—25% within one week and 51% within one month.
Despite these harrowing statistics, the overall rate of burglary in the United States is decreasing. And after learning why a burglar chose your home the first time, and why they might want to come back, you can better protect yourself from future break-ins.
How Do Burglars Case a House?
Burglaries may feel random when seen on TV, and they may feel personal when they happen to you. But the truth is that there are many reasons why a burglar chooses to target certain homes in the first place.
When a burglar is casing a house, they look for these indications that the home will be easy to break into:
- It’s empty for several hours at a time, like during the day or at night
- The residents are away for an extended period of time, like over the holidays or for a vacation
- The doors and windows are regularly left unlocked
- There are several newspapers on the porch or piles of mail in the mailbox
- The backyard isn’t fenced and is easily accessible
- You have window air-conditioning units on the first floor
- Valuables like a TV or computer can be seen through the window
- You don’t have close neighbors
- The garage door is left open or unlocked
- There is no home alarm system or security cameras
- You don’t have a dog
- Spare keys are hidden in obvious places
- The driveway is empty
- You live in their neighborhood
Ways burglars enter the home include:
- Unlocked doors
- Unlocked windows
- Breaking glass doors or windows
- Second floor windows or doors
- Using a spare key
Why Do Burglars Target the Same House?
If someone broke into your house, there’s a good chance they will return. There are many reasons why a burglar or robber might target you a second time:
- Knowledge of the home layout, including entry points
- Knowledge of valuables they left behind the first time
- Improved confidence from not being caught the first time
- Damaged entry points
- Your home is obviously empty during certain times of day or year
- New items to steal, especially if your homeowners insurance or renters insurance paid to replace the stolen items
- If they were interrupted during the first break-in and couldn’t steal what they were targeting
- Lack of protection, like no home security system
Burglars don’t just target the same house two or more times: they also “work” a neighborhood or community on a repetitive basis. And what’s more, it’s been well documented that burglars have a high rate of recidivism, meaning they may well serve jail time for home intrusion and later revert to that same form of crime on release.
Preventing a Second Break-In
If your home has been cased or broken into, it’s important to take immediate action to protect your home and belongings in case the burglar tries to break in again. There are many things homeowners can do to prevent a first or second break-in, including:
- Install a home security system. One great deterrent to a break-in at your home is a monitored alarm system — especially one with safer cellular monitoring (like Frontpoint’s).
- Purchase a safe. That way, even if a burglar gets into your home, they won’t be able to access your smaller valuables such as cash, jewelry and family heirlooms.
- Install window film. This film can protect glass windows and doors from being easily broken, and are more cost effective than purchasing toughened glass.
- Install security cameras. Outdoor, motion-activated cameras will turn on when they sense movement and potentially catch an image of the person trying to break into your home. When placed strategically, security cameras can also stop burglars from targeting your home because they know they will be caught.
- Use timers on your lights. Timers give the illusion that someone is home even when they’re not by turning on and off at certain times. This is typically a feature of smart home devices such as smart light bulbs and switches.
- Repair exterior home damage quickly. Broken doors or windows from a storm or even a prior burglary serve as convenient entry points for bad actors looking for a way in. Repairing these damages quickly can deter burglars from coming back.
- Trim plant life. Bushes, hedges and trees near a home’s windows and front doors make excellent hiding places for burglars as they try to sneak in or sneak out. Trimming these plants will make it harder for burglars to move around undetected.
- Get a house sitter. Burglars are less likely to break in if they know someone is home. If you have plans to go away for a week, consider getting a house sitter to look after your home while you are gone.
- Keep your travel plans off of social media. If a bad guy is targeting you, specifically, they may be looking at your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page to track when you’ll be home.
- Adopt a large dog. Animals like dogs have amazing hearing and smelling capabilities and can sense danger sooner than humans can. A dog can alert you that someone is trying to break in, and may also scare away a burglar.
Home Burglary Statistics
I want to end this on a good note, so let’s talk about some positive news. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has reported data showing that burglaries have been decreasing in the U.S. over the past ten years.
In 2017, the FBI reported that 1,401,840 burglaries occurred. This is a decrease of 37.1% from 2008, and 7.6% from the year before. From 2017 to 2018, the rate of burglary went down 12.7%. Other FBI data also shows that the overall rate of property crimes, including burglary, has decreased 7.2% from 2017 to 2018.
Hopefully we see these numbers continue to decline—but one incident is still too many. Regardless of how many burglaries occur, we can all take steps to make our own homes safer by following the advice in this article.