Burglars Do Come Back – The Same House, and the Same Neighborhood

Posted by , , at 8:23 am

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
  • Garage
  • Patio
  • 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.

Comments (19)

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  1. BB

    What if you were robbed outside of your house rather than in your house? Is it likely that the robbers will return?

    My husband and I were robbed at gunpoint after we pulled up in front of our house after Christmas shopping. Two men came up alongside the van and we didn’t know they were there until we were about to get out. They said: “Give me your money, or I’ll kill you.” One of them shot his gun. They made off with my purse, which had a few hundred dollars, my credit cards and checkbooks. Thankfully, we were not harmed, but I’m terrified that these men may return to rob us again. Now I live in constant fear.

    This was the first time in 22 years of owning our home that something like this has ever happened to us, but during the past few years, the neighborhood has gotten a lot worse and there are projects across the street, which is renown for its drug activity. We got a security system put in, but I still don’t feel safe now.

  2. elana

    But in my 8 plus yyears living like this, I never could afford alarm equipment. (Tiny disability check)

    Perhaps you could consider donating a system to your poorest, customers who r frequently in the most danger.

    Thank you

    Elana

  3. elana

    Ive lived in 5 low income, section 8 type environments. Horrifically, the burlars came almost daily from kune 05 to june 09. While congruently stalking my every move.

    June 09 after 8 year wait, my name came up for “rural section 8” type program.

    I had a feeling, id b found. I was burglarized my first or second day. Absolute terror.

    After 6 months. I described the windmill on my front porch (on my blog) so whoever was harassing me in Baltimore City manage to find me in Carroll County Maryland where his Grimes stepped up significantly in their valence level. This continued for 22 months when I finally decided that I was going to have to flee since law enforcement was not helping me

    After abandoning my automobile apartment and all belongings except for a suitcase and a backpack I bled for a homeless shelter 2400 miles West

    • BB

      That’s awful! I’m so sorry. I hope you’re safe now.

  4. Max

    I need help on what I can do to stop a burglar. The problem is I know who they are as they live near my house. They robbed my car and my parents car multiple time but we have never reported most of the theft because they were minor things taken until recently where they took my siblings backpack with her textbook and pair of new shoes in the trunk. I would like to know if there’s an alternative to convict them without video evidence? More importantly the fact they will be release if they’re convicted makes me fear for my parents as those neighbor do have friends possibly related to vandalism of my parents business which has made me contemplate on whether I should go through with reporting them to the police.

  5. Frustrated

    I just have a question for you. I do have a home security alarm with a well-known company but it does not protect me. Every time I leave my house the crooks get in even the system is armed (almost 4 years now!). I believe they override the security system therefore the alarm does not go off and the cameras do not record and catch anything. They took my personal stuffs, used appliances in my house as if they are owner. I reported to the security company and they said they did not find anything suspicious and the police say there is no force entry. Please advise (Note: crooks even know exactly when I arm the system and leave the house)
    Thank You

  6. Just me

    Hi, my house was almost broken into last night through my patio door. The police said that one more swipe from the culprits screwdriver and he would have been in. He also said that the burglar must have gotten spooked because you don’t get that close to entry and not go in. My question is, seeing they almost got in, what are the chance they will come back?

    • Valerie Saponara

      First, we would like to let you know how sorry we are you had to experience something like this. Dealing with a close-call burglary can be very upsetting and leave people feeling vulnerable. We’re glad to hear that thief did not get into your home and you have taken steps to protect yourself. Clearly something spooked the thief, and it’s a great thing it did.

      Second, when it comes to the chances of a second break-in attempt, we honestly cannot determine the chances of this happening again. There is really no way to tell, and the best thing you can do is make sure you’re reevaluating all the protection you’re using in your home and if needed, take steps to bulk up on that specific protection. Please feel free to give us a call if you’re questioning your current security setup. Our trained Security Consultants would be happy to help you in any way they can!

  7. Lady C

    Just don’t be that person you flaunts what they’ve got. Be humble and cut up your big flat screen box to put inside the trash can or don’t flash your worth around in your nice car. Stay low-key and you might not be targeted so quickly.

  8. Amanda Greene

    I was recently burglarized. I suggest getting a dog. I’m certainly getting one after this.

  9. Taylor

    Burglars are determined and will hit any target of opportunity. The only way to prevent a break in (and it doesn’t even work 100% of the time) is to have someone home all the time. The knock knock burglar will have someone answer the door, give their crappy schpiel and leave. Unfortunately that is a luxury that few people have.

    I have rented rooms in my house to subtenants for years and with everyone’s different schedules there’s usually someone home and anyone casing the place can’t make rhyme nor reason as to whether there is someone there or not. Some of the subtenants drive and some dont, the car is not a good indicator. Someone knocks on the door and usually someone answers.

    But, theives are theives and the first day there was actually nobody at my house it was broken into. All the crap in the above article was done, mail collected trash brought back in doors and windows all secured and they just smashed the bathroom window. They really should just chop these people’s hands off. They are losers who want something for nothing and the crap they take is usually of little value.

  10. Adam Kutner

    This is a very nice article. A few things I would add:
    -Do not leave papers and advertisements laying outside all over your lawn.
    -Mow your grass
    -Don’t allow strangers into your house(really, no need to even open the door if you are not expecting someone), even if they “have to make an emergency phone call” or they are “going to wet themselves”
    -Don’t tell strangers you are “home alone” or “gone to work all day” or that your husband “won’t be home for hours” for any reason. (A stranger is also someone who claims to know someone you know, but that you have not been aquainted with.)
    -Be aware: if you are going to be braking a rule because someone has given you a good story, be realistic about it, and ask yourself if the situation really makes sense. Most of the time, there is NO reason someone needs to gain access to your domicile or private information other than for malicious purposes.
    There I go, trailing off topic again, sorry, still, great article lol

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Adam – great suggestions! The issue of people coming to the door has gotten a lot more press these days, with the increase in “knock knock” burglaries. In these instances, burglars will knock on doors to see who is home and who is not. If nobody answers, they will try a back or side door or window to gain entry. If they do find someone at home, they will make up a story: looking for directions, had the wrong address, etc. Police across the US are asking people to submit details on these people (descriptions, license plate numbers if a car is involved, etc.) to help stem the tide and take these perps off the street. And you are right about NEVER letting that person in your home. Thanks again!

  11. Adam Kutner

    This is a very nice article. A few things I would add:
    -Do not leave papers and advertisements laying outside all over your lawn.
    -Mow your grass
    -Don’t allow strangers into your house(really, no need to even open the door if you are not expecting someone), even if they “have to make an emergency phone call” or they are “going to wet themselves”
    -Don’t tell strangers you are “home alone” or “gone to work all day” or that your husband “won’t be home for hours” for any reason. (A stranger is also someone who claims to know someone you know, but that you have not been aquainted with.)
    -Be aware: if you are going to be braking a rule because someone has given you a good story, be realistic about it, and ask yourself if the situation really makes sense. Most of the time, there is NO reason someone needs to gain access to your domicile or private information other than for malicious purposes.
    There I go, trailing off topic again, sorry, still, great article lol

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Adam – great suggestions! The issue of people coming to the door has gotten a lot more press these days, with the increase in “knock knock” burglaries. In these instances, burglars will knock on doors to see who is home and who is not. If nobody answers, they will try a back or side door or window to gain entry. If they do find someone at home, they will make up a story: looking for directions, had the wrong address, etc. Police across the US are asking people to submit details on these people (descriptions, license plate numbers if a car is involved, etc.) to help stem the tide and take these perps off the street. And you are right about NEVER letting that person in your home. Thanks again!

  12. Ian

    I would say there is more to protecting your home than using an alarm. Being smart about what you do with your belongings and not advertising that you’re leaving your house are two important points, too.

    • Cassandra Dobkins

      Couldn’t agree with you more Ian! Much more goes into protecting your home other than using an alarm system, but as I am sure you know being in the security world yourself, an alarm system is a very important part. We talk about not advertising your belongings, which is so commonly forgotten. Personally, I don’t think twice about putting a box of a large consumer electronic (like a TV or sound system) out by the trash but that is a clear advertisement of what is inside the house. Proper precautions could make a world of difference.

  13. Ian

    I would say there is more to protecting your home than using an alarm. Being smart about what you do with your belongings and not advertising that you’re leaving your house are two important points, too.

    • Cassandra Dobkins

      Couldn’t agree with you more Ian! Much more goes into protecting your home other than using an alarm system, but as I am sure you know being in the security world yourself, an alarm system is a very important part. We talk about not advertising your belongings, which is so commonly forgotten. Personally, I don’t think twice about putting a box of a large consumer electronic (like a TV or sound system) out by the trash but that is a clear advertisement of what is inside the house. Proper precautions could make a world of difference.