Home burglary: Common tricks thieves use and how you can prevent break-ins


Limit the risk of theft with these tips.


If you’re worried about having your house broken into, you’re not alone. According to a recent study by Safewise, theft is the most feared property crime. And that fear is not unfounded: FBI statistics show that burglaries are a common occurrence in the US, with more than 1.1 million burglaries in 2019. Some might be surprised to learn that more burglaries took place during the day than at night. The average loss from these robberies was $2,661.

To understand how and why robberies happen—and how you can help prevent them—I spoke with James Lynch, professor and former chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. Many of the insights he provided were surprisingly simple and helpful.

See how burglars break into homes and how to help limit the risk of being robbed.

Most common methods burglars use to break into homes

While it may seem simple, the most common way for thieves to enter homes is through an unlocked door or window. This is according to a survey of 86 inmates convicted of theft, conducted by KGW-TV in Portland, Oregon.

“Professional burglars who have some skills will pick a target not just because they’re vulnerable, but also because they’re more likely to have the kind of belongings that can easily be turned into cash,” Lynch said.

“If there is evidence of wealth where a thief can get a good return on their investment, then this type of home will attract thieves,” Lynch continued. “But it depends on the level of sophistication of the burglar. Some go around without much planning and will try doors until they find one that is open.”

When doors and windows were locked, thieves surveyed said they would rather kick in the door than break a window. Kicking in a door makes less noise than broken glass and does not pose a security risk to the thief.

Single family homes in the middle of the street are more likely to be broken into than homes on the corner. This may be due to the greater visibility that corner homes have. On the other hand, in apartment buildings, Lynch pointed out that corner units with two sides of exposure are more likely to be hit than units with only one side of exposure.

Studies in the UK point to a pattern of repeat victimization. “If you’ve been mugged once, there’s a good chance you’ll be mugged again in the next 10 days,” Lynch said. “There are two theories about this pattern. One is that the thieves saw something they couldn’t catch the first time around, so they come back for it. The second is that they’ve already found a way in or through security and they want to take advantage of that. before you have a chance to fix your door or window.”

This pattern is valid for near-repeated victimization. For example, if the house next door is burglarized, the likelihood of your home being burglarized increases, according to Lynch.

“These patterns are consistent with stealing as an occupation,” Lynch said.

In addition to doors and windows, accessing your home through the attached garage is another method used by thieves. People often leave their house door to the garage unlocked and may not be as diligent about securing garage windows and front doors.


As simple as it sounds, locking your door is one of the easiest ways to protect your home from break-ins.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

How you can prevent home break-ins from happening to you

There are several steps you can take to protect your home, loved ones, and belongings from thieves. But the most important step is to protect your doors and windows.


As simple as it sounds to lock doors and windows, a YouGov poll showed that 7% of Americans surveyed don’t lock their doors when they go out and 23% don’t lock them when they’re at home. Locked doors and windows provide an additional deterrent to break-ins.

“If people would just lock their doors and windows, it would prevent a lot of burglaries,” Lynch said.

Another tip is to rekey your locks when you move in: you don’t know who the previous owner gave the keys to. By rekeying your locks, you can know and control who has access to your home. This can also give you the opportunity to improve the quality of your locks. The Orlando Police Department recommends two-cylinder locks.

For even more security, consider installing secondary locks on your windows. A rail lock on vinyl or aluminum windows can prevent the window from moving up and down freely. And if you have an attached garage, be sure to lock the door to the house that gives access to the garage.

Read too: Best smart locks for you


Exterior doors must be solid enough to be difficult to open. They should not have windows that could be broken, giving a burglar access to the lock. install peephole at eye level on the front and rear doors and check them before opening the door to visitors.

Security systems

One of the best ways to deter thieves is with security cameras and home alarm systems. In the KGW survey, thieves said that security cameras made them less likely to hit a home. They also said they would leave the property immediately if an alarm went off.

As part of your security system, you can also install motion activated lights. Having a well-lit exterior will help keep thieves away at night.

“There is a high positive correlation between having a security system and preventing theft,” Lynch said. “If you don’t have a home security system and you’ve been robbed, it’s worth investing in one so you don’t become a repeat victim.”

These basic tactics are the best research-based methods for preventing theft.

Considering the purchase of home security cameras? Check out our coverage of the best security devices on the market, including the best cheap security cameras, a best interior and outdoor security cameras, a best wireless security cameras, a best video doorbell cameras and a lot more.

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