22 Former Burglars Give Tips For Protecting Your Home From Theft And Yourself From Murder

If you want to protect yourself from home invasions, no one gives better advice than these ex-burglars on Ask Reddit.
Locks protecting your home
Unsplash / James Sutton

1. Always pick up your newspapers and make as much movement as possible

“I would check out a house several times over two days. If there was no sign of movement — no lights coming on or off, no curtains moved, newspapers left on the driveway — I was interested.

Is the house in a nice neighborhood? Is it well kept? If so I figured they had nice stuff.

Next question: Is there an easy escape route? Woods in the back yard were excellent.

Next question: Is there a window hidden from view that I can smash if I have to?” — very_large_ears

2. Don’t install doggy doors — but own a dog

“Open garages. Unlocked doors. Doggy doors. I was a small kid that was able to fit through a dog door, and probably had stolen the most valuable items right out of the garage. Leaving your keys in your unlocked car. Stacked newspapers. Dogs are the best deterrent; the louder the better.” — gmailatbrian

3. Get on good terms with your neighbors

“Drive through your neighborhood during daytime, late afternoon and nighttime hours. Do the neighbors even look out of their windows at me? Do they notice that a stranger is slowly cruising through their neighborhood? Are there people working on their lawns, walking the dogs, kids out playing? How are the houses physically secured? Do they have fences, gates, dogs, etc? Are the garages open with no garage doors? Can I see what’s inside? Tools, fancy cars, motorcycles, a door that leads INTO the main house via the garage?

The best neighborhoods are the ones that have neighbors who do not look out for each other. The ones where you can drive through and no one gives a rat’s ass that you are coming or going. Elderly neighbors are a plus, too. Also– is the neighborhood located near major freeways, onramps? Looking for escape routes should the cops come. Is there signage/stickers stating that the houses have alarms? Motion sensing lights?” — Executor21

4. Create a good relationship with the cops

“When people proudly advertise their security system. You can usually find a forum of people who’ve found the latest ways to crack the system. Also if they advertise being a gun owner without being a vet (I knew before I enlisted that veterans advertise their status and branch) that’s a solid target. Usually kept in an outdated safe by an owner who hardly knew how to use it let alone be able to control nerves from affecting things like trigger control or aligning their sights. You could always sell a gun for more cash as jewels or a laptop if you has the right connections.

I never tried neighborhoods with an active watch, usually meant any targets had a good relationship with the cops and any calls would be handled with a lot more care. Also I’d never rob a place with a dog, especially a pit bull, rottweiler or German Shepherd from the pound.

Drug dealers were a natural target for home invasion if you had the confidence. Crowbar open the door and put the main occupant on their ass. Once they see you’re not a junky and have every intention to kill them if they don’t listen to you they usually give up solid cash and/or flashy valuable’s you can pawn by going to a county and hour or two away. They can’t really call the cops and draw attention to themselves.” — Kreacher999

5. Live close to an active road filled with cars

“Some things that make you a target are how often you’re home and how easy it looks to get into your house without being seen or heard. I’ve never broken into a house with people actively living there, though I do go looting abandoned/private vacation properties more than I should and that’s a huge tip off. A big deterrent I found is dogs, open spaces, and how active the closest road is at night. There was one place me and a few friends had a night at that had absolutely no one driving on the road past 11 (dirt road in a small town) and trees completely surrounding the property. In the eyes of a thief it’s asking to be messed with.” — Wi_Tozzi

6. Buy motion sensing flood lights for outside your front doors

“Motion sensing flood lights outside.

No big bushes in front of windows where someone could hide. Thorned bushes are always good for under windows, if you keep them close enough.

A dog is nice.

If you can’t afford an alarm and security cameras, fake cameras and alarm contacts on windows can be a deterrent, hopefully. Better to just get the real thing. Remember any security footage could possibly be obtained and used against you if something goes down. If you do shady things, cameras could be a bad idea.

Dead bolt locks on all exterior doors. Keyed outside and inside if there’s windows in or next to the door… but then only take the key out when nobody is home, for fire safety.

If you aren’t always home at night, get a few timers for lamps inside.

Pro level:

Get a cheap tv. Like a shitty CRT 13 inch that nobody wants. Put it in a cabinet or wall unit type thing, so you can close the door to hide it when guests come over. Put it on a timer to stay on until very late, and set a light timer in a bedroom to come on when it goes off.

Install vertical blinds on a window across from the tv. Vertical blinds are great, because you can angle them for a very limited view, so the house looks less closed up and more inhabited. Anyway, in this case, angle the blinds so you can clearly see the shit tv, but nothing else in the room. Set volume so you can just barely hear it outside.

This does two things: the light and sound make it seem like someone could be home. And, a thief may look in, see the old 13 incher and just be like damn this dude’s stuff sucks, I’m going somewhere else.” — 420_inject_it 

7. Keep all of your electronics up to date

“I stuck with commercial burglary, residential burglary carried a risk of getting hit with a home invasion charge which increases your sentence if convicted (not to mention, you run the risk of getting shot by some redneck with a spring-loaded magnum under every flat surface in the house).

Anyway, I’d pick places based on the upkeep of their equipment. If the cash register was out of date, so was their camera system. If the clerk leaves the register open a crack while they’re behind the counter, that means the safe is likely open in the back room.

It also helps to hit the places that hire felons (fast food joints, video stores, etc.) because the cops are gonna waste a lot of time looking into the staff members who have a criminal history. The closer they’re looking at them, the better off I am.

Of course, this was ~15 years ago, things change.” — DownvotePlusSoulTrap

8. Put up signs that announce you have an alarm 

“Turn on exterior lights. Have an alarm sign in front yard. Alarm stickers on windows. Barking dog.

I’d skip that house.” — someGUYwithADHD

9. Don’t post about your vacation on social media

“Don’t post anything on social media until you have gotten back home. I can’t tell you how many neighbors and family have gotten robbed because of this.” — SecPhase

10. Be careful with who you surround yourself with

“I’m not answering the question directly, but I am answering it indirectly:

The vast majority of burglaries are perpetrated by people who have been inside your home before

This is very important to realize. When you have guests over that you don’t know well (maybe at a Halloween party), lock all of the doors to bedrooms, and don’t have anything super valuable just laying out to show. Most of the time they won’t take anything during the party, but they will come back later… with friends.” — Hakib

11. Leave the radio on while you’re gone

“Young redditors may not have heard of this thing; it’s called ‘radio’. Leave a talk station on when you’re out. No burglar’s gonna come in if he hears voices, unless it’s a home invasion. Leave a light on, doesn’t matter if you put a timer on it or not. Just a low level light, like it’s a night light for going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A dog is another big plus. Hard for anyone to get past a dog in the dark. They don’t need to see you to bark and bite you. Have never been burglarized, ever, and I’m 67 years old. That is all.” — songsearch 

12. Put screws into your door frames to make them sturdier 

“Consider putting 3-1/2″ screws into your door frame to make it stronger, and to make kicking it in that much harder. You can also look into metal door frames, metal doors, and security doors that have locks that come out of the top and bottom of the door when operated.” — CrashedWindows95

13. Erect a US flag in front of your home

“Listened to a KFI radio interview when I lived in Los Angeles. Former anonymous burglar said he avoided houses that hung the U.S. flag. Said it told him the occupants likely owned at least one firearm. Would avoid even if it looked as though no one was home.” — Drummerdoggie

14. Never forget to lock your doors and windows

“This guy I went to high school with did an interview where he talked about his former addiction and how he used to rob people. It’s creepy as all hell. He said that he used to just try to find an unlocked entrance and then take only some of the money/jewelry/valuables he’d find because then people would most likely think they merely misplaced or miscounted whatever was missing and he could hit the same house multiple times.

So, yeah, always lock your doors and windows. Even if you live in a small town or are just popping out for a minute to go to the store.” — Paranoidas

15. Adopt a medium to large sized dog

“I’m not a burglar, but I worked for the largest security company in this country for half a decade.

Burglar alarms do not deter burglars. They just alert you that you have been burglarized. Most of the time the police will take very little action in response due to the fact that 98% of burglar alarm activation constitute false alarms.

The sign that comes with the alarm though? That thing is worth more than the alarm as far as deterring burglars.

My job was to take reports from customers who had been burglarized. (see my first point above)

In all my time doing these interviews and I never interviewed one single burglary victim who owned a medium sized or large sized dog. Not one single time.

That is not to say that no one who owns a dog ever gets burglarized.

I’m just saying that in 5 years of spending 8 hours a day interviewing people who had been, not one single time did I encounter the situation.

I think there is at least SOME statistical validity in that.

A big fucking dog is the best burglary deterrent you can possibly have. Better than burglar alarms, signs, guns or expensive locks.” — rottinguy

16. Leave a large pair of work boots beside the door

“One thing on Reddit I read was that having a pair of large work boots on the porch next to the door can deter burglars (unless they know you). It basically says ‘Someone is home right now, it its possibly a big dude who can hurt you.'” — dougiebgood

17. Keep the bathroom light on whenever you’re gone

“In the autobiography of Malcolm X, he said that if he went to a house, and the bathroom light was on, he didn’t go in. Said something like ‘a guy in the bathroom could come out anytime’” — ohazltn

18. Buy a blinking LED for your car’s dashboard

“Not a burglar, but a guy who is paranoid about keeping his shit from being stolen….

Buy a $3 blinking LED (from ebay) and install it on top of your car’s dash. Especially a blue one as that screams fancy aftermarket alarm. Keeps the neighborhood 3am car-hoppers away.

Car-hopping is basically what little shithead kids do. They walk around neighborhoods and apartment complex parking lots trying car door handles to see if any are unlocked so they can steal anything they can inside. Some are not above breaking into a locked vehicle if they spy a purse, backpack or something else theft-worthy within sight. I’ve read that 3am is THE optimal time to hit an apartment complex parking lot.” — dirtymoney

19. Keep all of your windows shaded

“Not a burglar, but when I drive to work in the evening when it is dark…. I can’t tell you how many big-screen TVs I can see through large unshaded windows in people’s homes. They are just advertising.

I keep all my windows shaded. Also, I don’t have any big screen TVs. I prefer smaller TVs that are closer to me (within a few feet) instead of a giant tv that is across the room.” — dirtymoney

20. Keep your eyes open wide around the rain

“Haven’t seen anyone say a good burglar will rob you when it’s raining. The rain masks sounds when you’re breaking into a garage. I had my garage broken in during torrential rain, all tools stolen, didn’t hear a thing and either did my dog that sleeps outside.” — FendaIton

21. Create steps leading up to your front door

“I have to assume that the 18 steps up from street level are at least some deterrent. We don’t even get Jehovah’s witnesses.” — TacticalLeemur

22. Surround your driveway with bright lights

“When I was young and dumb I would boost rims off cars, cause you could make quick money and it was less then a felony. The number one deterrent hands down… lights. If a place is lit up like a Christmas tree on the outside of a house you stay clear cause it means anyone can see you and see you clearly.” — bluetoothkid  Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog