Having something stolen feels like a violation. There’s this sense of intrusion into your space, this understanding that someone came into your things and took them. It’s worse when you don’t know where it is or if you’ll ever see it again. I’ve had it happen, and it’s not fun. At all.
The reality is that a professional and determined thief has the capability to steal just about anything, regardless of whatever you do to try and stop them. If someone of high skill sets their sights on something, nothing short of a world-class security system and armed guards is going to stop them.
But most would-be thieves aren’t The Italian Job. They’re simply average-skilled people looking for opportunity, targeting the low-hanging fruit. By employing some basic common-sense practices, you can deter that class of thieves who are looking for easy pickings. These tips don’t eliminate the risk of theft, but they can reduce it.
1. Don’t advertise.
Thieves are more likely to take the risk of trying to steal when they know there is a reward on the other side. If a house or car, for example, advertises that there are guns inside, would-be thieves will know there is likely a real payoff for their efforts. If valuables are clearly visible through a window, a thief knows they’re there.
Doubt, on the other hand, is your friend. If a thief can’t see evidence that there’s anything of value behind that window, they may still break in … but they’re less likely to do so because it’s not a given their efforts will pay off. When you introduce doubt to a thief’s mind, the thief has to make a decision, and on the spur of the moment the thief might move on to other more appealing targets.
2. Lock things up.
You’d be astonished how many people are victims of burglary because they don’t use their locks. A large percentage of home and car thefts are the result of people leaving doors and windows unlocked. I’ve seen this personally; the one time my car was looted, it was because I’d returned from a long trip and forgotten to lock my car. There are thieves who will simply move down a street late at night, pulling on door handles.
On a related note, make sure that doors to your home are reinforced with deadbolts. Again, a determined thief can always break a window, but thieves prefer breaking in through a door when they can, as it makes less noise. It’s all about making your home a less attractive target.
3. Keep valuables hidden.
Keep in mind that a burglar entering a home will start from the point of entry and fan out from there. Master bedrooms are a common target, as are places that people sometimes like to use as a hiding spots, like the freezer or toilet tank. Given enough time, a burglar can canvas an entire home, but you can still improve your odds by keeping valuables as far away from entry points as possible, such as an obscure corner of the basement. Remember, a burglar wants to get in and out as fast as possible, and if they can’t find it in a hurry, they’re not liable to stick around.
Cars, of course, don’t have as many obscure locations, which is probably a good reason not to keep valuables in your car.
4. Make some noise.
Most would-be thieves are reluctant to break into homes where others are present. That’s why many burglaries happen during the day, when people are out of their homes, either at work or out to lunch. Some thieves will even approach a home and knock on the door to gauge if anyone is home.
Former thieves have said that if they hear noise, they are less likely to enter. A large dog, for example, can be a deterrent.
What About Home Security Systems and Cameras?
The data appears to be mixed on this one. Not surprisingly, the home security industry argues they are a deterrent, and some thieves agree. Other thieves claim that security systems or cameras might signal there are valuables inside. I’ve personally known people whose homes were not burglarized because their alarm system went off, scaring off the would-be burglar, so there may be a case for it. That said, your security system can only work if it’s armed, so if you have one, don’t forget to turn it on, even if you’re home.