Did you know that many of our fondly held beliefs about burglary are complete nonsense? Yes, it’s a sobering thought, but these false ideas can actually make you more likely to be a victim. And don’t suppose that all burglars are dim-witted. So, read on to find out just how comprehensively wrong-headed many commonly believed burglary “facts” are.
20. Myth: Burglars mainly break in through windows
It seems like only common sense to believe that a burglar would choose a window to get into your house and rifle through your valuables. After all, it’s got to be easier to pop a window lock rather than a well-bolted and secured door. And glass can easily be smashed.
Reality: The front door is the main point of entry
The truth is that burglars don’t want to mess with windows. That’s because breaking glass is noisy. And climbing through a window can be a pain – especially with shards of glass around. Think about it, when was the last time you clambered through a window to get into your house? No, what seasoned housebreakers prefer to do is come in through a door, just as you do. According to Reader’s Digest, 34 percent simply use the front door and another 22 percent use the back door.
19. Myth: Burglars spend a lot of time planning a break in
You’d think that a burglar would want to put the time in to carefully plan a heist on your home. Entry points and escape routes need to be identified. After all, if they’re caught, jail time will likely be beckoning. There’s also the chance of coming across an armed – and understandably riled – householder. Yep, that’s got to be every housebreaker’s nightmare.
Reality: Burglars are opportunists
In reality, many burglars simply spot a chance and act in the moment, according to the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police. A door ajar, an iPad by a window, piles of newspapers on the porch – they’re all opportunities or signs that the housebreaker can read instantly. So, forget about well-planned robberies. It’s often actually a fleeting impulse that results in a burglary.
18. Myth: Burglars use clever tools to gain entry
It’s commonly believed that your high-tech housebreaker comes to the job with sophisticated tools. You’d think crooks come equipped with huge bunches of skeleton keys, glass-cutting devices and climbing ropes to get into your house. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Reality: Burglars don’t need fancy equipment to enter your property
Burglars will often use things that you’ve left lying around unconsidered in your yard, according to the Bradbury Group. A half-brick is as good as anything to smash a window or glass door. Your trashcan will make a handy platform to reach a higher window that’s unlocked. And any ladders left lying around could pose a risk, too.
17. Myth: Dogs prevent burglaries
Well there is some truth to that – most burglars prefer a dog-free home if given the choice. In his 2007 tome You Can’t Win, long-time burglar Jack Black revealed, “Dogs, young or old, are the bane of the burglar’s life.” So, there is some point in having a canine for security purposes.
Reality: Dogs don’t always react as expected during a burglary
But the determined burglar will not let Butch put him off. In a test conducted by TV station KGW8, an expert dog handler knocked and then entered a house with a dog inside – repeating the exercise thrice. The three dogs – a Border collie, a pit bull mix and a half-Tzu-half-poodle – all barked at the “intruder.” But that was as far as it went; none of them attacked.
16. Myth: Burglaries happen when nobody is home
Surely any burglar would make great efforts to ensure that a house is unoccupied before they break into the property? After all, what housebreaker wants to take the chance that they come face-to-face with an angry property owner? A thief would have to be insane to take such a risk – you’d think.
Reality: Burglaries often occur while the homeowner is present
The truth is that burglars – while usually entering a home when it’s empty – will on occasion take on an occupied property. According to figures collated in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 28 percent of burglaries happened at a time when somebody was in the targeted property. Even more worrisome, around 7 percent of housebreakings included a violent attack.
15. Myth: Burglars are dumb
Just think about the burglar duo in the movie Home Alone. They scarcely seem to have a brain cell between them. And the common stereotype is that those who would stoop to robbing somebody’s home are unlikely to be intellectual high achievers. After all, if you were smart, why would you turn your hand to the less than prestigious career of housebreaking?
Reality: Many thieves are smart and good at what they do
Okay, we’re not saying that no burglars are dumb – some undoubtedly are. But a study by British forensic psychologist Claire Nee’s came to some surprising conclusions. In an experiment she conducted, law students and ex-burglars were given a prepared house to “rob.” Within four minutes of entry, the experienced burglars had nabbed an average $1,350-worth of booty over and above what the law students managed. So, there is apparently some expertise in the housebreaking trade.
14. Myth: Keep your valuables in a secret spot
Your sock drawer, the cupboard under the bathroom sink, a box beneath the bed. Surely, if you hide your precious things such as jewelry or cash in an unlikely place, that will foil the person who has broken into your home with ill intent. Won’t it?
Reality: Burglars know all the good hiding places
Sadly, concealing your valuables may not make a difference. Think about it: you’ve spent time considering where to conceal your valuables. But the burglar has any amount of incentive to outwit you and plenty of time to imagine where people might hide stuff. Plus, the criminal has seen it all before, and they’ll most likely uncover your secret stash in a couple of shakes of a lamb’s tail. The only thing that’s safe, is a safe. And that had better be bolted to concrete.
13. Myth: Thorny bushes will keep burglars away
The idea is that if you surround your property with bushes – especially ones that feature sharp thorns – that will be enough to scare off any would-be housebreaker. Nobody wants to force their way through thickets of spiny shrubbery – tearing clothing and flesh on the way. Your wall of hostile plant life will defend your home from thieving thugs.
Reality: Burglars will come equipped to deal with shrubbery
But what if the thief has considered the possibility of thorny shrubbery? Well, they almost certainly have, and that’s why they are wearing sturdy shoes, thick clothing and protective gloves. Thus attired, the robber can overcome the threat of your spiny plants. Plus, they’ll make good cover so that nosy neighbors or passers-by can’t see the thief breaking in.
12. Myth: An unmonitored alarm will chase burglars away
Even the innocent jump with shock when an alarm suddenly starts its ear-splitting wail. So what must it do to a burglar who is intent on silence and stealth? The strident call of the tripped security system must surely strike terror into the housebreaker’s heart. The crook will bolt from the scene – tail tucked firmly between legs.
Reality: Burglars will wait to see if anyone responds
An alarm will shock the houserobber to a point. For sure, the burglar will retreat. But they’re also likely to stop at a distance, conceal themselves and then wait to see what happens, security consultant Kevin Tirvengadum claims. Many people have an alarm that is not monitored. Therefore, after time has passed without approaching sirens, the burglar will conclude that no one is coming and resume their dirty work. If you really want an effective security system, you’ll have to pay the extra dollars for a monitoring and attendance service.
11. Myth: My pet means I cannot have a movement sensor alarm
Movement sensors attached to an alarm system – ideally monitored – are an effective way to detect intruders before they break into your home. But they can be an absolute pain in the butt. Every time your animals go into the yard, the alarm will go off. Sometimes it feels like it is just more trouble than it’s worth.
Reality: You can have pets and motion sensors without hassle
Actually, there are measures you can take which mean a sensor system is feasible even with pets on the prowl. Security consultant Kevin Tirvengadum suggests placing sensors on the outmost perimeter of your property. That way, you should be able to avoid most pet problems. A couple of moments on your favorite internet search engine will reveal the existence of pet-friendly motion sensors.
10. Myth: Burglars are in and out quickly
Once the burglar has entered your home and ransacked it, they’ll clear off with their ill-gotten gains pretty quick. After all, no housebreaker wants to be caught at the crime scene. So, staying in the house that they have just broken into makes no sense whatsoever. By far the best policy is to skedaddle with all dispatch.
Reality: They may spend a considerable time in your home
Most burglars are normally in and out quickly, but that’s not always the case. We refer you to a 2017 report in The New York Times which discusses the phenomenon of burglars tarrying for a snack – apparently not such a rare occurrence. And it has history. The newspaper quotes an 1886 burglary story from its own pages. This reported, “After completing their pillage, [the thieves] went down to the kitchen and brought upstairs to the parlor cooked meats, bread, cake, eggs and milk, and partook [in] the banquet there and then.”
9. Myth: Burglars will only enter the back of your property
It might seem obvious that a competent criminal would choose your back door to gain entry to your home. That makes complete sense, since the rear of your property is much less likely to be overlooked from the street. And burglars always crave privacy. Witnesses are very bad for their trade, after all.
Reality: Just one in five break-ins are via the backdoor
Certainly, it’s true that some will break into a property via the backdoor with its advantage of being less visible to prying eyes. But statistics paint a picture starkly at odds with the idea that most burglars come in through the back. According to security company ADT, just 22 percent of them use that point of entry. In fact, more – around a third – breeze in through the front door.
8. Myth: Burglars always use forced entry
If someone wants to get into your house, they’re obviously going to have to break their way in and past whatever security you have. That might mean kicking down a door, jimmying a window or smashing through a glass patio entrance. You’ll instantly know you’ve been burgled because of the easily visible external damage to your home.
Reality: Around 30 percent of burglaries involve no forced entry
Okay, so it’s true that the majority of burglaries involve the use of forced entry to the unfortunate victims’ properties. Though some criminals enter with no need for breaking. The truth is that as many as a startling 30 percent of burglaries involve no use of force at all, according to the Electronic Security Association. The bad guy or gal often strolls in through a door or window you forgot to lock. The moral? Always lock up!
7. Myth: Home security systems are a waste of money
You can spend a lot of money on a home security system paying for alarms, motion sensors, monitoring services and so on. But how likely are you to be burgled? Surely it would be the height of bad luck for a burglar to choose your home over those of your neighbors? Hey, they’ve got more stuff than you anyway. Cash spent on security would be better used for a blow-out vacation.
Reality: Homes with no alarm are much more likely to be burgled
It is, of course, your choice to say no to a home security system. But it might be worth your while considering a few numbers. According to the FBI, there were more than 1.1 million burglaries in 2019. So it’s hardly a rarity. And Jacksonville State University notes that you’re three times more likely to suffer a break-in if you have no alarm.
6. Myth: Use a timer to switch lights on and off when you’re away on vacation
If you’re going to be away from home for while, it makes sense to take some anti-housebreaking measures. One cheap and easy way is to invest in timers that fit into your electric outlets. Then you can set them to turn lights on and off – making it look like there’s somebody home.
Reality: Burglars can spot a repeat pattern of lights going on and off
Burglars often case your property for a time before they make their move. And one thing they can easily notice is that lights are going on and off every day at the same time. With that information, they don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that timers are operating. And this likely means that the house is empty. That will take most of the risk out of housebreaking.
5. Myth: Burglaries only happen after dark
A popular conception of the burglar is of an individual who skulks around after dark looking for homes to break into. Your average housebreaker prefers the night since their dastardly deeds are best kept under cover of darkness. So, if you make sure your home is completely secure after the sun goes down, you should be immune to the attentions of the burglars.
Reality: Most burglaries happen in daytime
The fact is that the majority of burglaries happen during daylight hours, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. If you think about it for a moment, you can see why burglars mostly choose the daytime. That’s when you’re most likely to be out at work, after all. And an empty home is generally a much more tempting target for a housebreaker than one that’s occupied – even by people who are fast asleep.
4. Myth: Burglars don’t strike twice
Okay, so you’ve been unlucky enough to suffer the attentions of a burglar – with all the annoyance and trauma that has generated. Not to mention the purely financial loss in terms of your laptop and that stash of cash you’d hidden in a kitchen drawer. But you can take comfort from one thing at least. Now that you’ve been burgled the once, it’s highly unlikely to happen again.
Reality: If a burglar succeeds once, they may come back for more
The truth is that your home might well be targeted by the same burglar a second time, the firm Calder Security warns. After all, the housebreaker has already proven to themselves that they can break into your home, steal stuff and escape. So why not take a second bite at the cherry? The crook might have seen some goods they wanted to steal but couldn’t carry away the first time round.
3. Myth: A neighborhood watch program will stop burglary
What better way could there be to halt burglars in their tracks than a well-organized neighborhood watch scheme? Once you have that, then there will be many pairs of eyes in your locale looking out for any suspicious characters that might be planning a break-in. That amount of surveillance will scare off even the most determined of burglars.
Reality: Opportunistic burglars can be gone before a neighbor even notices
Remember, many burglaries are opportunistic – committed on the spur of the moment. And they can be very fast. The FBI reports that a burglary might last as little as 90 seconds. The average duration is eight to ten minutes. With the best will in the world, even the most eagle-eyed of neighbors might miss those moments when your home is being robbed.
2. Myth: You can spot a burglar by their dark clothes and mask
We all know that a burglar is not literally going to be wearing a striped shirt, a mask and carrying a sack over their shoulder marked “swag” like in some old silent movie. But surely you’ll be able to spot a housebreaker by their dark clothes and shifty demeanor. The suspicious look will be a dead giveaway.
Reality: Burglars wear clothes that blend in
The last thing a burglar wants is to look out of place. They might wear work overalls that make them appear to be employed on some legitimate task. The simple act of carrying an official-looking clipboard can have the same effect. Or toting some garden tools will make the housebreaker look like an innocent yard worker. Remember, the last thing that a burglar wants to look like is – a burglar.
1. Myth: It’s fine to leave windows open above the first floor
It’s a really hot day with the mercury soaring. Your bedroom’s on the second floor and it’s going to be too hot to sleep in there tonight unless you leave a window open. There’s no risk in that since a burglar is looking for an open window on the first floor. If it’s higher up the building than that, it’s of no use to a housebreaker.
Reality: Burglars know how to use ladders
Unfortunately, even the dumbest burglar knows how to use a ladder. Maybe you’re very careful and always lock your ladder away in the garage. But what if your next-door neighbor isn’t so cautious? The act of propping a ladder against your house, scaling it and climbing through your open window takes moments. So don’t make a burglar happy; always lock all your windows.