Although burglary is a relatively rare occurrence in the U.S., it can still happen and have profound financial consequences. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, around 28 out of every 1,000 homes in the country were burglarized in 2011, the most recent year data was available. While this is down 56 percent compared to 1994 rates, the value of property stolen in burglaries has increased at a similar rate - by 54 percent. The median value of property lost in a burglary in 2011 was $600, compared to an inflation-adjusted value of $389 in 1994.
Even though burglaries are uncommon, they can still be traumatizing and financially harmful for victims. As a result, many choose to invest in certain home features that make their properties harder target for thieves. While no combination of burglar deterrents can make a home completely impervious to a break-in, it helps to know what works and what makes for a good investment.
In a guide for home inspectors and homeowners, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors discussed proven methods of theft deterrence in the home. InterNACHI also compiled some compelling statistics on home break-ins that could serve as logical starting points for homeowners looking to fortify their defenses against theft.
According to InterNACHI's survey, 81 percent of burglars enter a home through the first floor, and more than one third enter through the front door. Back doors and accessible windows also make for soft targets.
Securing windows and doors
With this in mind, focusing on the security of windows and doors should be the first plan of attack for homeowners. InterNACHI recommended windows be made of strong glass like laminated glass, which is designed to be difficult to shatter. In high-crime areas, many homeowners opt to install bars, grilles or some other form of screening to cover easily-accessibleed windows. While properly installed bars will make unwanted entry very difficult, care must also be taken to include a quick-release mechanism on the inside, so occupants can escape with ease in the event of a fire.
Exterior doors are obvious entry points for thieves, and thus should be well-fortified. Steel or solid-core wood doors are the most impervious to attack, and will stand up to a forced entry much better than hollow-core doors. Strong locks are equally important. As InterNACHI pointed out, while some homeowners may opt to install chain locks as well as deadbolts, these offer little security comparatively. A peephole is also strongly recommended. Finally, any windows on exterior doors should be placed far out of reach of interior locks.
Even with these measures in place, burglars may still find a way inside. That's why InterNACHI and others agree that some of the best defenses against theft are psychological. Many burglaries occur while homeowners are away for extended periods of time, like on vacation. Before going away for a few days, talk with a trusted neighbor and have them park their car in your driveway, for example, or ask them to pick up mail and newspapers. Homeowners can also use timers to turn on interior lights or noise-emitting electronics on to make it seem as if someone is home. One of the biggest giveaways for burglars is an unkempt lawn. If you know you'll be away for an extended period, consider hiring a lawn care service.
In the end, there's no foolproof burglar prevention method, but there are still many ways to help keep your family and belongings safe. Talk to your home inspection professional for more tips on how best to secure your home.