In 2015, about one in fifty Illinois residents was the victim of a property crime, a category that includes burglary, theft, or motor vehicle theft.1 We don’t have any statistics about what type of security these victims had for their homes or their property that was stolen, but there’s one thing you can be sure about: whatever security they thought they had wasn’t good enough. Here are three types of thieves and the best ways to protect yourself against them.
1. The Lazy Thief
The fact is, most thieves are lazy: they will hit easy targets that offer fewer impediments to entry and less chance of being caught, even if that means not getting the biggest “take.” Even if a thief can’t see expensive items through your windows, but they do see an open window, an easily breakable door or lock, or even evidence that you are out of town, your house may become the preferred target over a wealthier looking house that appears to be more secure.
Lazy thieves are generally less experienced than other thieves, but they are no less serious about their “business.” When they enter your home, they will look for expensive items that are easy to carry. They generally won’t spend a lot of time in your house because the theft will generally not have been very planned. They probably did not stake-out your property ahead of time. They simply cruised your neighborhood and saw an easy target. Therefore, they will want to get in and out as quickly as possible. These thieves usually target computers, especially laptops, purses and wallets, and smaller electronic equipment.
Combatting this type of thief is pretty much the easiest way to protect yourself from burglary all together because these types of thieves prey on your easy mistakes. The easiest things you can do to protect yourself against these kinds of thieves is quite simple: get deadbolts for all doors (non-deadbolt doors are fairly easy for even inexperienced thieves to get open) and make sure all windows and doors are closed and locked at all times. This may be easy to do during the cold winter months, but when that warm spring weather finally hits, you’ll be tempted to let the breeze in. But open and unlocked doors and windows are a huge temptation for lazy thieves.
Of course, doors and ground floor windows are of primary concern. But while ground floor windows are the easiest targets, if someone could reach an open window on a second floor by climbing a tree or using a ladder, it could still offer a tempting entry for a lazy thief. Furthermore, even if you are home, it’s really not safe to leave windows and doors open. The last thing you want is for a thief to surprise you in your own home while you are there. Surprised thieves are kind of like surprised wild animals: dangerous. So whether you are at home or out, keep doors and windows closed and locked.
2. The Greedy Thief
The greedy thief is generally a bit more experienced than the lazy thief. Their targets may not be the easiest houses to get into, but the greedy thief knows there is something good inside the house and it’s worth breaking in for. Greedy thieves generally target wealthier neighborhoods where they know there will be more expensive things to steal. Usually, these thieves will spend a few days scouting the neighborhood in order to pick a house that will give them the biggest return on their risk.
To avoid becoming a target for a greedy thief, make sure that you move valuables and electronics away from windows so that they cannot be seen from the sidewalk or street. Expensive cars parked in the driveway can also be a tip that there may be expensive goods inside homes. And don’t ignore the possibility of a greedy thief just because you don’t live in a wealthier neighborhood. If your house gives the impression that there is better stuff to be stolen inside than there is in your neighbors’ homes, you could still be a target for a greedy thief.
Greedy thieves generally have a bit more skill and experience than lazy thieves, so while open doors and windows would still be an attraction, you’re going to need more than basic safety to protect yourself and your property. The number one thing you can do to protect yourself against a greedy thief is to get a big dog who barks loudly. If a thief approaches a house and hears the sound of a big dog’s bark, they are less likely to try to break in.
While a dog can be a great deterrent to greedy thieves, you wouldn’t want a thief to harm Fluffy if the thief got inside despite Fluffy’s fearsome growl. So whether or not you have a dog, you want something that will protect your home in case an intruder actually gets inside. Your best option for this is a home security system.
There are three important steps that raise your level of protection when you have a home security system. First of all: arm it! Many people have systems but only use them when they go on vacation or don’t use them at all. Home security systems should be set anytime you are away from home and even when you are at home.
Secondly, purchase a system that includes monitoring. A smart thief can recognize the systems that are only alarms and may even know how to get the alarm to turn off once they are inside. Other thieves are so quick that alarm-only units don’t even faze them. But a system that provides monitoring will alert you and/or the police as soon as someone breaks in and make it much more likely that the thief will be caught.
Even better, get a system that allows you to view what’s going on inside and around your home anytime you want. Many of these systems now have apps that work with your smart phone: you can get alerts on your phone and even view your home from your phone. These features can help police identify thieves, as well.
Thirdly, get signs for your yard or stickers for the windows that announce that your home is protected by a security system. Some people who can’t afford entire systems will actually get these signs and stickers without actually getting a system, and that probably does give some thieves a second thought, but we don’t recommend advertising a non-existent security system.
Greedy thieves are not as easily deterred as lazy thieves so in order to protect yourself against greedy thieves, you have to not only deter, but also protect. But greedy thieves are not the top of pyramid when it comes to burglary…
3. The Professional Thief
Professional thieves are nearly impossible to deter: if a professional thief decides your property is worth their time, not many of the deterrents we’ve mentioned will keep them away. They have tried-and-true methods of getting into homes, disabling alarm systems, and quieting barking dogs. So, you need to go the extra step to protect you, your family, and your home from a professional thief.
Professional thieves will generally stake-out their targets well in advance of performing the burglary. They will know your daily pattern: when you go to work, when you walk the dog, when you mow the lawn (all opportune times to commit a burglary), etc. If possible, vary your daily routine as much as possible. The vast majority of thieves would rather not run into you inside your home so not being able to figure out when you’re home and when you’re away will be a good deterrent.
Many thieves will have gained access to your home, innocuously, prior to the break-in. If you are having work done in your home and have to give the company a key to your home, you should always change all the locks after the work is finished, even if the key is returned. You don’t know who had access to the key; they could have copied it and could be planning to come back months later and be able to walk right in your front door.
But changing all your locks even once or twice a year can be a pain and of course costs money every time you do it. One excellent way to avoid this problem is to purchase a keyless entry system. With an up-to-date keyless entry system, you will be able to have multiple user codes and you will be able to delete or add user codes easily. So, you can offer service people a code made just for them in order to get into your house and then you can delete the code once the work is complete. Many of these systems record attempts to access your home, so you can even check to see if someone tried to use a deleted code.
Since professional thieves usually know how to disable video monitoring equipment, let them. Wait, what? That’s right – let them think they’re disabling your monitoring system. Have cameras visible on the exterior of your home, and perhaps a few inside, but have another system that uses hidden cameras. Technological advances mean you can get security cameras that are quite small and undetectable, especially if a thief isn’t looking for them. If a thief disables a few cameras and even an alarm system, they will think they are set and they won’t be looking for more monitoring equipment. So, outsmart them by having a faux system on top of your real system.
If you have very valuable items or large amounts of cash in your home, consider taking steps to protect those items. A large, heavy safe can keep items that are not routinely used secure. Small tracking devises can also be purchased for high value art and furniture pieces and even electronic equipment.
In short: if you want to protect yourself from the most clever and determined of thieves, you need to take every advantage technology can offer you.
How Goldy Locks Can Help You Secure Your Home
At Goldy Locks, we pride ourselves on being a thief’s worst nightmare. We have a variety of home security features available for you, including doors and frames, and keyless entry and security systems, to help you keep thieves out of your home. We also provide full locksmith services should you need to replace or change your door locks. With branches in Tinley Park, Naperville, and New Lenox / Joliet, we service the entire Chicagoland area and are ready to help you make your home more secure.