The most recent data from the FBI shows there were more than a million burglaries in 2018. Residential burglaries accounted for 65% of those. It can be scary to think about someone breaking into your house, especially if you are home at the time. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself should this ever happen to you.
Calling 911 should be the first thing do you, but if this isn't possible, there are other actions you can take to minimize risk. There are also proactive measures you can take to deter would-be burglars. It's important to understand what a thief looks for when deciding to break into a home and how to protect yourself and your family if your home is ever burglarized while you're inside.
What to Do During a Burglary
It's late at night. You're asleep at home and wake up to the sound of breaking glass. What do you do? First, if possible, it's important to get you and your loved ones out of the house — immediately. If that's not feasible, find a secure location, like a safe room or a locked bathroom, inside your home and call 911.
But what if there isn't enough time to escape or dial 911? What then?
"The first thing one needs to do is stay calm," said Atta Ur Rehman, outreach consultant for the home security company DSRPT. "The best practice is to keep your hands at shoulder level and remain compliant. The reason being is that you don't know the nature of the intruder, and any silly mistake can result in serious physical harm."
Chances are a burglar broke into your home to steal valuables like jewelry or electronics. They probably weren't looking for a confrontation. Keep this in mind, should you ever be presented with this situation. However, some burglaries can turn violent. It's important to know what to do if you ever find yourself in a confrontation with a burglar in these situations.
"When fighting off an attacker, a firm hit to sensitive spots like eyes, throat or groin can give you an advantage and time to escape from the situation," said Ur Rehman.
If the burglar does grab you, make yourself hard to hold onto. You can do this by raising your knees, which shifts your body weight. You can also twist and writhe around. Also, make a lot of noise. Yell and scream to alert neighbors or even members of the same household. If you have a weapon like pepper spray handy, use it.
How to Reduce Your Risk for Burglaries
There is no way to make your home completely secure. However, there are some things you can do to deter potential burglars.
"Families would be wise to consider how flashy and how showy their property is," said Portland, Oregon Attorney Michael Romano. "Make sure that valuables are not visible from outside the home."
This can be as simple as closing curtains or blinds.
A home security system is also a great deterrent, but they're not cheap. The good news is, there are a lot of easy and inexpensive things you can do to protect yourself. A reporter for Boise's KTVB interviewed 86 burglars about why and how they broke into a home. The responses are a sort of blueprint for making your home a less desirable target for burglars.
What burglars look for and what deters them
The big takeaway from the survey is that burglars don't want to be seen. They look for homes with high fences and greenery that is large or overgrown. Homes with older window frames and cheap doors that are easy to break or force open are preferred. Most of the people interviewed for the KTVB story broke in through unlocked windows and doors.
It seems almost too simple, yet most of the respondents said seeing a car in the driveway was a big deterrent. It's worth noting that most home break-ins happen in the morning or afternoon when most people are not home.
Security cameras are also effective, as is leaving a television on when away from the house. A dog can help, but it depends on what kind of dog. Big dogs were more likely to give an intruder pause, whereas smaller dogs were ignored. Leaving the lights on can be a good idea, but it could also make it easier to see in your home and make it more attractive. Putting a security sign on your lawn or front window, even if you don't have an alarm, deterred some burglars, but not all.
Create an Emergency Plan
Schools often hold fire drills. These drills give staff and students a chance to practice what to do in case of an emergency. The same should be true at home. Talk with your family or your roommates. Create a plan for what to do should your home be burglarized. Pick a location outside the house where you will all meet and come up with contingencies if escape isn't an option. Also, consider creating a safe word or phrase that can be easily communicated to let others know if you are in danger.
The Bottom Line
There were more than a million burglaries in 2018. A majority (65%) of those burglaries were residential break-ins. If you're home when a thief comes into your house, you should try to get out of the home or find a secure space inside and dial 911. If this isn't an option, you should try to avoid confrontation. However, if an intruder does become violent, you can fight back by hitting the person in the eyes, throat, groin or another sensitive area. You can reduce your risk of being burglarized by doing small things like leaving a car in the driveway, closing curtains or blinds and installing a security camera.
Photo by Rainer Fuhrmann / GettyImages