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How Burglars Identify Homes to Target

Burglars are on the lookout for homes and properties where they know they’ll find valuables they can easily sell on. In this latest post we look at how burglars identify homes to target - especially over the Christmas period.

Christmas is a time of year when burglars are very active. The nights are long, people are receiving many deliveries and homes are often full of valuable presents. Many properties are also left empty for prolonged periods as people visit relatives and take part in festive activities. These are the factors that drove an 8% spike in burglaries over the Christmas period last year.

Ex-burglars have revealed what they look out for when selecting properties to raid.

Social Media Posts & Vacant Homes

Social media platforms provide a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. But sadly, criminals use information gathered from social media posts to identify viable targets. A UK survey has shown that around 80% of burglars use social media to identify properties that are likely to be worth targeting.

Experienced burglars describe how they have read posts on Facebook, Twitter (X) and other platforms, in which people have told their friends about their Christmas plans and how they would be away for a few days, spending time with family. This is effectively a green-light to a burglar who knows they will have abundant time to overcome any security systems, gain entry into a property and help themselves to what they can find.

Another important but often overlooked way in which criminals learn about properties being vacant over the holiday period is from the calendars many of us hang in our kitchens - or elsewhere. If the calendar can be seen from a window, or via the letterbox, criminals can easily see the notes indicating when homeowners will be away. So its worth making certain calendars are not visible from any windows.

In one case a burglar broke into an empty house on Christmas Eve looking for alcohol. He filled two suitcases with bottles of booze and then went back inside the home where he drank so much alcohol he fell asleep on a bed. He was spotted, through a window, by a vigilant neighbour on Christmas morning and was woken up by the police when they arrived. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

Unlocked Doors and Windows

Most burglars are opportunists who take advantage of any easily accessible entrances into a property. Experienced burglars report that many people, who can often be stressed and busy over the Christmas period, fail to lock all of their doors and windows before departing to visit friends and relatives.

Although a home may have excellent door and window locks, they are effectively useless if they aren’t used. Most burglars gain entry into properties via doors and windows which is why police forces repeatedly remind people to ensure they are all securely locked at night and when the property is empty. High quality mortice locks should be used where possible and people are encouraged to be aware of what can be seen through letterboxes and windows.

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Helpful Items Left Outdoors - Or in Outbuildings

Some experienced burglars describe how they have successfully used wheelie bins to gain entry into homes. They describe how wheelie bins have been used to scale garden fences, enabling criminals to raid sheds, garages and outbuildings. They’ve also been used to enable criminals to climb onto rooftops from which they’ve been able to break-in via upper-storey windows.

Burglars are also on the lookout for tools and other items they can immediately use to break in. Ladders, for example, are sometimes left outside due to their size and garden tools, stored in a shed or garage, have often been used by burglars to gain entry into the main home after initially breaking into the outbuilding.

A number of burglaries in Surrey demonstrate how burglars take advantage of garden tools found outside or in outbuildings. In one incident a garden spade, found in the back garden, was used to force open a downstairs window enabling the burglar to steal £600 worth of jewellery. In a subsequent incident on the same day thieves used a pitchfork and spade, found in a back garden shed, to force open a conservatory window and gain entry into the property. And in a further incident thieves used a screwdriver and hammer, from a garage toolbox, to break into a home and steal items worth around £500. In yet another incident a pickaxe and spade from a shed were used to break into a home and another break-in involved the use of a garden chair to gain access to an unlocked window.

Ideally, wheelie bins should be secured inside or locked to an immovable anchor if a property is to be vacant for a period of time. And any tools or garden furniture that could potentially be used by home-raiders should be securely locked away.

Empty Packaging

Christmas is a time of year when many people receive a high number of deliveries and a great deal of packaging can often be left outdoors. Burglars like to target homes in which they know they’ll find valuables so leaving packaging outside for items such as televisions, computers, cameras and games consoles provides them with a clear sign of what they will find inside the home.

Packaging for valuable items like these should be cut up and mixed in with other paper for recycling. If possible, packaging might be immediately taken to local recycling services.

Its also important to be aware that burglars are known to sift through household rubbish looking for evidence of what they might find inside a home along with documents from which they can extract personal details. Since waste bins are often located outside a properties boundary they are often easily targeted by criminals. It`s always good practice to cut up any bills or other documents before putting them in the bin.

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Poor Home Security

Opportunistic burglars are on the lookout for easy targets and vacant homes, with easily accessible doors and windows, can be attractive. But experienced burglars describe how they tend to avoid properties where home security has clearly been prioritised.

A simple, low cost element of home security that’s known to be a powerful deterrent is illumination. Criminals like to work unseen so motion-triggered lighting can be enough to prompt burglars to move on.

Another powerful option is the installation of low-cost CCTV cameras, along with warning signage. Today’s CCTV systems are increasingly sophisticated and easy to install. Some are capable of sending alerts to mobile phones which is just what you need for peace of mind when away from home.

Here are some previous posts in which we’ve provided practical, actionable home security recommendations.

If you have any questions about home security, or if you have any special requirements, remember that we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 092988 and we’ll provide you with free, expert advice.

For more information on How Burglars Identify Homes to Target talk to Insight Security

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