Warning Signs your Home is Being Watched by Thieves

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Written by Bernie Carr

Once every couple of weeks, I look at posts in the neighborhood site of Nextdoor.com just to see what’s being discussed in the area.

There was a post written by one of the residents describing an unfamiliar car that was stopped in front of their home. The driver came out and started taking photos of their home. The homeowner came out and confronted the photo taker- he claimed he was doing it for real estate. The house was not for sale so this was very suspicious. The homeowner took photos out of their windows of the license plate and reported it to the police.

This story made me think about writing this post.

What we know about burglaries

According to the FBI, a home burglary occurs in the U.S. every 13 seconds, numbering about 2.5 million annually.

How do they gain entry?

  • 9% get in via the garage
  • 22% gain entry using the back door
  • 34% of burglars break in through the front door

Time of day

Although we imagine robbers sneaking around at night, most burglaries actually occur between 10 am and 3 pm during the day. Most people work during the day or do errands around that time. July and August are the prime months that people get robbed – summertime, when people are frequently away from home. A home can be robbed within eight to 12 minutes or less.

72% of break-ins happen when people are out of the home, while 28% occur then someone is at home.

These statistics illustrate that criminals have a system for targeting people, and usually case the homes of potential victims before making their move.

Signs your home is being watched by thieves

Unfamiliar car in the neighborhood

Get familiar with the cars that are usually present in your neighborhood. That way, if a strange car appears, you can discreetly check to see if it’s someone visiting your neighbors or someone with ill intent. The car may drive by a number of times, or the driver may just be sitting in there for a long period of time.

Photo taker

If your home is not for sale, it is very suspicious if someone were to take photos, unless there is some event going on. If you see someone taking photos, take a photo of them and their license plate without them knowing about it. If you have a bad feeling, report the incident to the police.

Strolling stranger

I can usually tell the usual people walking their docs, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Pay attention to how they are dressed. They are usually wearing exercise clothes, running shoes etc. Make a note if the person keeps walking by aimlessly.

Missing light bulbs

Light is the enemy of burglars – they may try to break or unscrew light bulbs out in your porch so they can skulk in the cover of darkness. Replace those missing or broken bulbs right away.

Chalk markings

A few years ago, there were news reports in the U.S. and the U.K. about people finding strange chalk marks in their driveway or sidewalk. Some say they were codes burglars made to identify their targets. I haven’t heard any new reports about this but the way I see it, anything out of the ordinary should be noted.

Broken window

A burglar may break a window in your car or house just to see if an alarm will go off.

Trash rummaging

Watch out for anyone going through your trash. They could be looking for documents they can use to steal your identity.

Always shred your documents before placing them in the trash.

Stranger at the door

I’ve heard enough stories about strangers trying to gain entry by knocking on the door to see if you’re home.

They could be knocking to see if someone is home during the day. Answer the door but don’t open it.

They may even try to convince you their car broke down, or are selling something just to get into your house. If someone truly needs help you can offer to make a call for them, but don’t open your door.

How to protect yourself

  • Be alert. Establish a baseline in your mind of “what is normal” so you can observe when something is out of place.
  • Install motion sensor lights outside.
  • If you will be out, make sure you have timer controlled lights, TV, radio and other noise that make your home look occupied. You can even get a fake TV device that mimics the light patterns of a TV’s flickering lights.
  • Avoid sharing up to the minute activities on social media. I know people like to keep their friends informed on when they eat at restaurants or travel – that’s fine but do it after the event is over and you are home.
  • Install an alarm system such as the Ring doorbell.
  • If you make a large purchase such as a TV, computer, tear up the boxes and throw the cardboard inside the trash or recycling bin. Don’t just leave it outside – a large box sitting in front of your house is an advertisement that you now own a fancy new appliance.
  • If you are leaving for a road trip, down leave your front door or garage door open as you are packing up the car. If people can see you preparing your car, they will know you will be away for a while.
  • Remove any flyers being left at your front door right away. Burglars will be looking at whether flyers are piling up since no one is home.
  • Don’t let your mail pile up when you go on vacation. Have the post office hold your mail or have a friend collect your mail for you.
  • If you are getting picked up by a taxi or ride-share driver for a ride to the airport, meet the driver at the leasing office or a block from your house. This avoids you being seen loading up suitcases indicating you are taking a trip.
  • Fortify your doors and windows.
  • Keep your blinds or curtains shut so no one sees what’s inside your home.
  • Talk to your neighbors. They may have also observed the same things you noticed.
  • Take a picture. Just like the neighbor I described earlier, don’t hesitate to use your phone’s camera to document what you have observed. Just be sure you do it discreetly and avoid calling attention to yourself.
  • Trust your gut. If you have a feeling your home is being watched by criminals, keep an eye out. Make a note on what you have observed so you can describe a suspect. Report suspicious activity to the police.

Be vigilant

Some crimes are crimes of opportunity but most burglaries happen after the thief has cased your house. Hopefully these tips have given you some ideas on what to watch for.

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About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

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  1. I’ve made it a point to installed cameras to monitor perimeter of my Townhome.
    It does come in handy to replay events and emphasize to the wife the importance of knowing whats going on around the immediate area. One of the thing I did like about the townhome was the iron gate to the front door, major deterrent for someone wanting to kick in your front door. I saw the aftermath of this one day at about 12 noon when I came home for lunch. Neighbor’s door was kicked in and I notified the police. Leaving the lights on to the front of the street is a must and the neighbors follow the example. Always make your place and yourself a difficult target. Good post and reminder, Bernie!!

    1. Hi Carlos, That’s great you have installed cameras to monitor the area around your townhome. You never know who could be skulking around. Sounds like you are very safety minded. Thanks for the comment!

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