Odds are, you’ll be fine. Back in 1973, the burglary rate in the United States was soaring at 110 out of every 1,000 households. Today in 2019, that number has dropped to just 26 out of every 1,000 households, and most of that improvement has been recent: the burglary rate fell by nearly 40 percent since 1998, and each year since 2012 has enjoyed a decline from the previous year. You can read about more specific Seattle burglary data here, but it’s more or less comparable to the national stats.
However, statistics aren’t necessarily reassuring. Put another way, even today, one in every thirty-eight homes will get burglarized this year. Will it be yours? The average cost of a break-in is $2,230. Declining crime rates don’t offer that much comfort if you’re one of the unlucky victims.
The best way to protect your home isn’t to turn it into Fort Knox—it’s just to make things difficult enough that your house isn’t worth the trouble. The average time a burglar spends breaking into a home is less than a minute, and then the average burglar spends 8-12 minutes inside the home. Get in quick, get out quick. If the process takes too long, someone might see something or a homeowner might come back, so if you make things difficult and throw off a burglar’s plan, that’s usually good enough.
Here are our suggestions for reinforcing your home and beating the odds. (They’re already low odds—I want to stress that we live in a relatively safe time, and it’s good to be trusting and neighborly and spend time in your community. But you can do both—be community-minded and have a secure home, which is what we recommend).
1) Change the Locks
If you just moved into a new home, change the locks! You don’t know how many old keys are out there, and it’s best to eliminate that possibility completely. You should also check all the windows to make sure the window locks work and are tough enough to deter someone. Some windows have flimsy plastic tabs that won’t hold up against an intruder.
2) Reinforce Doors
Invest in deadbolts and install jams on sliding doors. The front door is the #1 point of entry for burglars (34 percent of incidents), so make sure someone can’t simply kick the door open. If you remove the easiest way in, there’s a good chance the burglar will leave right then and seek out an easier target.
3) Good Habits
About 30 percent of burglaries don’t involve forced entry. An unlocked door or an open window is all it takes. Get into the habit of locking your doors and windows. This is low-hanging fruit—no extra purchases needed!—so there’s no reason not to start working on this one today.
4) Lights and Landscaping
Keep your shrubs and vegetation trimmed so burglars can’t hide there. Again, this goes back to burglars’ preference for quick and stealthy jobs. They don’t want to look suspicious by fiddling with a window in plain sight of the neighbors. (As a nice bonus, well-trimmed shrubbery increases your curb appeal!) In the same vein, exterior lights help keep your home secure at night. Consider installing motion-sensor or timed lights to prevent would-be robbers from prowling about in the dark. Our latest listing, for instance, has exterior lights, outdoor cameras, and smart locks on the doors.
5) Home Alarm System
Homes without alarm systems are 2.7 times more likely to be targeted by a burglar. Home alarm systems vary greatly in cost and features, so you’ll have to do your own research into what system fits your particular needs. Even if you can’t afford a home alarm system, you can put signs in your yard and/or stickers on the window to make your house appear more difficult to rob. When it comes to burglaries, deterrence is the name of the game.
6) Get In Their Heads
Even if a thief gets into your house, you haven’t lost the battle. Since the average time a burglar only spends 10–12 minutes in a home, you can often thwart them by slowing things down and keeping your valuables where a burglar doesn’t expect. A typical burglar targets the master bedroom, then the home office, living room, and dining room. They’ll usually look for cash, electronics, gold, guns, jewelry, and silver. You can’t exactly hide your TV or desktop computer, but you can keep cash and jewelry out of plain sight. Unconventional hiding places are one trick (tampon box, envelop at the bottom of a Tupperware drawer, behind books in a bookshelf, etc). The best trick, though, especially if you own guns: a safe. If you value efficiency, a fireproof safe will protect you from that disaster, too.
Although different from burglary, this last one gets overlooked often enough that we wanted to mention it. Your home wireless network can lead criminals to your financial and personal information, so locking it down is every bit as important as securing your front door. Enable WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) or WPA2 encryption to prevent unauthorized access to your Wi-Fi network. Use a firewall, create strong passwords, and install antivirus and anti-malware software on your computers. You can also hide your home network.
Most likely, you won’t need any of these tips. The best one, in fact, is the last one—your digital security—but if any of these let you sleep better at night, I think they’re worth every penny.
The most important part, though, is perspective. Crime is decreasing overall. You can trust your community. We’re all in this together.