Is Your Home Vulnerable To Theft? 25 Former Burglars Weigh In

With the holidays fast approaching, there’s a good chance you’ll be spending some nights away from home. And though you may have security precautions in place, you may not be doing everything you can to keep your home—and your belongings—safe from burglars.

How can you be sure your safety measures are the right ones? Who better to ask than the experts—the burglars themselves? UK insurance agency Co-op Insurance polled 25 former burglars through a charity that supports people with criminal records—and what they learned might surprise you.

Flickr | woodleywonderworks

According to the FBI, Americans lost a collective $3.6 billion to burglary in 2015, the most recent data available. Homeowners lost, on average, $2,316 per burglary last year.

The consensus of the burglars was that noisy gravel driveways, “Beware of Dog” signs and leaving the lights on are the least effective measures for keeping would-be thieves at bay.

Flickr | Kenny Louie

They did share some more effective ways to help protect your home from break-ins. Roughly a quarter of the burglars said motion-activated lights would deter them, and 22 percent said a closed-circuit TV camera would turn them away from your house.

Fifteen percent of burglars surveyed said a dog barking would scare them away, while 11 percent said a monitored burglar alarm would stop them in their tracks.

Some dead giveaways that you’re not home: Mail sticking out of your mailbox or milk bottles outside.

The burglars also said it was a mistake to put your outdoor lights on a timer—they can tell when the lights turn on and off at the same time every day.

Don’t think that an alarm is enough either, they advised. Home alarm systems are are often ignored and the authorities can be slow to respond to residential alarm calls.

Most importantly, make sure to remember to lock your windows, garage and shed—any open door is an invitation to steal.