Is Your House Burglar-Proof Or Burglar-Friendly?

by golbguru on September 3, 2007

Yesterday, I was reading this article about a personal finance blogger’s conversation with a burglar, on where to hide money in the house. Although, the article probably written in a serious frame of mind, I couldn’t suppress a few chuckles (I don’t know why) before I finished reading it.

According to the article, basically, to make your house burglar-proof, you first need to make it burglar-friendly - not in the sense of encouraging burglars, but in the sense of making some things easy for them if they enter your house in the first place. Below are a few *priceless* excerpts from the article that were responsible for my chuckles.

Tip on letting the burglar “discover” some easy money if you care for your house.

Your best strategy, then, is to actually leave some money in obvious places for the burglar to quickly find (the same applies if you keep all your money in the bank). This can not only save your other stash of money, but may actually keep the burglar from destroying your place as he looks for where you have hidden your money. If they believe they may have found the cash that you have in the house, they are much less likely to keep looking (remember, they want to get out asap).

And here is one for making things user-friendly for the burglar:

When it comes to hiding valuables, his [the burglar's] suggestion is to mark an envelope in an easily accessible drawer or with files by your computer with “Bank Safe Deposit Box” on the outside and a list of items on the inside. This will tip off the burglar that your most valuable items are stored at the bank and will discourage him from tearing up your house looking for them.

How many of you think a burglar is going to take that bait seriously? Doesn’t that sound a little too “burglar-friendly”?

Here is another piece of advice on “token money” for burglar - as if to convince him to not tear apart the rest of the house. :)

If you leave some token money for the burglar to find in the places they normally look for money, then anyplace you wouldn’t normally consider a place to hide valuables will usually keep those valuables safe.

But, if one burglar thinks that way, wouldn’t there be others in his trade who know about this little trick all too well?

Now, if I were to change my profession and become a burglar (not a very likely proposition, but humor me for a while), wouldn’t some of the things above be a part of my basic training - I mean, if I find “token money” around the house, it’s going to tip me off about other valuables hidden elsewhere in the house at unlikely places. Also, if you leave an envelope prominently marked “Bank Safe Deposit Box”, I will instantly know that you are trying to fool me and I will tear up your house on reading such user-friendly *instructions*. Moreover, a burglar who comes prepared to tear your house to find valuables, will probably do it anyways - whether he finds the token money or not.

I don’t mean to ridicule the article - it does offer some valuable insight into the burglar psyche; it’s just that I found some of it rather amusing. It almost felt like hanging this sign on your window:

burglar friendly sign

Sometimes I wonder about all the popular tips to trick burglars - wouldn’t most (competent) burglars be aware of them before you are? In that case, wouldn’t it make sense to do something random that does not appear on such lists? I am just thinking aloud here.

In our case, the burglars probably will have better houses/apartments than our apartment. Between our close friends, we often joke that if a burglar enters our house, he will probably leave some items for us in sympathy, instead of taking something from our house. If it’s a weekday, he will probably think we have already been burglarized a few hours ago. :) On a serious note, I have never thought along the lines suggested by the article (probably because we don’t really have anything valuable in our house ~ the most cash we ever have at home is probably a few quarters). I should probably do it sooner than later.

For those who have made their houses/apartments burglar-proof (or burglar-friendly), feel free to share your experiences. Experienced burglars are especially encouraged - although, we would only take your suggestions with a grain of salt. ;)

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 moom 09.03.07 at 8:43 am

Who keeps money in their house apart from weird old people? Most normal people take any money with them when they go out. Burglars are mainly looking for portable electronics and jewelery I would think unless they know something is hidden in there. A very good idea is to have a backup of your computer somewhere else in case it gets swiped.

2 Mike 09.03.07 at 8:59 am

Most people who burglarize a typical home are looking for money for drugs or to pawn something for money for drugs. They want a fix fast, not to tear apart your home. If they find money fast, they can then go get their goods. Burglars are not rich, otherwise they wouldn’t be stealing. The exception is organized crime. Groups will steal and collect it together, however only the leaders are rich.

3 moom 09.03.07 at 9:30 am

PS Criminals are stupid or they would find a better way to make money. At least these kind of criminals are stupid.

4 BAMAToNE 09.03.07 at 1:09 pm

I was going to point out what moom did in his second comment. You’re giving the average burglar too much credit. If they were braniacs, they wouldn’t be robbing houses.

I also agree with moom’s first comment. The only money a burglar will find here is that nickel on the counter. What he’s going to want is my tv, dvd player, Gamecube, and computer.

The best advice I can give to dissuade burglars from stealing these items is to use an engraver and put an identifying word/phrase/number on each item. DO NOT USE YOUR SSN. A lot of pawn shops will not accept electronics with an engraved name or number on it because it usually means they are stolen. If you show up to a pawn shop that has your item, you can get it back for free by proving it’s yours. (Usually all you have to do is make a note to the officer investigating that your items are marked as such. Then show the official report to the pawn shop manager.)

Two other things that come to mind: Install an alarm system (duh). The sound it makes after he comes in should be enough to make him run off before he grabs anything. And set one or two lights on a timer for when you are not at home. If the dude sees lights on at 8pm, he’ll probably assume someone is there and move on.

5 golbguru 09.03.07 at 1:31 pm

Moom, BAMAToNE: Agree with you there - burglars (on an average) cannot be braniacs. More than attributing too many analytical abilities to burglar, I was just trying to pick on the suggestions in the article - especially the token money part. :) [it probably didn't come out very well]

We don’t have money at home either (except for a few quarters maybe), but since the burglar in our much referenced article specifically mentions “$100″, etc. - I was thinking may be some people do. :)

No wonder I was chuckling at the end of it. It appeared to be a very analytical and calculating burglar in that article.

6 The Financial Blogger 09.04.07 at 3:34 am

Thx for the good laugh!

However, I must admit that the worst that could happen to you when a burglar enters your house is to have nothing valuable to steal!

In fact, if the burglar took that stupid risk, they won’t come out of the house without some goods. It’s part of every risk vs reward strategy (if burglary can count as a strategy!).

Therefore, leaving a $100 on your computer will probably dissuade the burglar to keep going with unplugging your computer/dvd/tv etc. If the burglar doesn’t find anything, he will likely start to panic and put your house inside down since he is frustrated and needs to find something fast.

His thinking will probably look like: I took all those risk, I need to get something back out of it! (it’s basically the same thing that happen to people that refuse to sell their stock in a bad company ;-) ).

7 George 09.08.07 at 3:48 pm

I have a criminology degree and have done a LOT of reading on “target hardening” of houses.

Bottom line, most of the “burglar-friendly” ideas just don’t make a lot of sense. Most burglars are looking for quick booty, but many of them are high or drunk while they’re doing it - they aren’t likely to be using their higher-level reasoning skills.

Your best bet if you want to burglar-proof your home is to keep doors and windows locked (it sounds trite, but many people don’t), make the house seem occupied whether it is or is not (lights and radios on timers can help with this) and make the house seem hard to break into (alarm stickers and signs are one way of doing this).

Basically, the three factors involved are occupancy, accessibility, and visibility. You want to make your house seem occupied (lights, timers, etc), hard to get into (locks, window bars), and make it hard to break in without getting noticed (alarm, dog, etc).

8 Scot 03.10.08 at 7:22 am

I think the “token Money” is a good idea, they want to be in and out in minutes, worried that at any time someone could come home at any moment. Give them something and they would probably leave quickly, as opposed to digging for anything the can pawn or sell. Some of my friends have been broken into, they take cosume jewlery and DVD’s not paying attention to the Vintage guitar sitting on the couch that is worth several thousand dollars. If someone breaks in they can have the DVD’s or whatever junk they want….leave my guitars ALONE!

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