Personal Defense

Preventing Theft and Home Intruders

Modern suburban home exterior on a late summer evening with lights on yard and house

Although violent crime is down in 2024, it’s not down by much. The FBI estimates around 1.2 million reported incidents a year. Burglary and robbery are not the only risks, assault and murder are far too common. It’s important to be prepared and have a plan to avoid being a victim. There are several measures you can take to prevent theft and home intruders, and they all revolve around keeping yourself from being an easy target. 

Alarm System and Cameras

The majority of criminals and thieves are looking for an easy target. A hard ‘work ethic’ is not their strong suit. Setting up a good alarm system and security cameras are a strong deterrent. Most common criminals will see this and seek an easier mark.

CCTV security camera for home security & surveillance.
Mount your cameras securely, up high to prevent tampering.

Ensure that you cover all your entrances and exits from all angles of approach. Mount your cameras securely, up high to prevent tampering. Hook everything to a stable source of power, and consider linking your alarms to a cell phone backup to dial 911 in the event the power gets cut. 

If possible, add motion detectors to exterior rooms as a backup line of defense. If a full-blown security system is too expensive, a quality doorbell camera can go a long way. Obviously, your coverage will be limited, but at least you have some alert and video documentation. 

As for the fancy signage you often see posted stating something along the lines of, “powered by such and such.” With the way technology is nowadays, and the sophisticated patches and workarounds criminals can develop, I’m not sure I would want to billboard the specs of my particular security system. It seems like it would make it easier to disable. 

Dogs

Unless trained, most dogs will do little more than alert you to a possible criminal during an invasion. Once in the home, a determined intruder will befriend your animal. They will even bring food if necessary. However, when choosing a target, intruders will often avoid the added risk and look elsewhere. Of course, breed matters — the larger the better. A barking Chihuahua is not scaring anyone. A Great Dane or Pitbull, however, is a different story. 

As mentioned, the real benefit to a dog is their incredible hearing and reaction time. I know my pup hears anyone coming up the driveway and starts barking long before they get to the front door. 

Lighting

Having a well-lit property that is highly visible is another great deterrent. This ties in well with an alarm system and security cameras. Good lighting can ensure you get adequate footage. Set up spotlights that light up any trees, shrubbery, and other areas of cover. Solar-powered units are optimal, as you won’t need to worry about your power source. Bonus points if they’re linked to motion sensors. 

a man maintaining a motion detector and spot of light on a wall, outdoor shot
Set up spotlights that light up any trees, shrubbery, and other areas of cover.

Don’t neglect indoor lighting. Leaving a light or two on while away can help trick people into thinking you’re home. It also allows neighbors to recognize any unfamiliar individuals lurking around your property. 

Reinforced Entry Points

Reinforce all doors, windows, and other entry points, such as your garage. Be sure to install a deadbolt and quality locks on all exterior doors. Swap in longer screws where the strike plates mount. The cheap hardware that’s typically included barely penetrates the door frame and will easily break off with a swift, well-placed kick. If you can, select thick, solid wooden doors with steel reinforcement when possible. Avoid doors with large glass window sections, as these can be busted to make an opening. 

Windows, especially large ones, are another common entry point for unwanted guests. Although it is more expensive, tempered glass is a great way to beef up the security of your windows. Tempered glass has been heat-treated to increase its strength and durability. It is typically around four times stronger than standard glass. You can also go with laminated glass, which uses two panels and a vinyl interlayer to increase durability. For a truly “unbreakable” option, Polycarbonate panels provide the most security. They’re not technically glass and are unable to shatter. 

Burglar Using Crowbar To Break Into a House at night with room left and right for type
Reinforce all doors, windows, and other entry points, such as your garage.

Awareness

Thieves used to wait until you were at work or on vacation to hit your place. This is not always the case anymore. More and more criminals are targeting you in the evening or at night while you are home to get any safe codes or banking passwords. 

Be wary of anyone knocking on your door. Impersonating delivery drivers and door-to-door salesmen is a common ruse. These are elaborate. They often include fake uniforms to make you more comfortable and get you to let your guard down. Takeover groups may even send a lone woman to the door to get a better response. 

Most of the time, the people knocking are exactly what they seem, a causal annoyance. Have your firearm ready, but do not be obvious. I’m someone who believes the element of surprise should always be in your favor. 

Man drawing handgun in home in self defense
Having a firearm available is a good last resort.

Keep an eye on the areas around your home. Take note of any suspicious vehicles repeatedly driving by or parking for extended periods of time. Check for unfamiliar people who may be walking around the area. As you pay attention, you will begin to learn the somewhat consistent ‘pattern’ of your neighborhood. Does anything seem out of place? 

Note on Vehicles

Whether it’s breaking in to steal your belongings or lifting the vehicle itself, cars and trucks are common targets for criminals. When parked on the street or in the driveway, keep a camera trained on your vehicles. A spotlight paired to a motion sensor is a good addition. You may not catch the culprit in time, but you have some evidence to submit to law enforcement and insurance. 

Keep your vehicle clean, if criminals peek in and see nothing, they’re likely to not take the risk. This helps while you’re out and about too. Lock your doors and park within view of other people and cars. If you do need to leave something valuable in the car, cover it to disguise it as much as possible. An old sweatshirt laying on the floor is far less desirable than a new Macbook. 

Car thief in black balaclava pointing to auto owner. Car theft.
Keep your vehicle clean, if criminals peek in and see nothing, they’re likely to not take the risk.

Final Thoughts

In the end, theft and home invasions are never completely preventable, which is why we have firearms and insurance. Do the best you can at making your home a hard target and develop a home defense plan for if things go awry. Some situational awareness, and a good security system, go a long way. 

Do you have any other tips and tricks for preventing theft and home intruders? What is your home defense plan? Share your thoughts in the Comment section. 

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. Bumper,
    Ya otta write a book ..!
    Used to live in Bay Area now ID
    Thanks for sharing good luck with Newsome and OakTown

  2. My background is Navy electronics, then Oakland PD, the last 3 years as an evidence technician (now CSI). I’ve been to thousands of crime scenes, then used that background to found a security company.

    Bad guys will often look for an easy target, and one that presents less risk. And while some burglars will walk right up and kick in the front door, it is much more common for them to go around the building looking for the easiest way in. You can use that to advantage. One way is to set a trap for them. A side garage door works well for this. Attach a cable with an eyebolt to the door frame adjacent to the doorknob. The cable should have a looped end that will slip over the inside doorknob. This door is left unlocked and can be opened only a few inches due to the cable. The door is connected to the alarm system, if there is one. If not, then a local buzzer or sounder can be used with a magnetic switch to sound when the door is opened.

    For normal access to this door from the outside, you can either connect the cable to the fixed doorframe eyebolt padlock you can just reach to unlock from the outside, or simply make the cable just long enough that you can reach in and slip the cable off the inside doorknob. This all works very well in practice, as the bad guy’s first instinct on hearing the alarm is to slam the door shut to “quite the noise” and run – no damage and no entry to the house.

    If you have a two-story house, don’t leave an upstairs window open when there’s access to it from a roor or balcony under, or with a ladder you left laying outside. One rather brilliant “customer” attached carpet tack strips to the interior underside of her kitchen windowsills, as the window had been used for entry before. Bad guy grabbed ahold of that windowsill trying to climb in. I’m quite sure his experience was both memorable and painful as there was blood all over. Much more, but don’t want to write a book.

  3. One note on losses from your vehicle. Why keep a thousand dollars worth of firearms in sixty thousand dollars worth of vehicle out in your driveway while five hundred dollars worth of junk in the garage keep you from parking in it.

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