General

A Simple Way to Protect Your Home From Criminals

Woman shooting handgun with instructor

This only takes about two minutes to protect your privacy and keeps prying eyes from knowing what’s in front of your house or in your garage. In other words, it’s one less tool people can use to stalk you or that criminals can use to case a neighborhood.

The White House front view
It looks like you can get a view of just about any house on Google—even 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
I got a call the other day from a friend who was looking to do some major renovations on his house. He was talking to different companies in the Las Vegas area and got a recommendation from someone for a builder. Supposedly, the builder was a great guy, did excellent work, and was incredibly wealthy because of his successful business. The friend I was talking to was going to meet this builder at the builder’s house so he could decide if he wanted to hire him.

As we were talking on the phone this friend said to me, “I have the builder’s address and just went to Google Maps to see a picture of his home. The home looks kind of run down and doesn’t look like the guy has any money.” Of course, just because someone doesn’t live in what society considers a “nice house” doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have money. I’m all about living below your means and not going into debt. However, the point of this story is how easy it was for my friend to go to Google Maps and check out this guy’s home.

The fact is, you can type in almost any address in the country and see the person’s house, what cars are in the driveway, and, if their garage was open when the picture was taken, you can see any valuables that were inside the garage. Since I’m all about protecting my privacy any way I can I personally had my home blurred out on Google Maps and I would encourage you do the same. “Hiding” your home on Google is very easy and here’s exactly what you do: First, go to Google Maps and type in your home address. Once you see the picture of your home, click on the picture and it will enlarge and take up the entire screen. In the bottom, right corner of this screen you will see the words “report a problem.” Click on “report a problem” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can request to have your home blurred out. After you’ve submitted your information, you’ll get an email that says, “Thanks for submitting your Street View report. We’re reviewing the image you reported and will email you when your request is resolved.” When I did this, my home was blurred out within 48-hours. However, if you don’t hear back from Google I would check their maps in a couple of days to make sure they took care of it.

Again, this only takes about two minutes to protect your privacy and keeps prying eyes from knowing what’s in front of your house or in your garage. In other words, it’s one less tool people can use to stalk you or that criminals can use to case a neighborhood.

How seriously do you take you take home security—not just protecting your home when someone is already inside, but securing your home so you do not become the target. Share your opinions and tips in the comment section.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free credit card knife from Jason, visit www.SpyEscape.com

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 (25)

  1. G-MAN – “hiring of only the smartest and most highly educated college graduates for producing the most intelligent and efficient agents; of which clearly separates them”

    I see what you did there …

  2. It sounds like the image will be blurred until google can check it, once they check it and see that there is no problem with the image, they will restore the photo back.
    Sounds stupid to be causing google extra work.

    If you are worried, keep your garage door closed so when the google maps car drives by again in a couple of years to update the database they won’t take a photo of what’s inside your garage.

    Any one can drive down your street and photograph your house, so long as they don,t tresspass onto your property.

  3. I just did the blur request. Thank you for the article. But, mostly how to blur out my address on google view. I’ve always been annoyed about the public access to street view of any home address. I’ve always felt it was a violation of MY privacy. I’ve seen a street view with the face of the home owner out side her front door, talking on her cell phone. I would think, she would find this Very alarming. I did.

    1. FYI…I just rec’d Google Map reply. thanks again.

      From: “no-reply@google.com”
      To: xxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com
      Sent: Monday, April 18, 2016 11:56 AM
      Subject: Update: Your Street View report

      Hi,

      The Street View you reported has been updated. You should see the changes within 24 hours.

      If you don’t see the changes after 24 hours, try clearing your browser’s cache and then check the image again. You can find instructions for clearing your cache here.

      Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Privacy and security are important to us, and your input helps us make Google Maps better for everyone.

      Sincerely,
      The Google Maps Team
      Reference ID:sv2-Time-2016/04/17-07:54:52.047988-XXXXX-XXXXXXXXXXXElQvLqdw

  4. Thank you for the HU sir – another thing we can do with little effort to protect our families. As a security consultant it amazes me how ‘casual’ most folks are about their security – forgetting that the Police are not “Security Guards” but are the people who show up AFTER a burglary has occurred. MOST burglars pick easy targets and typically check the front door to see if anyone is home and then go around to the back door and force their way in. Simple and quick for them. They would use Google to see how close are the neighbors, are there woods behind the house for a good escape route, and is there a Ferrari in the garage if it was photographed open, is there a boat in the yard in Google but this weekend the boat is gone – indicating nobody home etc. PLEASE do not fall into the mindset that these criminals are stupid – those who are successful burglars are smarter than us when it comes to our personal security, so anything we can do to close the gap is a step in the right direction.

  5. A few years ago I moved to Az. I was a fence contractor. I lived in a very nice development. I did not have a home alarm system but I did have a national alarm sign that I put outside the house. I come home one day to find police all over the place but not my home. Both homes to my side and one home across the street were broken into and thousands of dollars worth of property and damage were sustained. The sign scared them away. The police told me it was a good thing I had an alarm. I said ” ain’t that the truth”.

  6. The news is full of folks victimized after using Craig’s List, service calls to their homes, sales calls, etc. Beaver Cleaver and his parents now have alarm systems, are armed and have self defense training if their smart.
    After growing up in rural and small town America, living in Marine on base SNCO housing (the safest place on the planet) and retiring to live again in a Mayberry type environment, we finally relocated from a very rural area in another state to a suburban one in the Vegas Valley.
    I quickly learned that criminals are more sophisticated today than they used to be. I no know to watch for strangers in the neighborhood beyond the normal awareness, such as cars parked on the street with folks in them during the day. Why? Burglars now operate in teams planning ahead to invade certain neighborhoods this week and another one the next. They send out scouts to watch neighborhood activity, learn who’s home at what time and who’s not. Who has alarm systems, dogs and other security measures in place before the pick their victims, plotting their strikes on a map with dates and times. They watch the mailman and paper delivery to pick up on vacations and other patterns. They use google earth to see back yards, patios, where cover and concealment are as well as points of access and exit.
    Arrests the last couple of years seem to validate this with usually three or four guys and occasionally a woman arrested as well, when the ‘gang’ is finally busted.
    I learned not to have my exact home address marked in my GPS in the car or to leave identifying documents like registration or insurance papers where easily accessed for those who may have access to my car for one reason or another.
    My current home is the first experience with an HOA and one I never wanted as I had never heard of one that wasn’t a nightmare, especially in Vegas.
    However, after several years I’m happy with the one we have despite the many horror stories in the news and others we hear about.
    One reason is our HOA has a rule that home occupants must keep their garage doors closed except when needing them open to enter, leave, etc. The HOA does not allow us to leave the door fully open while working in the garage for extended periods of time, or to work on cars in our driveways.
    Initially I was unhappy about this and found it inconvenient and more. Now, after seeing the difference in home invasions, robberies and property crimes between mine and surrounding neighborhoods resulting from this and other security related measures encouraged or mandated by the HOA, I’m glad to live with that restriction.
    Although not gated, we have restricted access points with cameras, signs notifying all it is a private community and no soliciting is allowed.
    Every single home is required to have two automatic sunset activated outside lights on its garage. Our HOA president walks many miles every day for personal health reasons and makes a point of touring the entire HOA at least twice a day. He closed my garage door for me once when I left home and forgot. I now have an inexpensive device, a switch on a multiple setting timer that automatically closes the door if I forget to prevent that from happening again.
    I learned when coming home after dark to enter the garage with car doors locked and not open them until the garage door is down. Is my neighborhood that bad? No, In fact it’s very low crime and starkly different from most even in the high end most affluent areas, none of which are immune anymore.
    Criminals have responded to increased security measures with increased methods to evade them and advance planning to avoid detection and arrest.
    As a daily consumer of news around the nation I’ve learned no where is safe from crime, regardless of affluence or opportunity. What make the difference is awareness, vigilance and measures appropriate to the circumstances.

  7. Wow G-man is real sensitive. Seriously this is not the worst evaluation of how to protect your home for free, it is the equivalent of making sure your trash can has a lid, so people are less likely to go through your trash and find bank statements……. If your doing other things correctly (like shredding your statements or having a home security system) this process will not help protect you. This article is trying to hard to calmly be paranoid.

    1. @ F-man

      Apparently you’ve confused sensitivity with serious. I’ve responded seriously about this issue because my 33 years in the law enforcement profession has provided me more knowledge and experience on the topic than you. If you possessed the same knowledge and skills, you would already have known not to make the foolish and misguided statements you have. If you don’t understand or disagree with what I’ve just stated to you – that would be due to your inability to comprehend or learn from that which I’ve just stated to you.

  8. i completely disagree that this is a good idea. To my mind it is the equivalent of Barbara Boxer’s “just put down your gun and the bad guy will put his down.” Do you really think that any criminal that is smart enough to use Google Earth to case houses will be deterred if the house is blurred out? Instead, they will think “I wonder what they are hiding, must be a place with valuables, good place to hit” You really don’t want your house to stand out from the others. I will not be blurring out my house, or recommending this to others.

    1. @ BBOOSE,

      Over 33 years law enforcement speaking here, so I can assure you that your ideology doesn’t match the real-world experience behind actual criminal logic. On the contrary, burglars encountering a blurred Google image won’t have their interest piqued in the slightest because they will simply move on to the multitude of homes that are openly displayed on Google.

      Aside from the random juvenile act committed by your local neighborhood punk or drug addict, career criminals view burglary as a routine bulk enterprise. They simply do not have the time nor the will to risk dealing with the unknown that could get them caught.

      Based on your logic, you would also denounce advertising you have an alarm system because you think it would also announce to criminals that you have something worth protecting and thus make you a bigger mark. But the reality is (and statistics back this up) burglars tend to skip the houses that post security signs in the lawn and stickers on the doors and windows. Criminals themselves admit there are far too many houses to hit that don’t have these signs or security systems.

      The most import take-away from this article is that the modern burglar is using Google to case neighborhoods in preparation for a prospective hit. Google is being used to replace the old method whereby they had to drive or walk through each neighborhood which risked undesirable attention.

      So with that said, casing a neighborhood on Google isn’t just about maybe catching a glimpse of what you may have of value. That part is assured because they will have already honed their search for affluent and exclusive neighborhoods.

      Instead they use Google for checking out your home and property for the easiest layout, fencing and gates, windows and door access, as well as home that offer landscaping and shrubbery that will hide their activity. All of this goes into the overall planning for the most discrete avenues of approach and fast exits. This is why the number one Google search by burglars is “expensive homes near freeways”.

      So go ahead and leave your imagery up – I am sure they will appreciate you for that. Oh, and one more thought, your Barbara Boxer analogy didn’t really make any kind of sense. Just keep’n it real is all.

    2. G-Man, who did you work for? I have 15 years as an LEO with my County Sheriff’s Office with 4 years in Major Crimes Robbery, Homicide, and GTA.

      If they are going to use Google maps to look for targets they are not going to skip your home just cause its blurred out. They will hit the house next to yours and yours and the next one.

      I agree keeping all doors locked, installing secondary locks on windows and sliding glass doors, security cameras (good ones) and an alarm. Are great ideas but nothing and I mean nothing other then barring up your house and keeping an alert guard on site is the only way keep out a person who wants in.

      BTW to keep’n it real bad guys that use the internet read these also and use social media etc… But then again i am only a street cop not a Gee.

    3. @ Patrol Sgt,

      It doesn’t matter which Federal LEA I work for as there is no fair comparison. Especially given the known fact that on a nationwide scale some LEAs are just simply better funded, more highly trained, technologically advanced, and have policies that mandate competitive hiring of only the smartest and most highly educated college graduates for producing the most intelligent and efficient agents; of which clearly separates them from the other ineffectually proven local LEAs.

      But I digress, because the real question isn’t at all about which agency I work for, it is instead whether you advocate as a county deputy to the citizens who read this forum, or even those you are locally sworn to protect, that they should take no action in regards to blurring out their property photos on Google’s StreetView; because that certainly appears to be what you are ultimately pushing here.

      I don’t believe I’ve read yet where anyone else here ever suggested this to be an alternative to barred windows, locked doors or security cameras. The author even touted it as an additional measure – “In other words, it’s one less tool people can use to stalk you or that criminals can use to case a neighborhood.”

      So given your post obviously opposes blurring one’s property imagery, I have to challenge your sum-logic which you claimed to have garnered from 15 years experience as a deputy. In contrast, my 33 year’s experience and training dictates that no one could possibly anticipate the total extent to which this ever evolving technology will be used by the criminal element. And thus, I would always maintain it a safer recommendation for citizens to remain as private as possible by blurring their homes on Google’s StreetView. Anything less from a sworn officer or security professional is simply irresponsible.

      Assuming you are a deputy, you well know that State, County and Local authorities heavily depend upon our Federal resources, training, and network of compiled information which includes nationwide crime statistics, comprehensive trend analysis, emergency bulletins, officer safety briefs, anti-terror alerts as well as an abundance of national database systems which compile all other national LEA data, including yours. So it is beyond me that you would not think first before getting sarcastic with another officer while failing to even consider first that maybe my advice stems from my access to information, trends and experience covering a much larger area than just the county you work for.

      But don’t take just my word for it. Consider all the other agencies and outside countries that prevent Google’s snooping for security and privacy reasons. You’ll never find StreetView access anywhere on military bases or federal installations. They won’t even allow google into the residential areas of common base housing, but a pizza guy or a city bus can roll right on in. Do you believe the families living in base housing somehow deserve more protection than the civilian families living just along the other side of the fence line? There is a reason StreetView is banned – it’s just that some are quicker to figure it out over others.

      In addition, there is a growing list of countries that are now working to reverse Google’s agreement to continue running StreetView because they too are starting to realize the adverse criminal aspects of this technology. And finally if there are any more doubts, the following should open anyone’s eyes to the idea that it just may be safer to blur your property in StreetView:

      There is a criminal element continually developing software to do their dirty work for them. The software is designed to scrub through StreetView imagery and detect desirable predetermined features of property, layout, access, and vehicles amongst other attributes. The data is mapped and stored in comprehensive databases to be used or sold to other criminals for planning the final hits.

      More alarming is the software can also detect parked law enforcement vehicles versus ones on call in order to flag homes where a probable law enforcement family member lives. In addition, even though StreetView software attempts to blur out addresses and license plate numbers, it still misses enough that this software detects and matches exposed license plate numbers to residences.

      There is so much more we are uncovering, but this should give folks a taste enough to make a better decision on whether the effort to blur their property is worth their time. From here it is your call…

    4. G-man, wow, you truly are a Fed,to believe all of that btw it is Patrol Sgt. Deputy Sheriff of Deputy Sheriff Patrol Sgt. or simply Sgt. or Deputy, not county deputy.. This does not change the fact that there is no statistical data and will never be unless someone makes it up as you can not nor could you track the information.

      However to answer your question as to blurring out your house, I believe there are far more ways to protect your home and property then worrying about an image on a computer.

      So have fun, be safe.

    5. Okay Sir – “Patrol Sgt. Deputy Sheriff of Deputy Sheriff Patrol Sgt.”, I had no idea your county’s sheriff knighted you guys with such noble and prolific titles. Please accept my humblest apologies.

      However, I’m not certain that making a stink over your duty title really helps your point any, or for that matter detracts at all from mine.

      It is instead more apparent that you are attempting to side-step the topic at hand by cluttering it with nonsense. Especially given that my usage of “county deputy” is quite acceptable and accurate by any standard – given that by your own admission you are a “deputy” and you do work for a “county”; thus you are in-fact a “county deputy” regardless of your department’s internal naming conventions (or should I say knighthood ceremonial titling process).

      Now as to the content of your most recent reply, I’m going to go out on a limb here (actually a really thick tree stump) and call your BS. There is no possible way for you to be in law enforcement and write:

      “This does not change the fact that there is no statistical data and will never be unless someone makes it up as you can not [sic] nor could you track the information.”

      Simply put, if you were a full-fledged deputy as you’ve claimed, you would never have made such a ridiculous statement.

      I am in a position that has afforded me the opportunity to work with many different law enforcement agencies and run multijurisdictional taskforces nationwide with LEA teams comprised from every level of government, yet I have NEVER come across an unknowledgeable deputy (other than a recruit) that would be willing to make such an ignorant statement.

      At best, maybe you have friends in law enforcement or you are a reserve deputy pulling the minimum time required to keep your badge, but there is no possible way you work deep in the sh*t without knowing a bit more about your department’s dependency on our federal database systems and the information we statistically track and analyze.

      Even if you are a reservist or new recruit, one call to any of your fulltime LEA buddies would have confirmed our federal capabilities and thus spared you making such a fool of yourself in this forum.

      Regardless, law enforcement poser or not, you still refuse to give a pointed YES or NO answer to a simple question as to your official so-called LEA recommendation to citizens regarding whether they should blur out their property on StreetView.

      Rather than a simple YES or NO answer, you attempt to skirt giving a definitive answer by instead making a statement which everyone already knows. So thank you Captain Obvious – everyone already knows there are many additional ways to add to the protection of their property. And you really expect others to believe you are a deputy?

      As the author already clearly wrote, “…it’s one less tool …criminals can use to case a neighborhood”. He never implied it was THE only tool or that it should be used in lieu of other security measures. Please stop your silliness. Enough already.

  9. Tried it, there was no “Report a problem” option. i use Google Earth quite a bit in my work (such as trying to find dirt airstrips in the Central Africa Republic for my clients), but I’ve never seen this option and didn’t today. Found my house with no problem, but no option to do what you suggested.

    1. The article mentions Google Maps that you use with a web browser not the Google Earth application which is more powerful for many things, but does not have the Street View that the article is talking about!.

  10. Well, only thing wrong with this article is that a Google Earth would be showing what was in your yard/in front of your house 2,3,4 years ago. It’s hardly real-time….

    1. @ Rick,

      Please reference my post to BBOOSE on this page. You will find it isn’t just about what you may have in your yard, but more about the burglar using Google to virtually case neighborhoods when deciding which properties are easiest to hit along your block.

      The layout provided for this purpose rarely changes over the years which makes Google very relevant to burglars even if it is 2-4 years old. In addition, Google has stated that after it completes initial mapping of all cities they have a plan to recursively update imagery in 4 to 6-month intervals. They’ve already begun testing auto-driven cars for this in Phoenix, Arizona.

    2. “You will find it isn’t just about what you may have in your yard, but more about the burglar using Google to virtually case neighborhoods when deciding which properties are easiest to hit along your block.”

      That wasn’t presented in the article; I rebutted that which was.

      “Google has stated that after it completes initial mapping of all cities they have a plan to recursively update imagery in 4 to 6-month intervals.”

      In the future. Not today.

    3. @ Rick,

      I was trying to be helpful but your response shows you only care about being a technically correct buffoon. Regardless, you failed miserably given it was in-fact “presented in the article”. Try re-reading the second sentence of the entire article where Dave Dolbee wrote:

      “In other words, it’s one less tool … criminals can use to case a neighborhood.”

      Now on to the idiocy embedded in your second misguided point: Regardless of how often Google updates the imagery in your little neck of the woods it still stands that not a day goes by that Google isn’t cyclically updating mass batches of neighborhood imagery everywhere else in this Country. That means your so-called “future” is in-fact happening “today” and every day for millions of other people besides yourself.

      So while you choose to make an ass of yourself, please do keep in mind there are many other readers that instead choose to benefit from the information provided in this article along with intelligent commentary provided by other helpful contributors. All of which renders your posts a waste of time, counterproductive, and moot.

    4. Google maps / Street view, not Google Earth.

      Google Earth is the satellite view, street view uses the roaming cars with 360 cameras on top that snoop around, take photos and collect your wi-fi info too!

    5. Yes, Street View is available from Google Earth (drag the little man by the zoom bar to any street). The “report a problem” link is on the lower left hand corner of the view.

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