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Burglary is a crime of opportunity and easy targets. Most burglars will give up if they can't finish their crime in a few minutes. To keep burglars away from your home or business, make their work difficult, risky, and low-profit.  Start your prevention program from the outside and work your way in, just as a burglar would:

Barriers to Burglary


Home Security Checklist [PDF]

If You Suspect a Burglary:
  • Don't go in. The burglar may still be inside.
  • Don't open for business immediately. Your employees and customers may unwittingly alter or destroy valuable evidence.
  • Call the police immediately!

Your First Line of Defense

The key is to keep trespassers out while keeping your property visible.

Walls can have a place in crime prevention.  However, fences and shrubbery might make good hiding places for burglars.  The key is to keep trespassers out while keeping your property visible. Use picket or chain link fences, or hedges no more than waist-high.  That way, you will form a barricade but everything that goes on inside is fairly visible.

On the Outside Looking In

Burglars try the easiest entries first: doors and windows.  If your doors or windows are tough/impossible to quickly pry open, chances are the burglars will move on.

Door Locks

The best locks are deadbolt locks with a minimum 1-inch throw bolt containing a hardened steel insert which resists sawing.  The strike plate should be attached to the door frame with screws that measure 4 inches long.  The double cylinder deadbolt lock requires a key to open from either side.  This prevents burglars from breaking glass in the door and reaching through to turn the knob from inside. It also prevents them from exiting through the door if they've entered through some other means.  Make sure the cylinder of the lock has a steel guard—a ring around the key section.  The cylinder guard should be tapered or rotate around the key section (if twisted) to prevent wrenching.

Remember, though, a double cylinder deadbolt may also slow down your own exit during an emergency. Check with your local law enforcement agency or building inspector to see if these locks are permitted in your area.


If your doors swing out, the hinges are on the outside.  A burglar can easily remove the hinge pins and lift the door out. To prevent this, remove the center screw from each side of the hinge and insert a metal pin or headless screw on one side.  When the door is closed, the end of the pin will fit into the opposite hole.  That way even if the hinge pins are removed, the door will be bolted to the frame.


A padlock is only as good as the hasp to which it is mounted.

Overhead doors, receiving doors, garage doors are all typically secured with padlocks and hasps (hinged metal plates).  Use  sturdy padlocks that don't release the key until the padlock is locked. That way, you'll never accidentally leave a padlock unlocked.  Remember: a padlock is only as good as the hasp to which it is mounted. The hasp should be secured with bolts and mounted on a metal plate.  Be sure bolts are concealed when the padlock is locked, and make sure the padlock is case-hardened with a 0.375-inch (3/8-inch) shackle so it can resist repeated smashings.

Door Construction

Burglars can virtually walk through a weak door.  Hollow core doors should be replaced with solid core doors or strengthened with metal sheets. Replace weak door frames or reinforce them with steel or concrete, and try to replace any glass in the door with unbreakable safety glass.  Glass can also be protected with steel bars or mesh, or by placing a poly-carbonate sheet over the glass on the inside.


Protect windows by putting grates, grill work, or bars over them, or place clear poly-carbonate sheets over the glass on the inside. Sheets should extend 1.5 inches beyond the perimeter of the glass and be attached to a solid surface with bolts spaced approximately every 3 inches. Unbreakable safety glass is also available, but is more expensive.

Even the best locks are useless if the window can be pried loose or the frame is rotten.

Use key locks on all your windows and always keep them locked. But remember that even the best locks are useless if the window can be pried loose or the frame is rotten. If you need ventilation, open the windows, but not wide enough to allow an average adult to climb through.  To secure ground-floor or first-floor windows, drill a slanted hole through the front window sash and part way through the back sash, and insert a heavy duty nail or an eye-bolt.

Other Entrances

Skylights, ventilation ducts, and fire escapes may be tempting entry points for a burglar because they're usually not visible from the street.  Protect skylights and ducts with metal grates and iron bars. Outside fire escape stairs should be too high for an adult to reach from the ground, and the door or window leading to the escape should be equipped with special emergency exit features.  Window guards should be removable or hinged at the top or side to allow for emergency exit.  Keys to locked windows or doors can be kept nearby for quick access.

Key Control

When using key locks, it is especially important to practice good key control:

  • Label keys using a code to indicate back door, receiving door, display case, etc.
  • Engrave "Do Not Duplicate" on all keys. Most locksmiths will observe this instruction.
  • Restrict access to keys to only your most trusted family members, friends, or employees.  Businesses may want to maintain a log to record removal and return.
  • Businesses should consider having locks re-keyed if/when an employee separates.


Businesses may consider joining forces with neighboring businesses to hire a uniformed guard. Look for a reputable security business and check references.  Make sure the security staff knows who your employees are, store hours, and your policies on shoplifting or internal theft.


Light may be one of the best crime deterrents.  In fact, some states have minimum standards for exterior lighting. The rule of thumb is to light up all dark areas, especially doors and windows, but watch for shadows that can conceal a burglar's activity.  If a business is in a commercial area where lighting is poor, they may consider joining forces with other merchants to petition the local government for improved lighting.  Or, you could pool resources and underwrite the costs yourselves.


Some residents and businesses may need to install an alarm. Before buying an alarm, weigh the cost against the need. How valuable are your belongings or merchandise? How great is your risk? It might be best to seek advice from a security consultant, but check credentials carefully.

If you do install an alarm, put warning signs in every window and at every possible entrance. Knowing your home or business is equipped with an alarm may be enough to deter some burglars.

For best results, every alarm system should include:

  • A battery fail-safe backup
  • Fire sensing capability
  • Feedback device to check whether the system is working

Operation Identification

Don't be caught in the position of suspecting a burglary and not knowing what's been stolen. Keep a complete, up-to-date inventory of your belongings or merchandise, including office machinery.  Put a copy in your safe deposit box or other location away from the home or business site.

While preparing your inventory, mark your property with your California driver's license number (preceded by the letters "CA"). Then, put Operation ID Decals on all windows and doors to warn burglars that your property can be traced.

Locks and alarms can't prevent burglary unless they are used.

Businesses should establish a "closing up shop" routine: locking doors and windows, and setting alarms.  You can also have someone inspect the building before opening for business.

If a Burglar Gets In

If a burglar gets inside your home or business, your best protection is visibility:  wide open spaces, low counters, and large, uncluttered display windows.  If possible, keep a few lights on inside even when closed.

Put your safe or cash register near the entry or an external window.  If a burglar can see them from the outside, so can everyone else and they'll be able to see a burglar, too.  Empty your safe or cash drawers and leave them open every night so a burglar won't be tempted to break them open.  If you use a safe, anchor it in concrete and make sure it has a combination lock, which is more burglar-resistant than a key lock.

To make it hard for a burglar to get out once in, put locks on all interior doors and hook them into your alarm system. (Always check fire regulations before installing such locks.)


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