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Residential Burglary Prevention - Tips and Strategies

There are more than five million residential burglaries each year in the United States, and most of them could have been prevented.

To reduce your chances of being burglarized by 38%, all you need to do is lock your doors and windows!


Burglars actively choose their targets, and will assess a neighborhood by looking for the easiest houses to break into. Ones that have overgrown landscaping providing places to hide, ones that have doors and windows that are unlocked or open, and ones that have older window panes and door frames that are easy to pry open all make easy targets.


Download Tips and Strategies PDF


Tacoma burglary statisticsDespite the common fear that a burglary will take place in the middle of the night when you are at home and asleep, most residential burglaries actually occur during the daytime and during business hours. This is because people who steal do not want to be caught by an irate homeowner who calls the police.


Burglars make the common assumption that people will be away during the day and homes will be vacant.


The safest neighborhoods tend to have residents who work varying hours and neighbors who are at home during the day who can spot suspicious activity and call the police.

Did You Know?

Most residential burglaries actually occur during the daytime and during business hours.


Turn on exterior lights at night and, if possible, install photosensitive exterior lights that automatically turn on and off.
House numbers should be lit, at least 6 inches high, and in a color that strongly contrast with the colors of your home. If you are on an alley, you also need house numbers on the back fence or on the back of the house facing the alley.


Ensure your exterior lights are mounted out of reach, so a burglar can’t easily unscrew a light bulb.


Use a timer to switch lights on and off at various hours during the day and night, to make it look like someone is home when you are away.

Doors and Windows

Install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors, and use 3-inch long screws to attach the strike plates to the door frames.


Install double-cylinder deadbolt locks on doors that have glass windows adjacent to the locks. This will keep burglars from being able to break the glass, reach in and open your doors from the inside.


If your exterior doors have outward facing hinges, replace them with recessed hinges you can buy at any hardware store. Sometimes, burglars will gain entry to a home by pulling out the hinge pins and pushing in the door.


Replace the interior hinge pins on your exterior doors with ones that have built-in security studs which act as an additional door lock when the hinges are shut and will stay in place even if the exposed hinges are pulled out.


If possible, replace your exterior doors and door frames with metal or solid core wood instead of the light wood or styrofoam filled doors that were installed by contractors when your house was built.


Install auxiliary locks on all of your windows, and put dowels in the tracks to keep them from being pried open horizontally or lifted out of the frames/tracks.


Lock all windows, and exterior doors, gates, or garage doors that provide entry into your property.


Apply security film on windows that are at risk of being shattered.


Trim back or remove landscaping that provides hiding places around vulnerable doors and windows.


Apply the 2 to 6-inch Rule. Trim bushes to below 2 feet in height and limb trees 6 feet up from the ground to help remove hiding places.


Plant thorny bushes under vulnerable ground floor windows.


Plant climbing, flowering vines that attract bees around vulnerable windows.


Ensure that any plants or trees in your yard do not block windows or serve as a ladder to your second floor windows or balcony when they mature.


Use landscape rocks or pea gravel instead of beauty bark. Landscape rocks make a loud crunching noise when someone walks on them, and can alert you if someone is prowling around outside your home. Beauty bark is silent.


Organize a block watch group by calling Safe Streets at (253) 272-6824.
Use see-through fencing like picket or chain link fences. Solid fencing may provide you with privacy, but it also provides privacy for burglars as they attempt to break into your home.


Invest in a few “yard art” motion detectors. These are available at hardware stores. They feature built in motion detectors that make noise when someone crosses their paths. Place those strategically around your home.

Other General Tips

Consider getting a monitored alarm system with audible warnings to scare intruders away.
With a monitored alarm system, you would get a phone call from your alarm company first to assess the situation and, if the situation warrants, it the police would be called to the scene.


Inventory your valuables. Create a list with models and serial numbers, and descriptions of items and costs. Email this list to yourself so you’ll always have an electronic copy if your computer is stolen during a burglary. This will be needed by police and your insurance.


Get an engraver at a hardware store to mark your valuables with your Washington state driver’s license number or ID card number. If your name was Mary A. Smith, for example, your engraving would read: WA-SMITHMA123RP-DL. WA is for Washington, followed by the license or ID number, and the DL stands for Driver’s License. Police have the ability to look up a driver’s license number and obtain your name and address. If an engraved item is stolen from you and then pawned or traded, it can be traced back to you by the number you engraved on it.


Advertise that you engrave your property by putting Operation ID stickers in your windows. These stickers can be purchased at the National Neighborhood Watch Institute's website.


While on vacation, arrange for someone to pick up your newspapers and mail, and mow the lawn. Don't advertise that your home is vacant.
Lock up any outside ladders, furniture and lawn equipment, including garbage cans, that can be used as leverage to gain entry into upstairs windows.


Do not try to hide any house keys in your yard. It is best to leave them with a trusted neighbor or friend.


Leave your radio or television set on while you are away.

Commonly Stolen Items

Take special care to lock up or store these items safely.
  • Medication, especially pain-killer narcotics (Discard any unused medications immediately.)
  • Jewelry
  • Cash
  • Electronics
  • Alcohol
  • Tools
  • Computers
  • Guns and other sporting equipment

Crime in Progress



Police Non-Emergency

(253) 287-4455


Tacoma FIRST 311

747 Market Street
Second Floor
Tacoma, WA 98402
(253) 591-5000

Link to TacomaFIRST 311 from the City of Tacoma