6 No-Cost Ways to Keep Thieves Out of Your Home

Worried about your home’s appeal to thieves? Here are a half-dozen free ways to bolster your sense of security.

How secure is your castle?

If you are unsure, there is some good news: There are several easy, no-tech ways to improve your home’s security for free, or next to nothing.

Remember, the most effective improvements are the ones that persuade a burglar to move on to the next guy’s home.

1. Enlist local police

Local police departments typically will send a trained officer to your home to do a walk-through with you, pointing out your vulnerabilities and suggesting simple fixes.

Also, check your police department’s website for crime statistics and tips. For example, here is the Los Angeles Police Department’s detailed list of home-security tips for residents.

Finally, remember to alert police when you’ll be out of town so they can keep a watch over your home.

2. Chat up the neighbors

Join the local Neighborhood Watch program or start one. Chatting with neighbors updates you on local crime problems and enlists allies who’ll watch your home while you’re away. Neighbors are terrific watchdogs.

3. Use your locks

Even if your neighborhood feels safe, make locking up a habit. Burglars often test a home by knocking on a door and, if no one answers, opening it. Keep every exterior door and window locked, including the door between the garage and house.

4. Pretend you have a dog

Getting a dog is a great security move. But if you can’t, pretend to have one. Buy a couple of “Beware of Dog” signs at a hardware store and put them up. When a stranger is at the door, make a show of putting the “dog” in the other room before you open the door.

5. Keep your home looking theft-proof

Appearances count, especially when you are trying to keep burglars away. So keep your place looking lived in. Rotate lights on timers when you’re gone. Ask the post office to hold your mail, reschedule expected deliveries, and get friends to drop by randomly to water plants or just walk around.

Also, make cosmetic changes to your home that will deter thieves. Remember that bushy trees and shrubs provide cover for bad deeds. Keep the foliage well-trimmed. Paste a local security company’s sticker on your front window.

6. Use your head

Don’t open the door — and don’t let kids open the door — to uninvited strangers. Stay home when workers are in or around your home.

Don’t put keys in obvious places like fake rocks and under pots and doormats. Train children (especially teens) to keep key locations, alarm codes and other family security information private from their friends.

Have you tried installing any of these or other improvements in your home? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Really nice list of tips.

  • Ask neighbors to be your eyes and ears. You may have a security system installed so that a potential burglar will think twice about robbing a place with security installed. thanks Lewis for sharing the tips.

    • Dee

      One of the main problems with asking neighbors is that the neighbor may be the culprit who is robbing you (as mine was, and still would like to be robbing me). I put up a 6-foot-tall fence around my property, a 6-foot-tall gate across my driveway, installed a security system (and told the “neighbor” what I did), and got a dog from the animal shelter. The “neighbor” no longer wanders around my property at 1:45 a.m., because he can’t get in without climbing the six-foot fence, showing his face on the security cameras and making the dog bark, which would wake me up. Don’t trust your “neighbors” to watch your place – they could be the culprits, like mine have been.

  • speaksthetruth

    My house was broken into while my husband and I slept in the next room. They went into my husbands office and took his computer and monitor. We didn’t hear a thing till the next morning and see his office was gone. Just happy they didn’t hurt us in any way. Take what you want our lives isn’t worth it.

  • speaksthetruth

    The nerve of some people. What happened?

  • Lorilu

    A friend was robbed during the day, probably by someone from a landscaping crew servicing an adjacent property. They left their house, all locked up, for a short errand. When they returned, the door had been kicked in and the house robbed. The noise of landscaping equipment would be a good cover, and their presence was not suspicious, and the crew saw the family leave.

  • Lorilu

    Ask a neighbor to take your mail, too, and collect any advertising circulars or newspapers left on your property.

  • Barb

    After things started disappearing from my home and I did several searches to be sure that I had not hidden things from my self, I did my own security installations. I put large heavy C hooks on either side of my door. About 6-8 inches from frame and in heavy wall studs. Then I bought a length of of angle iron with predrilled holes the entire length. The C hooks were pointing UP. The angle iron slips over the C hooks and is impossible to manuver off from the small amount of space the door can be opened. The door CANNOT be kicked in. The bar is always in place but in an emergency it can easily be twisted loose to exit house. The garage door opener uses a rolling code, which I reset if I suspect anyone has the opportunity to clone it. Seems to be working out quite well. My neighbor told me that my adult child had been stealing from me. Have proof that it was actually that neighbor.His wife made mistake of bragging to my face. He’s retired sheriff deputy. No chance of help from law. I may be little old lady but if I can protect myself, so can you. The hardest part was climbing ladder to reach garage door opener controls. If you think bar and hooks are ugly, paint them.


      GOOD FOR YOU Ms.Barb!!
      just a thought…maybe you might want to bake them a big cake, make it as delicious as you know how to, but don’t forget to add 2 or 3 packages of ex-lax to the mix.
      It won’t do any long term damage, but they’ll get frequent flier miles going to & from the bathroom. : )

    • A Lee Lowe

      I think you should put in an inexpensive camera and invite that neighbor over for a tea and film and record the conversation and then take it to the district attorney to view! Did you do anything? That is defamation of character for your child and who knows where and to whom they might have shared that info which is just wrong. Hope this helps. I had that problem too and I put up 24/7 motion robotic cameras that capture movement and voice. Things are pretty quiet here now.

      • Alicia Delgado Terry

        FYI, defamation of character is a civil tort, not a crime. And simply stating a lie does not constitute defamation of character. The statement must have resulted in harm and you have to prove the harm. And the district attorney is not a law enforcement agency. They prosecute crimes based on police reports, not based on private investigations, and even then only if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (whereas police arrest people on the lower standard of probable cause – which is why many charges are never filed even if a person was arrested).

      • Most district attorneys would refuse to prosecute a member of the local law enforcement unless the body was found on their desk.
        Defamation of character is a civil charge that only applies to those with a public reputation.

    • T’was me, I’d make a big deal about leaving for the weekend, and then sneak back in to wait to give the unsuspecting burglar a load of buckshot s/he’ll never recover from. The coroner’s report would put my address on a crook’s list to avoid. This should only be used, of course, in a locale where a castle law or such is on the books.

  • mona

    Great tips to secure doors from both author and reader comments. However, I never have understood why homeowners, and apparently thieves too, seem to be so focused on doors. There are relatively flimsy windows all over the house that would take little force to bash in. I am aware of techniques to prevent opening windows, but how do you prevent someone just bashing in or shooting out a window? Are there impact-resistant windows and sliding glass doors? Are those very expensive?

    • mrphy42

      Nobody is shooting a window to get into your house. It is loud and really unnecessary. And the reason people are focused on doors is because climbing in a window is suspicious and draws attention. If a door is available, that is going to be the main point of entry. It is easier and draws less attention.

    • IBikeNYC

      This will NOT work on windows through which one must gain access, but some years ago my father installed thick (quarter-inch+) Plexiglas on the inside of my grandmother’s front entry.

      He put a sheet over each of the sidelights and one over the window in the front door. Each of the sheets was attached by six or eight wood screws nearly as long as the door was thick.

      Anybody trying to get in by breaking the sidelights and unlocking the door was thwarted by the Plexi, AND:

      No need for those horrible bars that make every neighborhood look like a slum!

      • joanievegas

        We had security Laminent put on all of our windows. It can be penetrated but it is difficult to break the glass. kinda like the winshield in your car. It was cheap but gives us a little piece of mind.

        • IBikeNYC

          I’d never heard of Laminent; thanks for the info!

    • LagunaLady27

      Once the police in my neighborhood were doing security checks. After he saw I had my doors and windows secure, he said the last 500 houses he had visited had not done this, and would be better targets for thieves. They go where it is easy, so I just make my home hard.


        this is true…
        a thief wants a target that is quick, easy & as quiet as possible.
        They do not want to spend a lot of time getting in, getting loot, or getting out…
        so the harder you make things for the thief, the less chance your home will be robbed.


      the type of windows you are referring to, CAN BE quite expensive.
      There really is very little if anything at all, to stop someone from breaking in through a window…
      as far as shooting out a window goes, that’s not gonna happen because the last thing a crook wants is attention.
      I agree with mrphy42’s comment…the door is easier to enter & exit in a hurry.

  • smokey347

    get a dog. no burglar will enter a house where a dog is. and you can provide a home to an animal in need.

    • Lorilu

      There were two stories in the newspaper this week. In one, the burglars shot the dog and killed it. In the other, they shot three dogs with paint balls, and stole the fourth (valuable) dog. But I agree, a dog making noise usually will deter most burglars.

      • Lee Delong

        Shot and killed my business partner, his wife, dog and burned house down. I pray a lot.

      • When I was a homeowner, it was a fixer upper across the street from a housing project (one where a resident cut up his roomie and left his body parts scattered around the neighborhood, getting caught trying to board a plane, with his roomie’s hand in his carryon) and we were burgled twice, and a third attempt made, after which the (recently installed) alarm bell rang for over an hour before we got back home, to find the back door half-kicked in. The police actually found a small television and I was set to testify that it was mine until I was told that I should go ahead and move to where my new job was, because they had more than enough evidence to convict. We never got the television back, probably because it wasn’t worth returning for.

    • Maybe all the dogs are being shot by cops because the burglars haven’t gotten bold and/or desperate enough to emulate them, yet.

  • Steven T

    I was robbed a year ago. Kicked in the rear sliding glass door during the day. Honestly, there is no way to protect your property from this happening. Especially when the modern suburban home has the standard 5-6 foot fence “protecting” the rear yard. Remember, the sound of the glass breaking and falling only lasts one second. If a neighbor is startled by this but doesn’t hear anything further, he/she doesn’t know where it came from and can’t see over your fence. When I installed my alarm system, I opted for a very loud siren on the eve of the roof. That way, the neighbors KNOW which house it is. I also have a very loud siren (2) in the house. That way, the thief can’t think straight and needs to flee. And, like I stated, you cant keep someone from actually gaining entry through glass but you can do your best to keep them out and get noticed so the police will be called. The best detector/sensor is a GOOD glass break detector connected to your system. This is a special microphone that listens for the sound/frequency of breaking glass. I have three in the rear rooms of the house. They can’t be to far from the glass, 14 feet at the most. AND, it needs to be tested every month or so (there are ways to do this correctly). Hope this helps. It’s peace of mind for us.


      there was a business that had closed up & my cousin & I talked to the demolition company & was allowed to strip as much from the building as we wanted.
      One of the things we got was a bullet proof glass door. That door is now part of his house & also a major deterrent against break ins. If I would have thought about it at the time, I too could have gotten a few panels of bullet proof glass.

    • A Lee Lowe

      The very best deterrent is the new mesh screening and or rolling steel shutters. Nothing else is very effective, they will throw a bone or steak to your dog. Alarm systems alert the police who don’t want to show up anymore. They say that is what insurance is for. YEA if you want to chase them for years to cover what should be covered! Save the insurance money,r and buy the mesh or shutters. They are bomb proof. The thieves will move on to a home which says you can be in and out while i call 3 people and the police, your things are gone, along with your monthly monitoring fee. This is a scam at most and possibly why people are getting hit with crimes. Who knows who is working there, and who their friends are. Please think things out. The monitoring sales people will tell you anything to get a monthly check. Call the mesh and shutter people and they will tell you the truth. No I don’t sell them however after 3 robberies and no help from law enforcement I did my home work and no more issues. They are not cheap, but they do get you a home owner’s discount for the most part if you ask, some do some don’t but it is to their advantage that you have them. The shutters help with the air and heat. I hope this helps people and they will pass this on to others. Safety has no cost, especially in the possible coming crisis and your family and food count. Think America spend wisely!


    I like to have bushes in front of my home, but like he said, bad people use them to hide behind….unless you have thorny bushes. I have these red bushes growing up close to my home. but these bushes have some really wicked thorns on them, so I don’t have to worry too much about anyone hiding behind them.
    Also having a big dog (175 pounds) to guard the house when I’m away or sleeping at night has lowered my homeowner’s insurance costs.

    Some people like to have a 12 gauge loaded with birdshot to protect the home, but there are too many possibilities for some innocent idiot to get hurt/killed…plus, I would not want my grandkids getting ahold of a loaded weapon.

    My bushes & my dog are the only insurance against home intruders I need.

    Before having the bushes & the dog, I had 4 break ins….since I got both, I have had 5 attempts, but not 1 made it past the bushes.

  • A Lee Lowe

    I recently joined the Instant checkmate. They make it sound like they have all the info! problem is not very much is actually true and most is not up to date. I cancelled. and they finally gave me my money back after I told them I was going to hold them accountable for defamation of character. They had me listed under a name I am not sure where it came from. They gather info and put it up and evidently never do verify it is true. Yet they want to use the info to make money. kinda like the credit reporting agencies. This abuse needs to stop. Anyone for a class action?


    That’s the kind of guy you want to drop into the middle of a pride of lions & let nature erase one of its mistakes.


    for the snowbirds that head south for the winter, you can buy or make panels to fit over all your windows & doors to keep intruders out while you are gone. some are quite nice looking, while some others are not quite so nice…

  • Anonymous

    My suburban neighborhood has literally let the vandals and thieves run out whomever they wanted, or try to force the poor woman into a relationship to keep the trouble away — guy is a life wrecker. This is pretty common, I understand. State wanted to get psych trained cops to talk down suicides instead of shoot them down. Brainy cop got idea to harass victims of repeat vandalism/thieves (with doors still locked) into disclosing their source of income, some were on disability payments. Cops try to call these a mental case and get them into forced psych evaluation at own expense for as long as psych doctor could justify…If you are on disability pay after mental care, tell these you work at Wal-mart if you ever need to talk to cops to get insurance claim (because lots of stuff was stolen or place was a ransack, rest of these crimes may screw you over for discussing it with cops). No one seems to care in some places, nothing is done when several people have troubles and it’s just time to move. Sadly, this ‘bad neighborhood’ trend usually comes with more policing/city hall problems like telling new resident someone did work on the house without permits and you will not be able to sell it. This scam is best handled with a home auction — listing the house ‘as is-no warranties’ may satisfy any legal problems that can follow. Is sign of bad area, usually employment traps and ‘too expensive’ to deal with no defense against stalkers, vandalisms, masses of broken belongings or thievery. Other option — the studio apartment route with few belongings may sound brainy but actually the apartment neighborhoods bring in the killers/gangsters, you are probably better off in empty 3-bedroom house in suburbs (with nothing but beds) where no one gets murdered…

    Stinks but some city’s trouble makers started to turn off refrigerators on some, can be really expensive to eat much at home sometimes — Entertainment books or $$$ menu can be big help, canned foods, raman and oatmeal packets.

    Once you see the country run with bad cops pulling same stunts until the thieves try to break into occupied house and resident could use gun finally, and then city cops lying to cover up wealthy offenders or dirty cops, is about a tie between city and country. Shit happens. We peasants just try to be okay while the dramas play out around us.

    Can be really handy to stay away from social scenes — causes, networking, politics, business parties, activity groups — even city churches — these wealthies just seem to put the poor trashers on some people. Better to stay out of

    Stinks but some vandals will use the big dog to cover up the trashing or bed accidents under bed spreads here, threats were even made and nothing is done. Have to be vigilant if you try to keep pets as these situations do end up in harm to pets by the nutty little twerpy teens/20 something who do this crap. My boxer was under the kitchen table every time I came home for a while and I discovered broken ribs on her. I thought it best I find her a new home as I was unable to leave her in my backyard as fencing was low and neighborkids had let pets out in my neighborhood before. Do pull out the furniture and provide a lot of cover for pets left home alone; sometimes methies know where the smaller pets are left in yards and is very common to steal dogs from yards for resale on craigslist for a few extra $$$. Leaving your pet with a nearby stay-at-home parent can be good deal for you both.

  • Anonymous

    Loose paver stones, metal chairs and gnomes/yard art can assist a burglar in breaking windows, throw these out if the neighborhood is going bad.

    Better to NEVER leave your spare car keys in your house, it has been used to steal from some stalking victims later and even clean out vehicles left at rest stops on vacation. This can even happen in the country as retaliation for speaking out about local troublemakers…Your spare car keys belong on key chain of trusted adult or carry both sets of keys on you. Same goes with spare house keys, it makes it easier for the thief to come back.

    Traveling around you will find all kinds of scams. I would never plan to lock up my wallet in the car or leave my cell phone charging even as some of the thieves & nutties figured out the frequency for key-fobs and like to inconvenience tourists or steal…Colorado has some really bad country areas due to the dirty cops and crazy teenagers left running the show.

  • Dale

    I’m a renter so I can’t have anything too permanent (or want anything too expensive) up in the apartment. So I do motion detecting cameras and have stickers up that say they are present. The hidden ones I use send a little video through an app to my phone (or wherever I tell it to send the footage) in real time. I’ve freaked out a couple of landlords whom I’ve called and watched them answer their phones and LIE about entering my apartment without notice or my permission (I always make sure this is included in the lease but it is also a state law here in Illinois for tenants. Don’t know about elsewhere). So far this has worked pretty well for me and I only had to spend money on the equipment one time and no contracts or monthly monitoring fees as “I” am the monitor. I like that better anyway.

  • NurseMom17

    Don’t post your travel plans or vacation photos on social media until you return!

  • Jack Mabry

    My burglar alarm is playing country music, real loud. Everybody knows that any one who likes country music is probably packing, and would have no problem shooting a burglar.

  • Don1357

    Very good advice. Thanks.
    Judging by the comments, you have touched upon a really hot topic. Here are two things I have found especially effective during the 20+ years we owned a rural, second home that we visited less than once a month during that time and didn’t have close neighbors to ask for assistance.

    1. Keep a car in the driveway where a regularly renewed license tag is plainly visible.

    2. Keep a couple of motion-activated and big-vicious-dog-sounding speakers inside the house (one by the front door and one by the back door). When someone comes up to the door, they activate and (with varied barking and intermittent growling sounds) give off a frightening racket (even through the walls and doors of the house). You can get the ones that plug in, so you don’t have to worry about batteries going dead while you are away. (A large electronic novelty store or perhaps Amazon will have these for sale)

    During those 20+ years we only had evidence that somebody broke the screen door latch but abruptly left the premises. That was shortly after we had moved the car away from the driveway but still had the “dogs” activated.

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