According to the latest FBI crime data, an estimated 1,117,696 burglaries occurred in the United States in 2019, with an average loss of $2,661 in personal property per incident. Burglaries not only lead to monetary loss but also take an emotional toll on the homeowners.1 Fortunately, there are steps you can take to drastically reduce the odds of your home being burglarized.
Train, and Train Some More
Fred Mastison, president of Force Options Tactical Training Solutions and internationally recognized as one of the top firearms and combatives instructors in the world, says the No. 1 mistake a lot of homeowners make is not getting enough proper training in how to use a firearm in self-defense.
“They buy a gun, and they have the salesperson show them how to load it, but they don’t really know how to use it,” Mastison indicated.
He explained that defending yourself with a handgun becomes extremely challenging when the terror and subsequent adrenaline rush triggered by someone breaking into your home are added to the situation. You need to train yourself to be prepared to handle these debilitating emotions as well as you can so they don’t hinder you when your life is on the line.
Unfortunately, even with the massive increase in gun owners, Mastison isn’t seeing a correlation in the number of students taking his classes.
“They are buying guns,” he stated, “but they are not getting properly, thoroughly trained.”
USCCA Certified Firearms Instructor Sam Platia fears homeowners are becoming complacent.
“They think they are safe in their homes, that nothing is going to happen to them, but that’s not the case,” he stated. “They don’t take precautions to secure their homes properly.”
He advises homeowners to be proactive and take precautions ahead of time. This can be accomplished by taking a home-defense class, such as the USCCA’s Concealed Carry and Home-Defense Fundamentals course.
“I think that’s an excellent start to secure your home for defense purposes,” Platia stated.
Light It Up
From top to bottom, homeowners should be concerned with lighting both inside and outside of their homes. Mastison suggests not only mounting a light onto your firearm but also stashing flashlights around your house so you can quickly grab one to illuminate a hallway or room and scan for threats. The unfortunate reality, though, is that many homeowners who buy handguns don’t put tactical lights on them.
“That is a huge problem because you need to be able to identify your target in a dark room,” he declared. “A lot of tragedies have occurred where people heard a bump in the night, [went] out hunting in their house[s] and end[ed] up shooting someone that they didn’t intend to shoot, be it a neighbor’s son or a daughter’s friend who was there out getting a drink of water in the kitchen.”
He also encourages a hand-held light because if you’re scanning an environment, you don’t want to be scanning with the muzzle of your gun. You might unintentionally press the trigger if you’re startled, which can lead to tragic consequences.
A flashlight with about 750 to 1,000 lumens will work best for home defense and self-defense. As for on-gun illumination, a Streamlight product is ideal because its controls are situated far outside of the trigger guard. You don’t want a device with the light operation inside the trigger guard, as you could unintentionally press the trigger when you go to switch on the light.
When it comes to external lights, some homeowners make the mistake of shutting off all of their outdoor lighting at night.
“Outdoor lighting around porches, doors and windows is a great deterrent to help stop a burglar before it even becomes an issue,” Mastison stated. “Criminals do not like to work in bright light. They prefer to have the cover of darkness. Lights on all night long, around the perimeter of your house, are great tools to have.”
Another option is to install motion-sensor lights around your home and garage, especially if you live in a remote area. Once activated, they can startle an intruder (similar to an alarm). For that reason, they work as a fantastic deterrent.
“These lights are going to light up the area if someone comes near the house in an attempted break-in,” declared Platia. “At the very least, it could frighten them away so they will not try to break in. Burglars don’t want to be where there’s light. They want darkness for concealment.”
Fortify the Exterior
Each entryway in your house, be it a door or a window, is a potential gateway for an invader. Mastison suggests fortifying door frames with steel door jamb reinforcement plates. Available online and at most home-improvement centers, these plates make it more difficult for an intruder to break into your home.
“A traditional deadbolt and lock are OK in a certain sense, but if someone really wants to break in, they’re going to cut through that like a hot knife through butter,” Mastison noted.
A firm kick can bring a door down. Instead of only wood between you and an intruder, a door jamb reinforcement plate adds a layer of steel that makes the door studier and harder to breach. Such a device consists of a steel frame placed around the point where the deadbolt and the door latch enter the door frame itself. Even better, this reinforcement is rather inexpensive.
“These plates give the door jamb more rigidity and make it much more difficult to conquer,” he declared.
Besides improperly secured front doors, first-floor windows can also be problematic for homeowners. Platia advises installing metal bars in the tracks of windows to provide an additional level of security. They only cost around 30 dollars each, but you have other options as well.
“You can also purchase wooden dowels, cut them to length, and put them in the track of the window or at the bottom of the sliding door,” he stated. “These wooden dowels cost a fraction of the price of […] metal bars.”
It is also important to trim any plants that are close to your home. Walk around your residence to identify any tall bushes, shrubs or other greenery in front of or around first-floor windows. If they provide enough room to conceal an adult, it’s best to trim them down.
“You want to make sure there’s nothing [an invader] can hide behind,” advised Platia. “[Invaders] can hide behind the bush while they’re trying to open your first-floor window, giving them perfect cover so no one sees them. And if you have lights on at night, you can see if someone is by your window, and not hiding behind a bush. Cut them down so they are too small to conceal a burglar.”
Don’t Stop There
Mastison suggests you pay extra attention to your garage area. It’s easy to overlook when you’re focusing on the main portion of your home.
“When it comes to home protection, believe it or not, garage doors are a big deal,” Mastison revealed. “Be conscious going in and out of your garage. As you pull into your garage, someone could have snuck in […] right behind you.”
A potential intruder might be waiting for the moment to strike when the garage door begins to come down. At that point, you might already have your back turned as you’re exiting your vehicle or heading into your home. Once in your garage, an intruder can conceal himself or herself behind your car. And when the door goes down and you get out of your vehicle, he or she will be in the garage with you.
For this reason, Mastison recommends backing into your garage. If someone is trying to duck in, you will easily be able to spot him or her. If you are leaving during the evening or the early morning hours, your headlights will shine light on the driveway and entry to your garage so that you’ll be able to see if anyone is hiding nearby and waiting for the door to open.
Another suggestion is to, when possible, physically make sure your garage door is locked — and not just by the remote control. Most automatic garage doors still have a little latch bolt that allows you to secure the door to its tracks.
“Burglars will buy dozens of automatic garage door openers online,” Mastison indicated, “then drive around nice neighborhoods and push the buttons and see if they activate garage doors.”
There is a finite number of codes in automatic garage door openers, so they are not really secure and can be defeated pretty quickly.
“You can have them positioned on any entry of your house,” Platia stated. “It’s all Wi-Fi driven, remote and powered by lithium batteries, so they don’t go bad for years. You will know when someone’s trying to enter your house by being notified on your smartphone or iPad. You can see who it is or have a conversation with the person at your front door.”
Several popular wireless security camera companies include ADT, Alder, Arlo, Blink, Cove, Ring, SimpliSafe and Vivint. And if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the best home-security systems for 2022 (according to a recent article on CNET.com) are Comcast Xfinity, Ring Alarm Pro, SimpliSafe Home Security, Vivint Smart Home and Wyze Home Monitoring.3
A wireless driveway alarm is a great way to alert you when a guest enters your driveway. Operating with electromagnetic technology, it detects and alerts you when a vehicle moves within a 3- to 12-foot radius of the sensor. Driveway alarms are available online and at Tractor Supply.
In the End, It’s Just Stuff
It’s impossible to guarantee that your home won’t be targeted by an invader, but you can drastically lower the odds it will occur by making your home less appealing and vulnerable. If you do find yourself facing an intruder, you should have the training to know how to respond. No “stuff” is worth losing your life over, so the best option is to find a safe location, hunker down and immediately call the police. Use a firearm only as a last resort to protect yourself or your family members from deadly threats. The goal is to drive away an attacker with the least force necessary and without compromising your own safety or the safety of a loved one.
 “Crime in the U.S. 2019: Burglary,” U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, UCR.FBI.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/burglary; Rebecca Edwards, “8 Surprising Home Burglary Facts and Stats,” SafeWise, March 3, 2022, SafeWise.com/blog/8-surprising-home-burglary-statistics/#-Sources.
 Rebecca Edwards, “Home Safety and Security Stats and Facts,” SafeWise, March 17, 2022, https://www.SafeWise.com/resources/security-stats-facts/.
Force Options: ForceOptionsUSA.com