The 4 Most Common Ways Burglars Break into Homes

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 03/15/23 •  9 min read
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In this article, we explore the 4 most common ways burglars break into homes, providing valuable insights into their tactics and preferences. As a homeowner, you can take effective, proactive steps to secure your property and protect your loved ones at the same time. I will also share tips and resources for enhancing your home security, helping you stay one step ahead of potential intruders.

Before we get there, however, we need to address the elephant in the room: “How do Burglars Pick a Target?”

How do Burglars Pick a Target

Burglars tend to target homes that appear easy to break into and offer valuable items. Homes with overgrown bushes, poor lighting, or no visible security measures can be more attractive to criminals. They also look for signs that the homeowner is away, like piled-up mail or newspapers.

The surrounding neighborhood plays a significant role in the likelihood of a break-in. If an area is known for frequent burglaries or has limited police presence, it’s more attractive to burglars. Additionally, if neighbors don’t look out for each other or report suspicious activities, burglars are going to feel more confident targeting homes in that neighborhood.

Visible security measures like alarm systems, security cameras, or even a “Beware of Dog” sign can deter burglars from targeting your home. This is because burglars prefer easy targets and don’t want to risk getting caught or dealing with unexpected obstacles.

Investing in security measures and making them visible can make a big difference in keeping your home safe.

1) Forced Entry Through Doors

Doors made of weak materials, like hollow-core or glass panels, can be compromised more easily by burglars. Hollow-core doors lack the structural strength to resist forced entry, while glass panels can be shattered or removed to gain access. Additionally, flimsy door frames or doors with outdated locks can be vulnerable to break-ins. Older locks may not offer the same level of security as modern ones and can be picked, bumped, or forced open more quickly.

Burglars often employ a variety of techniques to breach doors. They may use tools such as crowbars or lock picks to exploit weaknesses in the lock or door frame. Brute force, like kicking, is another common method to force open a door, especially if the door frame is weak or the lock is not properly installed. “Credit carding” is another technique burglars might use on older locks. They slide a flexible card, such as a credit card or driver’s license, between the door and the frame to bypass the latch and pop the door open.

To reinforce your doors and prevent break-ins, try these tips:
  1. Install solid-core or steel doors for better resistance against forced entry.
  2. Strengthen door frames with a strike plate or door jamb reinforcement.
  3. Use deadbolt locks with at least a one-inch throw and opt for high-quality, pick-resistant locksets.
  4. Consider installing a door security bar or adding a vertical bolt for extra protection.
  5. If you have glass panels, replace them with shatter-resistant glass or install security film to make them harder to break.

2) Breaking Windows to Gain Access

Windows that are hidden from view or located on the ground floor are prime targets for burglars because they provide easy access and a reduced risk of being seen. Windows with weak locks, such as simple latches, or older, single-pane glass can be more easily compromised, as they offer less resistance to breakage or manipulation.

By striking the window with the wrapped object, reduces the noise generated, making it less likely to alert neighbors or occupants.

To minimize noise when breaking windows, burglars employ various techniques to avoid drawing attention. One method is “glass cutting,” which involves using a glass cutter to create a small hole in the windowpane, just large enough for them to reach in and unlock the window from the inside. This method allows for a quiet and less conspicuous entry. Another technique burglars might use is wrapping a blunt object, like a hammer, in cloth or a thick sock to muffle the sound of breaking glass.

Now that you understand the preferences and techniques burglars use when targeting windows, you can better protect your home by addressing these vulnerabilities and implementing appropriate security measures.

Here are a few recommendations:
  1. Install window locks, especially on ground-floor windows, and use them consistently.
  2. Replace single-pane windows with double-pane or laminated glass, which is harder to break.
  3. Install window security film to make the glass more resistant to shattering.
  4. Keep your windows covered with blinds or curtains to prevent burglars from seeing inside your home.
  5. Trim shrubs and bushes around windows to make them more visible and less attractive to burglars.

3) Exploiting Garage Doors and Side Entrances

Burglars take advantage of poorly secured garage doors by looking for easy entry points, like unlocked doors or windows. They might also use tools to manipulate the emergency release cord or exploit weaknesses in the automatic garage door opener. A garage can provide a burglar with valuable items or access to the main house, so it’s important to keep it secure.

People that do not have electronic door openers, are notorious for leaving their garage door unlocked, because it takes extra effort to lock and unlock the garage door when entering or leaving.

To bypass side entrance security, burglars may look for weak locks, poorly lit areas, or hidden access points. They might use lock picking tools or even something as simple as a screwdriver to force open a door or window. Additionally, some burglars may try “fishing” for keys through a mail slot or pet door to gain access to your home.

You can better secure your garage door and side entrance by following these steps:
  1. Always keep garage doors and side entrance doors locked, even when you’re at home.
  2. Install deadbolts on side entrance doors and use high-quality, pick-resistant locks.
  3. Add motion-activated lighting around the garage and side entrances to deter burglars and improve visibility.
  4. Install security cameras or video doorbells to monitor your garage and side entrances.
  5. Reinforce garage doors with a security bar or an upgraded garage door opener that has rolling code technology.
  6. Consider adding a smart lock or keypad lock to your side entrance door for added security and keyless entry.
  7. Don’t leave garage door openers in your car, as burglars can break into your car and use the opener to access your garage.

4) Lock Picking and Lock Bumping Techniques

Burglars use lock picking tools to gain entry by manipulating the internal components of a lock. These tools typically include tension wrenches, picks. A tension wrench is used to apply slight pressure on the lock’s plug while the burglar uses picks or rakes to lift and align the lock’s pins. Once all the pins are correctly aligned, the tension wrench is used to turn the plug, opening the lock without causing any visible damage.

Lock bumping is another technique burglars use to bypass locks. It involves using a specially cut “bump key” that fits into the lock. The bump key is inserted into the keyway and then struck with a blunt object, (like a hammer), causing the pins inside the lock to jump momentarily. If the burglar applies the right amount of tension while striking the key, the pins can align, and the lock can be turned open. This method is relatively quick and requires minimal skill, making it a popular choice among burglars.

To enhance your home’s security, consider using locks that are more resistant to picking and bumping.

Here are some options to consider:
  1. High-Security Locks
    These locks often have unique keyways, making it more difficult for burglars to insert lock picking tools or bump keys. They also feature additional security components, such as sidebars and hardened steel inserts, which provide added protection against drilling or other forced entry methods.
  2. Deadbolt Locks
    Deadbolts with at least a one-inch throw and a hardened steel bolt are more resistant to forced entry. Opt for high-quality deadbolts with anti-picking features, such as security pins or counter milling.
  3. Electronic Locks
    Electronic locks or smart locks don’t rely on traditional keys, making them immune to lock bumping. They can use keypads, fingerprint scanners, or Bluetooth connections to grant access. Many smart locks also have built-in alarms and can notify you if someone tries to tamper with the lock.
  4. Keyless Locks
    These locks use a combination code, card access, or a biometric system like a fingerprint scanner to allow entry. Since they don’t use traditional keys, they can’t be picked or bumped.
  5. Disc Detainer Locks
    Also known as disc tumbler locks, these locks use rotating discs instead of pins. They are more resistant to picking and bumping due to their unique design, which makes it difficult for burglars to manipulate the internal components.

When choosing a lock, look for products from reputable brands and consider consulting with a professional locksmith to ensure proper installation. If you invest in locks that are resistant to picking and bumping, you can improve your home’s security big time.

Closing Thoughts

The most common ways burglars break into homes include forced entry through doors, breaking windows, exploiting garage doors and side entrances, and using lock picking or lock bumping techniques.

It’s essential to invest in robust security measures, such as high-quality door locks, reinforced doors and windows, and visible security systems like cameras and alarms. Regularly assess your home’s security and stay informed about the latest trends in burglary methods and home protection technology.

For further information on home security, consider consulting with a professional locksmith or security expert. You can also visit websites like the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) or your local police department’s website for additional tips and resources on securing your home. If you stay vigilant and informed, you can really reduce the risk of falling victim to a burglary and ensure the safety of your family and property.

Tim Chesonis

Tim loves writing and helping people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective, loves Linux, his iPhone and his iPad. When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching “The Middle” or “Breaking Bad”, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.