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Top 10 Home Security Tips to Stop Burglaries Before They Start

Home security devices like cams and sensors excel at deterring intruders before they cause problems. Follow our tips for maximum deterrence.

Tyler Lacoma Editor / Home Security
For more than 10 years Tyler has used his experience in smart home tech to craft how-to guides, explainers, and recommendations for technology of all kinds. From using his home in beautiful Bend, OR as a testing zone for the latest security products to digging into the nuts and bolts of the best data privacy guidelines, Tyler has experience in all aspects of protecting your home and belongings. With a BA in Writing from George Fox and certification in Technical Writing from Oregon State University, he's ready to get you the details you need to make the best decisions for your home. On off hours, you can find Tyler exploring the Cascade trails, finding the latest brew in town with some friends, or trying a new recipe in the kitchen!
Expertise Smart home | Smart security | Home tech | Energy savings | A/V
Tyler Lacoma
6 min read

Home security is an excellent deterrent, but only if you follow best practices like these.


Home security systems work best when they prevent trouble from happening. If you're spending $50, $100 or $300 on home security tech (plus potential subscriptions), you want to know that it's going to stop problems, not just make it easier to call the cops.

Fortunately, today's home security devices are smarter than ever, and packed with settings that you can use to ward off trespassers and troublemakers -- whether they're trying to steal your packages or hop your fence. And with a little work it's largely hands-off thanks to smart motion detection and AI recognition.

Let's dive into the important basics of what security devices, placement and settings excel at prevent problems and how you can make real-time decisions when you need to. 

1. Set motion detection lights to stun


Floodlights can watch over backyards, driveways and similar spots.


Look for a security camera that's equipped with a spotlight or floodlights. You can set these lights to trigger via motion detection, and thanks to recent advantages, camera sensors are now smart enough to ignore cars and focus on people, among other useful tricks. The lights will let determined trespassers know that there's a security system, and even indicate that a camera is currently recording them. That's a powerful reason to get away if intruders have ill intent!

Remember, apps from popular smart home brands like Arlo, Ring, Blink and many others allow you to set zones and control motion sensitivity so your security lights only turn on when a person gets close, instead of lighting up a dozen times a night.

2. Put up a security system yard sign

Kangaroo security yard sign

Security yard signs discourage many thieves.


You may have already suspected it, but studies do confirm that burglars -- around 83% surveyed -- are scared off by signs that an alarm system is present, and one of the most straightforward is a literal sign or window sticker.

We suggest avoiding cheap, fake signs, which are usually easy to recognize by someone already thinking about a break-in. Fortunately, real signs come included even with common DIY security systems like those offered by SimpliSafe. And if you're worried about a burglar using a sign to learn too much about your home security system, these sorts of hacking tales hardly ever actually happen.

3. Install a video doorbell for front door protection

A woman uses a small screwdriver to install a Ring Video Doorbell on white trim.

The Ring Video Doorbell comes with a battery but can be hardwired into your doorbell wiring, too.


It's hard to miss a video doorbell when approaching a front door or porch. From Google Nest to Arlo, Ring and Aqara, these doorbell cameras make it obvious that someone's watching. They come equipped with two-way audio and quick replies that can hold brief conversations, and if visitors recognize a video doorbell, they probably know it's already sent alerts to the owner about front door activity.

Those qualities make doorbells an excellent method to deter porch pirates and other troublemakers. We also recommend planning for video storage so you have a way to save and download or share video clips when necessary.

4. Use alerts to call an audible

A smartphone showing the view from a Lorex camera.

The Lorex app offers ways to immediately use live views or audio.


All the top home security cams now come with two-way audio features, which are one of the most effective deterrents if you notice something is wrong. Nothing can scare away a trespasser quite like the owner flipping on the speaker and calling out, "HEY! What are you doing?!" Plus, if it's just a very lost postman, you can always apologize afterward without getting the police involved.

Two-way audio works well with timely camera alerts on your phone and object recognition so the alerts specify that a human was detected.

5. Set up sirens on home security devices

Kangaroo keypad plus Roo key fob

Arming a system with a siren is a great way to scare of trespassers if they get too close.


They aren't quite as ubiquitous as two-way audio, but many cameras and most home security kits also include sirens. On today's smart devices you have the option to turn on sirens with the app, or set the siren to sound off when certain kinds of motion are detected and the system is armed. It's a quick addition you can activate during setup, even for the smallest cams like the Blink Mini 2.

6. Position access sensors on windows and backdoors

Abode devices like the hub, motion detector, and key fob stand on white shelves against a white background.

A full security system can watch over multiple access points at once.


Access sensors enable a bunch of the tips we listed above if someone actually enters your home. They send alerts that allow you to immediately look through live views from cameras, use two-way audio in a shouty way or sound off a siren/flip on a floodlight. If you're worried about burglars breaching points like these (especially if you've had it happen before), the top home security system kits include sensors for exactly these reasons.

7. Set vacation modes with smart lights and more


Smart lights and vacation modes make your house seem lived in even when you're not around.

Ry Crist/CNET

Smart security systems and home cams have an additional feature to help make vacations easier: They have vacation modes and customizable away modes. You can pair these modes with smart lights and set an activity schedule that makes it look like people are still home when you're away.

Vacation modes like these will turn lights on and off to mimic people getting home in the evening, waking up in the morning and other everyday activities. They can discourage thieves looking for empty homes that make easy targets, and give you extra peace of mind on long vacations. These modes also pair very well with cams that let you take a peek as long as you have a reliable internet connection and access sensors that tell you when something went wrong.

8. Keep your garage closed and locked down


Smart garages come in many forms, including retrofits, but they are an excellent way to keep garages doors closed and uninviting to prowling thieves.

Many burglaries are crimes of opportunity, and one opportunity that can easily attract thieves (and racoons) is a garage door that's been left open. Consider equipping your garage door with a smart door system that can automatically close the door for you, secure it and remind you if the door is left open for any reason.

These smart garage doors are frequently backward-compatible with existing garages, especially newer models, but you should always check how they work before you buy a new system.

9. Equip your door with a smart lock

lockly smart lock

Smart locks ensure you never forget to lock the front door.


Forgetting to lock the front door isn't quite as noticeable as leaving the garage open, but it can still attract thieves, who won't be shy about rattling doorknobs to see if entry is easy. A smart lock is a simple, incredibly effective way to monitor your main entry and make sure it's always locked at the right times.

Today's smart locks can auto-lock after a period of inactivity, or send you reminders that they're open, so you can make a judgment call yourself. They also come with ways to give friends and family temporary passes to use the lock with their own phones, and options to review your access history.

10. Use an active professional home-monitoring service


Professional home monitoring gives you extra eyes on developing situations.


For the most complete protection, think about adding professional home monitoring to your existing security system. Professional monitoring allows agents to view their alerts and contact emergency responders if necessary, so you don't have to rely on your own notifications.

These monitoring plans don't have to be exorbitantly expensive: Arlo's Safe and Secure Pro plan offers full family monitoring services for $25 per month. Take a look at SimpliSafe's Fast Protect plan, which offers guides that look at cam live views and use audio to ask questions, for around $30 per month. If you don't mind the extra expense, monitoring plans can take your home security to the next level.

What about guard dogs as a security bonus?

Wherever home theft deterrents are discussed, many sources will suggest getting a guard dog. We do not recommend getting a dog specifically for security purposes, even if they are effective. It's not very fun for the dog, and it's difficult to train one to be wary of the wrong kind of strangers (and not, say, cousin Jimmy who's never been to your home before). Also, dog attacks regularly lead to trespassers suing homeowners for their injuries, and some states have liability laws that can encourage such lawsuits.

Since staying safe is already on your mind, you can check out our recommendations for the top DIY home security systems, as well as ways to save money like turning an old phone into a security cam. And if you live with roommates, you'll want to peruse our guide on the best tech to keep your own room safe.