Burglary Prevention Strategies

Perhaps more than any other crime, burglary is a crime of opportunity. Burglars aim for the easiest targets. Most will give up if they can’t get in within a few minutes. To keep burglars away from your business, make their work difficult, risky, and low-profit. Start your prevention program from the outside and work your way in -just as a burglar would.

Your First Line of Defense

Walls can have a place in crime prevention. However, fences and shrubbery can make good hiding places for burglars. The key is to keep trespassers out while keeping your property visible. Use picket or chain link fences, or hedges no more than waist high. That way you will form a barricade but everything that goes on inside is clearly visible.

On the Outside Looking in

Burglars try the easiest entries first – doors and windows. If your doors or windows can’t be quickly pried open, chances are the burglars will move on.


Locks. The best locks are deadbolt locks with a minimum 1 ” throw bolt containing a hardened steel insert which resist sawing. The strike plate should be attached to the door frame with screws that measure 4 inches. The double cylinder deadbolt lock requires a key to open from either side. This prevents burglars from breaking glass in the door and reaching through to turn the knob from inside. It also prevents them from exiting through the door if they’ve entered through some other means. Make sure the cylinder of the lock has a steel guard – a ring around the key section. The cylinder guard should be tapered or rotate around the key section (if twisted) to prevent wrenching.

Remember, though, a double cylinder deadbolt can also block your exit in an emergency. Check with your local law enforcement agency or building inspector to see if these locks are permitted in your area.

Hinges. If your doors swing out, the hinges are on the outside. A burglar can easily remove the hinge pins and lift the door out. To foil this, remove the center screw from each side of the hinge and insert a metal pin or headless screw on one side. When the door is closed, the end of the pin will fit into the opposite hole. That way even if the hinge pins are removed, the door will be bolted to the frame.

Padlocks. Overhead doors, receiving doors, garage doors – all are typically secured with padlocks and hasps. Look for sturdy padlocks that don’t release the key until the padlock is locked. That way you’ll never leave a padlock unlocked. Remember that a padlock is only as good as the hasp it is mounted on. The hasp should be secured with bolts and mounted on a metal plate. Be sure bolts are concealed when the padlock is locked. And – make sure the padlock is case-hardened with a 3/8-inch shackle so it can resist repeated smashings.

Door Construction. Burglars can virtually walk though a weak door. Hollow core doors should be replaced with solid core doors or strengthened with metal sheets. Replace weak door frames or reinforce them with steel or concrete. Glass in the door should be unbreakable safety glass. Glass also can be protected with steel bars or mesh, or by placing a polycarbonate sheet over the glass on the inside.


Protect windows by putting grates, grillwork, or bars over them. Or place clear polycarbonate sheets over the glass on the inside. Sheets should extend 11/2 inches beyond the perimeter of the glass and be attached to a solid surface with bolts spaced approximately every 3 inches. Unbreakable safety glass is also available, but it is more expensive.

Use key locks on all your windows and always keep them locked. But remember that even the best locks are useless if the window can be pried loose or the frame is rotten. If you need ventilation, open the windows, but not wide enough to allow an average adult to climb through. To secure the windows at that level, drill a slanted hole through the front window sash and part way through the back sash, and insert a heavy duty nail or an eyebolt.

Other Entrances

Skylights, ventilation ducts, and fire escapes may tempt a burglar because they’re usually not visible from the street. Protect skylights the first stair should be too high for an adult to reach from the ground, and the door or window leading to the escape should be equipped with special emergency exit features. Window guards should be removable or hinged at the top or and ducts with metal grates and iron bars. Outside fire escapes require special attention: side to allow for emergency exit. Keys to locked windows or doors should be kept nearby for quick access.

  • Key control. Any lock gives way to a key. That’s why it’s so important to practice good key control.
  • Label keys, using a code to indicate back door, receiving door, display case, etc.
  • Engrave “Do Not Duplicate” on all keys. Most locksmiths will observe this instruction.
  • Restrict access to keys to your most trusted employees. Maintain a log to record removal and return.
  • Consider having locks re-keyed when an employee leaves your business.


Consider joining forces with neighboring businesses to hire a uniformed guard. Look for a reputable security business and check references. Make sure the security staff knows who your employees are, store hours, and shoplifting, internal theft policies.


Light may be one of the best crime deterrents. In fact, some states have minimum standards for exterior lighting. The rule of thumb is to light up all dark areas, especially doors and windows, but watch for shadows that can conceal a burglar’s activity. If your business is in a commercial area where lighting is poor, why not join with other merchants to petition the local government for improved lighting? It that fails, perhaps you can pool resources and underwrite the costs yourselves.


Some businesses may need to install an alarm. Before you buy, weigh the cost against your need. How valuable is your merchandise? How great is your risk? It might be best to seek advice from a security consultant, but check credentials carefully.

If you do install an alarm, put warning signs in every window, at every possible entrance. Knowing your business is equipped with an alarm may be enough to deter some burglars.

For best results, every alarm system should include:

  • a battery fail-safe back-up,
  • fire-sensing capability, and
  • feedback device to check whether the system is working.

For an expert appraisal of your security needs, ask for a premise security survey by your local law enforcement agency, or check with, a reputable professional security consultant.

Operation Identification

Don’t be caught in the position of suspecting a burglary by not
knowing what’s been stolen. Keep a complete, up-to-date inventory
of your merchandise and property, including your office machinery.
Put a copy in your safe deposit box or other location away
from the business site. While preparing your inventory, mark
your property with your Pennsylvania driver’s license number
(preceded by the letters “PA”). Then post warnings on all
windows and doors to warn burglars that your property can
be traced.


Locks and alarms can’t prevent burglary unless they are used. Establish a routine for “closing up shop,” locking doors and windows, and setting alarms. Also have someone inspect the building before opening for business.

If the Burglar gets in

If a burglar gets inside the building, your best protection is visibility: wide open spaces, low counters, and large, uncluttered display windows. Keep a few lights on inside even when closed – it’s a great way to put any burglars in the spotlight.

Put your safe and cash register up front. If a burglar can see them, so can everyone else and they’ll be able to see a burglar, too, it he’s there. Empty your cash drawers and leave them open every night so a burglar won’t be tempted to break them open. If you use a safe, anchor it in concrete and make sure it has a combination lock – more burglar-resistant than a key lock.

To make it hard for a burglar to get out once he’s in, put locks on all interior doors and hook them into your alarm system, (Always check fire regulations before installing such locks.)

If you suspect a burglary:

  • Don’t go in. The burglar may still be inside.
  • Don’t open for business. Your employees and customers may unwittingly alter valuable evidence,
  • Call police immediately.