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Do Lights Deter Burglars?

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Authorities have often suggested leaving lights on to help keep your home safe. But, many homeowners are questioning whether that is actually an effective burglary prevention strategy. As you look down your street to see if certain homes are illuminated, you might be wondering what makes a home a potential target. And, what does lighting have to do with home safety?

One study suggests that using lighting as a burglar-deterrent reduces the chances of anonymity. The study suggests that security lights help deter break-ins because many intruders feel they would be more likely to be recognized and caught if security lighting were in use.

But, is lighting really the deterrent? This same study suggests that neighborhoods with good lighting are perceived to have a stronger sense of community pride and that the lighting acts as informal social control to help prevent burglary. In fact, according to FBI data, most break-ins occur during the day between 10 AM and 3 PM because it is when people are least likely to be home.

Another study was conducted using burglar responses. KGW8 News surveyed 86 burglars regarding their motivations and methods for breaking in to a home. The responses were unclear in determining whether lighting was a sufficient deterrent: “Responses were mixed regarding lights on in a home. Some said it was a deterrent. But one burglar said the combination of lights on and blinds closed created an attractive location.” In addition, every burglar who took part in the study said that they would knock on the door prior to attempting a burglary and almost all would reconsider breaking into a home if a car was in the driveway.

The combination of this data suggests that the most important element for burglary prevention is a presence within the home. Burglars prefer to break in when the house is empty. They can work quickly and quietly and be gone before anyone even knows they were there.

Using this information, there are a few ways you can use lighting as part of your burglary prevention strategy.

How to use lights to deter burglars

How to use lights to deter burglars

  • Use lights to mimic real behavior and suggest someone is home: Set your lights to turn on and off at normal, irregular intervals to give the appearance that your home is occupied. Leaving lights on at 2AM doesn’t send the message that your home. Instead, leave lights on at times you would normally use lighting during the evenings. If you use timers, set them to turn on and off in different rooms to give the appearance that someone is moving around your house.
  • Use smart lighting for remote control of lights: Smart light bulbs give you the ability to turn lights on and off even when you aren’t at home. Turn your lights on at random times that would be expected and alternate lighting in different rooms. If you plan to employ this method, make sure your curtains are closed and you aren’t simply giving anyone on the street an open view into your empty home. Tie this in with a video doorbell and anyone knocking at your door will think you’re really there.
  • Select motion-activated security lights for outside your home: These lights are bright and will illuminate the most common points of entry to your home. The sudden light will also alert any neighbors to a presence outside your home.
  • Use your security system to support your lighting strategy: Regardless of how you program lights or choose to use security lighting to keep your home safe, you should always make sure that your security system is set to help keep your home safe. Even if your lighting strategy does not have the intended impact for burglary prevention, you can rest easy knowing your alarms will sound if a break-in occurs.

Leaving on lights at all times of the day doesn’t seem to be an effective burglary prevention strategy and it doesn’t do much for your utility bill either. With some planning, you can help keep your home safe and reduce your carbon footprint.

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