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Prioritizing Home Security Residual Risks & Improvements

There is an overwhelming number of things you can do to improve the security of your home.

What is more important?

Where you should focus your time and money? 

To answer these questions, scroll down to see the risk analysis that compares the typical burglar's method of operating (inherent risks) against the typical Canadian residential neighbourhood defenses (controls) to identify the priority of improvements.

Typical Burglar's Method of Operating

They rely on concealment, ease & speed of entry, and tend to use brute force to gain entry.

Plan and Scan

1. Observe and Select Targets

They may watch, take notes and photos about your routines while driving around, in a parked vehicle or walking. Some may pose as construction workers, lawn care or door to door salespeople and may even use women and children. They prefer high potential reward and easier low risk houses.

Man looking through binoculars

Typical Defenses

a) Regular doors and windows.

b) Residents assume strangers are supposed to be there, don't want to interfere or rely heavily on the police to monitor activity.

c) A basic home builder's alarm system.

Residual Risks

a) Physically breaking in is very easy and burglars know it. Houses with regular doors are easy targets.

b) Criminals can conveniently plan their attack.

c) Burglar's have learned how to cope with alarms and there is no video evidence. 


a) Install security doors, security screens, and secure windows

b) Join an existing or start a Neighbourhood Watch Group

c) Install security camera surveillance system and establish natural surveillance and alarm system if not already installed.

Ding Dong!

2. Are You Home?

After your house is chosen, they will try to confirm that you are not at home. Burglars want an empty house to avoid getting caught or injured and because if caught, sentencing is more severe if the house is occupied - also known as a home invasion.  They can simply ring your doorbell or knock. 

Doorbell button

Typical Defenses

a) Residents assume strangers approaching homes are supposed to be there, don't want to interfere or rely heavily on the police to monitor activity.

b) Regular doorbell.

c) No deliberate effort to appear occupied at all times

Residual Risks

a) Burglars can freely check for occupancy

b) Burglars can determine occupancy with doorbell.

c) Burglars can see clues of vacancy.


a) Join an existing or start a Neighbourhood Watch Group

b) Install a security camera surveillance system and an internet enabled two-way video doorbell 

c) Create an illusion of occupancy

That Was Easy

3. Break-in Through Door or Window

Most break and enters occur during the daytime when people have gone to work and burglars can blend in with legitimate lawn care and other service people but some still occur at night. Quick and easy forced entry is typical. Doors are preferred for easy entry and escape. 

Close-up of a regular door split apart by a forceful kick

Typical Defenses

a) Regular doors and windows.

b) Privacy fencing or landscaping.

c) Manual & limited coverage outdoor lights.

Residual Risks

a) Regular doors will easily open with a solid kick and windows are easy to smash but are noisy & dangerous.

b) A blocked view of your doors & windows gives burglars the advantage of not being seen.

c) Lights may not be on when a burglar is present and unlit hiding spots.


a) Install security doorssecurity screens, and secure windows

b) Keep your door and windows visible with natural surveillance

c) Install outdoor motion sensor lights 

Plenty of Time

4. Ransack & Leave Before Police Arrive, Next House

Burglars take advantage of knowing that it usually takes 8 minutes or longer before the police arrive after a monitored alarm is triggered & the police is notified. Also, the police respond slower to alarm system calls versus calls from witnesses.  If no alarm was triggered, when done, they may conveniently go the next unoccupied vulnerable home. This is 'Trick or Treat" for bad guys. 

Ransacked room

Typical Defenses

a) A basic home builder's alarm system.

b) Privacy fencing or landscaping.

Residual Risks

a) Communications can be defeated or burglars simply leave before police arrive.

b) A blocked view of your doors & windows may prevent neighbours or passing police from seeing that your house is or has been broken into.


a) Install a security camera surveillance system and upgrade alarm system features

b) Establish natural surveillance.

Anti-Crime Strategy

Let's apply some anti-crime strategy to prioritize the identified key improvements to make it risky & difficult for burglars to 'do business' at your house and within your neighbourhood.

The Crime Triangle identifies the three dimensions needed for a crime to occur. 

Desire of the criminal to commit an offense.

Target - a person or a thing attractive to the criminal.   

Opportunity for the crime to be committed (around your house including your neighbourhood).

You can control 2 of 3 triangle dimensions, target & opportunity, to reduce your overall risk of being victimized.

Target: Make your house as difficult (target hardening) and risky (target attractiveness) to break into.

Opportunity: Reduce opportunities around your house and neighbourhood for burglars to observe, plan and attack undetected.

Crime triange showing linkage to house & neighbourhood

The identified improvements from the risk analysis are prioritized here along with explanation. If you can only do a few things, here they are. 

Priority - 1 improvements: These have the greatest impact on target hardening, opportunity reduction and target attractiveness.  
Priority - 2 improvements: these further enhance target hardening & target attractiveness
  • Secure windows on the ground floor and focus on those with easy access to further harden your target. This is a less popular mode of entry since it is more noisy, poses a cutting danger and is less convenient for passage but still deserves attention.
  • Install an alarm system if one is not already installed. These are quite commonplace now and burglars have learned to deal with them. Not having one makes your target more attractive.
  • Establish natural surveillance for a clear line of sight around your house to make your target less attractive.
  • Install outdoor motion sensor lights to deter some burglars who prefer the night.