You may be tempted to borrow some tips from Kevin in Home Alone and set up booby traps for burglars in your home. But you could easily find yourself on the wrong side of the law. That’s because setting traps for burglars is illegal in the UK.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other legal ways you can deter burglars or catch them in the act.
Is It Legal to Set Traps for Burglars?
The law doesn’t expect you to just stand by while burglars steal your valuables. You can protect yourself. But there’s a requirement that homeowners can only use reasonable force against intruders.
The law does not define what ‘reasonable force’. It’s decided on a case by case basis. But generally, homeowners do not have the right to harm an intruder unless they are attacking you or you believe they are about to.
When it comes to setting traps for burglars, the law is explicit that it is illegal. You could be prosecuted if you lay traps for burglars instead of involving the police.
The law does not specify whether the trap has to be harmful for it to be illegal. That’s because it can be difficult to predict what will be harmful.
Punji spikes or a gun turret can obviously cause serious injury and even death. But what about a simple trip wire designed to trigger an alarm? The burglar could trip and fall, and you’d likely be liable for any injuries.
So any kind of trap for burglars is considered illegal in the UK. While a burglar will probably not take you to court over a small injury, you could be in serious trouble if they get seriously injured or even die.
By the way, one of the reasons for this law prohibiting setting traps for intruders is the risk it poses to innocent people. Your partner, kids, neighbours or passersby might unknowingly walk into a dangerous trap. It’s not worth the risk.
Luckily, traps are not the only way to deter or catch burglars. Below are some excellent home security tips that are completely legal.
(Legal) Ways To Scare Away Burglars
1. Set Up Multiple Alarms
If you really want to trap burglars and scare them away before they do anything, set up several alarms. And not just on your door and windows. A driveway alarm can alert you to an intruder way before they get to the front door.
Look for one of those alarms with an app so that it can alert you even if you are not at home. Alternatively, set up a smart motion sensor that will ping you if it detects someone around your home.
If your home is gated, a gate contact alarm is also a good idea, both on the front and rear gates. Burglars tend to target rear gates because they are usually weaker and often left unlocked.
Have additional alarms and motion sensors around your home, both inside and outside, to alert you if anyone gets too close.
2. Cover Your Home With Security Cameras, Inside and Outside
If you do nothing else to secure your home, at least set up security cameras. Cameras are some of the most effective burglary deterrences.
Most times, burglars casing your home will spot the cameras and just move on to another target. Make sure the cameras are highly visible to discourage burglars from even attempting to break in.
One or two cameras should be clearly visible from the street. Set up others around the outside of your home to make sure there’s no blindspot.
Once you combine visible cameras with alarms (put up a sign indicating your home is alarm protected), you’ve pretty much burglarproofed your home against the majority of burglars.
Don’t forget to add some indoor security cameras as well. These are excellent traps for the determined burglars who manage to get inside. Even if they take away your valuables, at least you’ll have evidence that can help the police track them down and recover your stuff.
Tip: Traditional CCTV cameras can also deter burglars, but modern smart cameras are better. You can check the camera’s feed no matter where you are and even get an alert when the camera detects motion. So you can catch burglars in the act and alert the police.
3. Get a Dog That Barks
Dogs are another huge deterrence for burglars. They want to be in and out as quickly as possible without attracting any attention. So a barking dog is a big problem for burglars.
Something as simple as a ‘beware dog’ sign on your gate can be enough to turn away most burglars. But if you are able to, go ahead and get an actual dog as well. Seeing a dog through the fence or window is often enough for most burglars to think twice.
The dog doesn’t have to be fierce, though that helps, but it needs to have a loud bark. The noise is what discourages burglars.
If you have a quiet dog that just stares at strangers, you can teach it to bark when someone’s at the door. Here’s a short video explaining how.
4. Install A Smart Doorbell
Burglars often target homes when the owners are away. Smart cameras are great for monitoring your home when you are at work or travelling.
A smart doorbell is another great option. A smart doorbell has a motion sensor, so it will alert you on your phone if there’s someone at the front door. So you can see the burglar before they break into your home.
To make a smart doorbell really effective at deterring burglars, look for one with two-way audio. This lets you talk to whoever is at the door. An unexpected ‘how can I help you’ is likely to scare them off. They’ll probably think there’s someone at home or someone is watching.
Tip: Be sure to get a high quality smart doorbell from a trusted brand. Cheap doorbells can actually be a security risk as burglars can hack or bypass them.
5. Leave The Lights & TV On When You Are Away
Burglars generally don’t break into homes if they think there’s someone at home. They don’t want to risk a confrontation. And that’s why they wait until you are away.
So you can make your home a less appealing target by making it seem like there’s someone at home.
A smart doorbell with 2-way audio is a good start. Some burglars will actually walk up to the door and ring the bell to double check that there’s no one at home. If you answer the doorbell with your voice, it will scare them off.
You can also use a few age-old tricks like leaving the TV on or turning it on remotely using a virtual remote control or a smart plug.
Setting the lights on a timer (or having smart lights you can turn on remotely) also works great at fooling would-be burglars.
Other tricks include:
- Leave your car where it’s visible. Works great if you’ll be gone a few days and don’t need your car (or you have a second car).
- If you live alone (especially if you are a woman or elderly), position a pair of large boots outside the front door. Burglars will think someone intimidating is at home. Be sure to remove the boots occasionally so burglars don’t catch up to the trick.
- Make sure the outdoor lights come on in the evening. Most outdoor lights can be set to come on at a specific time or when it gets dark.
- Have a friend or neighbor collect your mail and packages so they don’t build up, alerting burglars that the home is empty.
- Get smart shades that you can open and close from anywhere. Nothing says there’s someone home like open shades. Combine it with a turned on TV that’s visible through the window and you can fool most burglars.
6. Motion-activated Lights
If you want to save money on outdoor security lights, install motion-activated lights. These only come on when they detect motion and hopefully scaring away any intruders.
Because they don’t stay on all the time, motion-activated lights don’t use a lot of power.