How To Know If Your Home Is Being Cased By Criminals
Updated: May 12
Signs your home is being watched by criminals
If someone wants to rob your home, chances are they’re going to do a little research first. Let’s look at the ways criminals case your house.
What does casing your home mean? Well, it’s a form of open-source intelligence or OSINT. The bad guys don’t want to get caught, they want to spend the least amount of time on your property, and they want to strike quickly. If this is their goal then they’ll need to gather some information before they kick in your front door.
If we know what to look for, then we can spot casing behavior and work to make our homes a hard target to deter a break-in.
What To Look For When Criminals Case Your House
Let’s start our conversation with new cars. This does not mean a newly purchased car, but rather a different car making a regular appearance on your street. Unless you live on a main thoroughfare, you’re generally going to know what car goes with what house on your street. If you don’t, start learning that now.
Keep an eye out for cars that don’t typically belong. When you see them note the driver and the time of day. If you want, you can give them a big old friendly wave to let them know you see them.
If the same car and driver persistently drive by your home, you may want to be bold enough to take a picture. If you make it obvious, then that works in your favor, because they know that you see them and will realize they are being watched.
Then you can take that picture and share it on your neighborhood social media group or with the police. If the bad guys feel they’ve been spotted, they are more likely to leave the area.
Going back to the idea of being familiar with your neighborhood, take note of the people you see moving around your street. You should have a general idea of who is coming and going.
Even if your neighbor has - let’s say - a frequent overnight guest that person and car should be considered part of the environment. So politely keep track of who lives around you and your children because you’ll look for subtle changes for clues to potential trouble.
If we have a good baseline of the people that should be on your street, then you need to look for who doesn’t belong. Is there a new person jogging your street? Is there someone walking a dog that you don’t know? Maybe someone is riding a bike around that you don’t recognize. While all of these things could be innocent behaviors, most people when they exercise stick to known areas.
Marathon runners who cover great distances will go into multiple neighborhoods. And if you see the same runner at the same time of day for weeks, you can move that person into your baseline group.
But if there’s a new jogger who stops frequently to stretch and looks around at houses and who is watching him, then that person may warrant more attention from you. You can always wave at them and politely ask them if they are new to the area because you don’t recognize them.
Don’t Answer the Door
One of the bigger issues we see with criminals casing homes is to pose as door-to-door salesman. People rarely do business like this anymore and generally, I treat these people with a lot of suspicion.
Earlier this year, we had a supposed new exterminator canvas our neighborhood. He wore a polo and hat with a matching logo, but he was diligent about going to every home. In fact, this guy showed up twice in one afternoon at my door while I was gone.
I checked my cameras and got on my neighborhood social media and asked if this person had come to anyone else’s home. I quickly got a lot of feedback and I wasn’t the only person suspicious of this guy. To my knowledge, this never turned out to be anything, but it’s always good to pursue your suspicions.
One of the solicitations I really don’t like is the door-to-door carpet cleaners. They’ll ring the doorbell and ask about your carpet and offer to give you an estimate right there on the spot.
While this is very convenient for a legitimate business, it’s also a great rouse for a criminal to get into your home, see your belongings, and ask you about your schedule. I worked as a carpet cleaner for a summer and we never went door-to-door. People always scheduled with us.
I’ve shared this before, but I remind you of a crime in my area. Av cleaning service was leaving windows unlocked in homes they wanted to rob. This way when someone on their crew went to rob the home, they could slip inside easily through a first-floor window.
Cleaning staff have extensive knowledge of the homes where they work making their knowledge of your home immense. So check the references of any in-home service you hire and check your windows to see if they are locked after the workers leave.
The Fake Emergency
Another way criminals will try to case the inside of your home is with a fake emergency. Tony Blauer has shared that his home was cased by a car detailer who was working on their street and needed to use the bathroom. Asking to use the bathroom is a common trick for getting inside a home.
Another fake emergency is a jogger who happens to sprain their ankle in front of your house, and they’ll prey on your good nature to let them inside your home. While you are a good person who wants to help, evil people know that and will exploit your good nature to get what they want.
As a general rule, don’t let random unknown people into your home no matter the circumstances. Even these situations can escalate from casing to an actual attack if all of the elements come together.
Casing Is Digital, Too
And if you’ve listened to my show for any amount of time you know that I caution people about what they share on social media. Don’t let people know you’re not home or that you’ve bought some new toy. These kinds of posts give thieves great intel on what you have and where you are so they can plan the perfect robbery. Just keep that information to yourself.
Some of you might be wondering about sidewalk or mailbox markings as potential casing behaviors. This is when someone finds something scribbled on the sidewalk in front of their house or there’s something odd stuck to their mailbox.
I’ve read all sorts of news stories about people finding red stickers on their mailboxes and they sensationalize it from kidnapping plots to human trafficking. I’m not going to say that these are not legitimate signs of casing a home, but generally, people make mental notes about their observations so there’s no evidence of what they’re doing.
So unless someone spray paints the words “Rob this one” on your sidewalk, I think you can move on from this type of thing.
Before we wrap up I need to mention to you that many times homes are robbed by people who know the homeowners. Forbes reports a stat that up to 65% of people whose homes are burglarized know the burglar.
I’m not so sure of that stat but many times people who are familiar with you and your home will rob you because of inside information they have, that OSINT we’ve been talking about. So don’t rule out a neighbor or acquaintance when looking at casing behavior.
How To Respond To Your Home Being Cased
Now that we’ve talked about some common casing behaviors let’s talk about what to do. If you can catch someone on camera, ask your neighbors about the footage you have. But do this in a non-confrontational or accusatory way.
This way people can be alert to what’s going on or offer an answer to what you’ve seen. After all, we don’t know everything that goes on in our neighborhoods.
If the behavior warrants it, bring the police in. Be able to clearly tell them your concern and present any evidence you have like images, dates, and times. You can always ask for an extra patrol on your street to prevent a break-in.
And of course, you can always make your home a hard target for any criminal. I’ll show you how to do this in my book, Home Security: The Secure Dad’s Guide.