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In 2019, there were nearly 1.2 million residential burglaries in the U.S., according to data from the FBI. Although the number of reported burglaries has been steadily decreasing, home thefts continue to cause expensive losses for unlucky homeowners. According to the FBI, the average dollar loss per residential break-in was $2,661 in 2019.
If a burglar breaks into your home and steals personal items, your homeowners or renters insurance policy will cover it. Roughly one in 525 insured homes has a theft-related property damage claim each year. As you might imagine, some personal items are stolen more often than others. In this guide, we’ll highlight some of the most stolen items in home invasions.
Top 10 items stolen in home invasions/burglaries
When a thief breaks into your house, you can assume they know what they’re looking for. Expensive items that have the highest resale value are typically the prime targets. However, you might be surprised to learn that less expensive household items, like medications, are also commonly stolen in home invasions. Here are the items that are most often stolen in home break-ins.
1. Jewelry and watches
Jewelry and watches are two of the most commonly stolen items in a home invasion. Burglars are on the lookout for expensive fine jewelry and watches to steal and resell to make a profit. And it’s not just diamonds they’re hoping to get—sterling silver jewelry, gold jewelry and even costume jewelry can be resold for profit. If you have jewelry or watches laying out in plain sight, it’s fair game for a thief to take.
2. Wallets and cash
You should probably think twice about leaving money near the front door or on the kitchen counter. If someone breaks into your home, you can assume they are keeping an eye out for wallets and purses that may have cash and credit cards. Not to mention, burglars can do a lot of damage if they get a hold of your driver’s license. If you keep large denominations of cash at home, consider putting it in a locked safe where it’s harder to access.
Electronics are a big target for home burglars, and don’t think that your 60-inch flat screen TV is safe. Whether it’s a TV, cellphone, video game system, stereo or laptop/computer, a creative burglar can probably find a way to walk away with it. Many electronics hold their value well and can be resold for a sizable amount of money on the private market. Or, the burglar might simply decide to set up your brand new TV in their own living room.
4. Prescription drugs
Stealing prescription drugs can be extremely profitable for home burglars. Medications are easily resold on the streets, which is why many home burglars target the medicine cabinet in your bathroom during a break-in. Some over-the-counter medications might also get stolen in the process. A burglar probably won’t stop to read the label, so if you keep things like painkillers, allergy medicine and even vitamins on hand, a burglar might decide to take it.
5. Cars and parts
If someone breaks into your home while your car is in your driveway, and the keys are accessible, there’s a good chance that the burglar is going to drive away with it. Vehicles are a frequent target during home invasions, due to the ease of reselling a car quickly on the private market, or using it for parts. If the burglar doesn’t want your car, they might want a piece of your car, like the catalytic converter, or valuable items you keep inside the glove box.
You might not think that your wardrobe is particularly valuable to a home thief, but if you have designer clothes in your closet, that’s a potential gold mine to a burglar. Thieves might be looking for designer labels, including shoes, handbags and accessories, that can be resold for money. Other high-quality items, like leather jackets and furs, are also a target for home burglars. If you have young children, the burglar may also go through your kids’ closets, as well.
Surprisingly, furniture is commonly stolen in many home break-ins. However, your sectional couch and king bed frame are probably safe. Most burglars who are looking to steal furniture are after smaller items, like bedside tables, lamps and even rugs. If you have patio furniture, that’s another target, especially because those items are much simpler to steal. Furniture that’s in good condition can easily be sold to a private buyer or consignment shop.
Bicycles tend to hold their value extremely well, which is why many burglars will steal a bike if they find one in your house or garage. Plus, the current bike shortage is driving up the resale value of bikes, sweetening the deal for bike thieves. As a best practice, you should keep your bicycles somewhere safe, like the garage or shed. Don’t leave them out in your backyard or front yard where they are in plain sight and can be easily stolen.
9. Personal documents
Unfortunately, some burglars might be after your personal documents, like your social security card, password books and passport. If a burglar gets their hands on these items, they can use them to steal your identity or even access your financial accounts. If possible, you should keep these personal documents locked in a safe or store them in a place that a potential burglar would not immediately think to search.
Firearms are one of the most stolen items in home invasions. Between 2012 and 2015, an estimated 1.2 million guns were stolen from individual gun owners in the U.S. (although this number is not specific to home thefts). Guns have an extremely high resale value, and they can be quickly sold on the streets. If a burglar has the opportunity, they might attempt to break into a gun safe or even remove the safe from your home entirely.
Tips on protecting your personal belongings
Even if you take all the right safety precautions, motivated burglars can still find ways to break into your home. In fact, more than half of all reported burglaries in 2019 involved forcible entry, according to an FBI report. However, there are plenty of ways to protect your personal items in the event of a home burglary. Here are some tips:
- Purchase property insurance: If you rent or own a home, having property insurance is extremely valuable. If someone breaks into your house, the personal property portion of your renters or home insurance policy will reimburse you for the stolen items up to your policy limits. Before you get a policy, it’s a good idea to shop around and get a few quotes to find the most affordable premium for your situation. If you have a lot of valuables, you may want to consider scheduled personal property insurance, which could cover high-value items like expensive jewelry or art.
- Set up a security system: Home security systems could be a great line of defense against burglars. Depending on your budget, you can install a professionally-monitored system, or get a cheaper DIY system that you self-monitor through an app. As an added bonus, many home insurance companies offer a discount on your policy if you have a security system in your house.
- Install motion sensor flood lights: For obvious reasons, many burglars break into houses when it’s dark and they can’t be easily spotted. By installing motion sensor-activated flood lights around the perimeter of your house, you can potentially spook a burglar and force them to run away.
- Secure valuable items in a safe: If you keep valuable items in your home, like jewelry, art or firearms, consider storing them in a locked safe. When these items are left out, it’s very easy for a burglar to stash them in a bag or pocket and leave quickly.
- Shred sensitive documents: As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t keep sensitive documents that contain personal information in plain sight. Once you no longer need a document, whether it’s a bill or a credit card pin number, it’s best to shred the document where it can’t be found. Keep in mind that burglars may try to get sensitive information by going through your trash or recycling bin, so shredding provides an added layer of protection.
The bottom line
Home invasions are rare, but unfortunately, every homeowner faces this risk, regardless of where you live. Burglars are after anything valuable you have at home, like electronics, designer clothing, firearms and even furniture. If these items are easily accessible, it’s possible a thief could steal them.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to protect your personal items from being stolen in a break-in. At a minimum, consider using a safe to store valuable belongings, destroy sensitive documents after use and make sure you have renters or home insurance with coverage limits that match the value of your personal belongings.