How to deter burglars

The connection between yard signs and crime

Last Updated 6/1/18
by Jami Barnett, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Which burglary deterrent yard signs work the best?

Which burglary deterrent yard signs work the best?

Yard signs are commonly used to deter home burglars, but it can be hard to quantify the effectiveness of the signs as deterrents. ConsumerAffairs wanted to know what types of homeowners post signs and which type of sign you should post to keep your home safe.


The ConsumerAffairs research team surveyed over 700 people. We asked respondents how they perceive the threat of burglary and how they protect their homes from thieves. We also asked them to rank the effectiveness of specific deterrent signage.

We compared our data with a 2013 study conducted by The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice & Criminality. In the study, researchers interviewed over 400 convicted burglars about their motivations and target selection as well as factors that deterred them.

The data was evaluated for averages, commonalities, differences and trends.

Signs and fears

The people who are most concerned don't actually put up the most signs.

Research shows people’s residence location and age is more predictive of whether they will post a deterrent sign than their degree of concern. While people living in urban communities worry twice as much about home burglary as those living in the suburbs, only 46 percent reported using a sign compared to 52 percent of suburbanites.

Burglary Worries by Area

Politics and perception

Beliefs about which signs are most effective is divided down party lines.

Forty percent of respondents felt signs about weapons in the home were most effective. Interestingly, that number edged up when we only considered Republicans, and it jumped by eight percent when we only considered Independents’ perceptions. An even bigger difference between the general population’s perception and Democrats’ perception. Democrats were nearly twice as likely to indicate they believed a security camera sign was an effective deterrent as compared to the survey group average.

We asked people which message they thought was most effective

Most effective signs according to political parties

Burglars weigh in

For criminals, avoiding eyes - real or electronic - is top priority.

Burglars told researchers* being caught on camera, being seen by a person, tripping an alarm or startling a dog most often deterred them from striking a particular home. To avoid detection, thieves usually commit crimes when no one is home. In fact, 72 percent of burglaries happen when nobody is home**.

Perception of the effectiveness of burglary deterrants according to burglars:
% of sample indicating they considered these factors


*Source: Blevins, Kristie R., Joseph B. Kuhns, and Seungmug Lee. (2013). Understanding decisions to burglarize from the offender’s perspective. Final report. Submitted to the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation, Irving, TX.


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Jami Barnett, Ph.D., is an experienced researcher, and she believes consumers have a right to clear and honest information about products. In her role at ConsumerAffairs, she thoroughly researches products and companies by interviewing experts, reviewing research studies, reading governmental regulations and investigating customer service responses. Her work gives consumers the information they need to make smart purchasing decisions.

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