University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

We're all aware of the actions of Homeland Security, but are you aware there are some simple actions you can take in your landscape to make your own home more secure?  These may be as simple as pruning, and can make your home less attractive to burglars, whether you be away during the day or on vacation.

Knowing something of burglaries can help towards preventing them.  One FBI statistic is that there is a home burglary every 15.4 seconds somewhere in the United States.  Most burglaries occur during the day, when occupants are away.  Most occur during July and August, with the fewest in February.  Most burglars are young males, under 25 years old, looking for small items easily converted into cash (jewelry, electronics, and drugs for instance).  About 70% of burglars use some force to enter a building, but open doors and windows are of course preferred.

Of the police department websites in larger cities that have recommendations for outdoors, almost all mention the "3-7" rule of pruning, or a similar variation.  By pruning your shrubs near the house to no more than three feet high, you deprive potential burglars of a hiding place.  The same applies to pruning trees near the house so limbs are at least seven feet off the ground.  This also helps prevent burglars from climbing trees to reach upper stories.

To keep burglars from reaching upper windows, you should keep ladders out of sight, or locked up, as well.  Don't place sturdy trellises against walls that might be climbed to gain upper floor access.

Along with keeping your ladder not visible, or locked, the same applies to garden tools.  These could provide implements to break windows.

If your house is near a road or in a neighborhood, make sure in your landscaping you provide a clear view of your house.  Hidden homes are ideal for burglars.  Our neighbors in the country used to have several large evergreen trees, blocking most of their house from view from the road.  Thieves took advantage of this one holiday while they were away.

So don't plant a hedge or thick border of shrubs near the road.  Or if you do, keep them pruned so your house remains visible.  The same applies to large evergreens near the house foundation.  Some plant cute little evergreens there, not realizing that in a few years they will outgrow their space as they mature.  This not only blocks the home from view, and provides a hiding place for burglars, but may ruin the house siding and foundation from excess moisture or roots.

Keep shrubs along drives, walks, doors, or gates pruned to no more than two feet high.  This keeps burglars from easily being able to sneak up to your house.

Place small gravel next to the house.  You wont be planting there both for security, and as with most homes this area is under the roof overhang so gets little rain.  Small gravel will make a noise when walked on, which deters burglars.  But don't use large stones, as these aren't as noisy, and can provide tools to break windows.

Shrub hedges, if pruned properly, can also provide barriers which burglars tend to avoid.  Fences of course do the same.  If gates are present, keep them locked, especially when away.  This will prevent easy access and quick escape.

Even though more burglaries are during the day than night, consider installing night lighting near and around your home.  I particularly like and use lights that shine up through trees, that provide a wash of light along the side of the house, or that provide lighting near doors.  There are many types and styles of night lighting which, in addition to making your landscape more enjoyable at night, can help deter intruders.

The ideal home for burglars is one they can get into and out of quickly, and easily, and not be seen.  Keep these in mind in your landscaping and you'll be making your home safer.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles