How to Deter Trespassers from Your Property – Grit – Grit Magazine

Do security lights deter burglars? And where to place security cameras? Learn some security strategies and how to deter trespassers from your property.
I remember  a time when many rural folks never even thought about locking the doors of their homes when they left. We didn’t lock our vehicles on our own properties or worry about someone stealing our dogs or about our children playing in the yard. Furthest from our minds was the idea that people would steal food from our gardens, chickens from the coops, or even cattle in the pasture. Well, those days are behind us now. We live in a time when rural property thefts are uncomfortably common. A time when, as my father used to say, “If it isn’t nailed down, someone will take it.” It does no good to simply complain about it. It’s reality, and we need to address it. So, what do you do to protect what you have?
When we think about protecting our property, especially when dealing with livestock, our attention usually focuses on four-legged and aerial predators. We worry about coyotes, foxes, bears, hawks, etc. We deal with those assailants using dogs, fences, and, yes, even firearms when needed. Less often do we worry about two-legged predators.
If you raise livestock, have a garden, or run a full-fledged farm, there will always be some loss to natural causes (predators and weather). Dealing with human predation is a different matter. Animal predation is normally food-driven; human predation, or theft, may not be. Reasons can vary, from desperation to financial gain to simply thrill-seeking, but at the end of the day, it’s still property lost and damage done.
Some people will automatically turn to firearms to protect their property, but I have no desire to turn my home into an armed encampment. The use of firearms in any situation should always be the last resort. If you ever have to pull a firearm to protect you, your family, or your property, make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with that firearm ahead of time and feel confident using it.
Remember, nothing you do is foolproof. If someone is intent on taking your property, they will. The good news is that most would-be criminals will only go after easy targets. This means you should never make it easy for them. Don’t leave items out in the open. At the end of a day of work, if your property looks like you’re having a yard sale, then you’re asking for problems. Out of sight, out of mind.
What’s one strategy for how to deter trespassers from your property? First, to discourage would-be criminals from breaking in after dark, consider adding lights to your property. Motion-sensing lights are available almost everywhere, and they’re well worth the investment. Even those inexpensive solar-powered walkway lights can make a difference. I have both on my property, and while I can’t say for sure if they’ve actually deterred any criminal activity, they’re just another tool in the toolbox.
Locks can also be an effective tool to use, but keep in mind that they’re a deterrent and nothing more. They’re not an absolute fix, but they’re the best and easiest line of defense you have. Locks may not stop a serious intruder, but if you don’t lock your property up, then it’s in much more danger of being taken. This goes for your home, vehicle, barn, and gates to your pastures.
Your home is your safe zone, or at least it should be. But how many people out there rely solely on the push-button lock on the doorknob? Those locks are some of the easiest to bypass, and every criminal knows it. Every door leading to the outside of your home should have at least a deadbolt lock, which take a lot more effort and time to get past. If someone is trying to break in, they won’t want to waste time cutting chains, dealing with locks, or kicking doors down. The longer they spend bypassing those deterrents, the greater chance they’ll get caught. Again, don’t make it easy for a would-be criminal. Put as many obstacles in their path as you can. Locks are just one of those obstacles.
There’s a reason you see signs on people’s properties warning that the home is protected by a security system of some sort. Whether it’s true or not, criminals won’t know. What they will know is there’s a chance they’ll get caught. No matter what, make sure you post your property. Signs that say “Keep Out,” “Private Property,” “No Trespassing,” or the ever-popular “Violators Will Be Prosecuted” do actually work. Giving people fair warning may be enough to make them think twice. And depending on your state’s laws, clearly posted signage can also provide you further legal recourse in the event someone trespasses on your property.
Make sure your signs are noticeable and properly placed. On a smaller property, one or two signs may work. On larger parcels, you’ll need to make sure every gate has a sign (and lock). You may also want to space a few signs along the property line, because the first thing a potential criminal could say is they never saw any sign.
Cameras, and there are many out there, are another deterrent. While cameras on their own won’t necessarily stop intruders, what they record will help law enforcement catch and prosecute the criminals. But we’re not talking James Bond stuff here. Security cameras can be as simple or as complicated as you want. On my property, I use the same types of cameras used by hunters in the field. Other people like to use cameras that are linked to their phones so they can constantly monitor their property.
Just like with signs, cameras should be strategically located. Where to place security cameras? I like using trail cameras because I can easily hide them. Put a few along your property line and near each outside gate. Many times, potential intruders will go right up to the gate first, and this is where you’ll get them.
Having cameras in your home isn’t a bad idea either. If someone does get in, hopefully their acts will be caught by the camera. The cameras won’t stop people from taking your stuff, but they may help the police find the ones who did it, and even get your property back.
Constant activity on your property, whether that’s moving cattle from one pasture to another, fixing fences, haying, or even just mowing your lawn, will help keep unwanted people away. This doesn’t mean you have to be out there in plain sight every day or be confined to your property. Actually, it’s best that you aren’t. Very few of us are home all day, every day. I know there’s constant come-and-go at my home. If potential property thieves don’t know if and when someone is home, it may deter them, making them seek greener pastures.
At one time, it seemed like everyone knew their neighbors. They could be right next door or 2 miles down the road, but either way, they looked out for each other. Today, how many people can actually say they really know their neighbors beyond a simple wave? I’ve made it a point to know the folks living around me, because they’re part of my security, and I’m part of theirs.
In my line of work as a writer, I’m often away from my property. If I’m intending to be gone for more than just a day, I let my neighbors know my plans; that way, they can keep an eye on my place. They’ll look out for strange vehicles in my driveway or anything that doesn’t look normal. On one occasion, I had two neighbors confront one another while I was away because they both saw someone on my property — each other. Everything ended well, and while the story makes me laugh, it also makes me feel good that folks were looking out for me.
Closeup of a chain and padlock on a fence. The chain and gate show signs…
This act of neighbor watching neighbor works both ways. One time, while one of my neighbors was away (he told me his family was going before they left), I noticed a window wasn’t closed as I drove by. I stopped and investigated. The screen had been removed and the window was open. Though I was armed, I decided to go no farther and called the police. I stayed on-site and called the property owner as well. As it turned out, my neighbor confirmed the screen had been broken before he left and that one of his kids had left the window open. The police also confirmed nobody had broken in. It all ended well, but the outcome could’ve been different.
Both instances show how important it is to look out for each other. While neither example was serious, it does show this strategy is effective.
Each one of these measures on their own won’t stop people from threatening your property and livestock, but when they’re used together, they can make a difference. Wayne LeClair, owner of Rocky Meadow Farm in Francestown, New Hampshire, where he raises Galloway cattle, uses all of these measures to safeguard his property. He makes the point that “as economic issues affect food supplies, every farmer and rancher will need to take steps to protect against increasingly desperate people.”
For protecting your home and property and figuring out how to deter trespassers, there’s no silver bullet. All we can do is our best to keep our families safe and our possessions secure. If someone really wants to steal from you, they will, and no sign, lock, or camera will stop them. But all of these tools together will make it harder for them to do it — and it may just help bring your property back home to you.
Dana Benner has been writing about all aspects of the outdoors and self-sufficiency for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in numerous publications.
Originally published as “Protecting What You Have” in the July/August 2023 issue of Grit magazine and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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