Nearly 1.5 million homes will suffer a burglary or home invasion this year, says the FBI, resulting in more than $3.4 billion in property loss, as well as an untold number of physical assaults, rapes, and even murder.

Fortunately, burglary rates are down, in part because homeowners are becoming smarter about protecting their property and in part because of new home protection tools and technologies.

All of that said, here are five simple steps to scare away burglars before they strike.

#1. Lock Your Doors and Windows

Incredible as it sounds, many if not most break-ins are actually walk-ins. It’s important to recognize that many would-be burglars will walk a neighborhood pretending to be a service provider while actually checking to see if a door is unlocked (they’ll also likely ring the bell or knock to see if anyone answers). If nobody answers and the door is unlocked, you’ve just gift-wrapped everything inside.

#2. Get a Lion Dog

5 simple steps to scare away burglarsIncarcerated burglars routinely state that the sound of a dog on the other side of a door or window is more than enough to send them packing. The bigger the bark, the faster they move on. Their trepidation is understandable. After all, they have no idea what kind of dog awaits, whether it’s trained to attack. And besides, the barking has already acted as a kind of alarm system alerting anyone inside. A dog isn’t just man’s best friend, it’s also a home’s. (And yeah, the lion would be cool and super-effective. But, sadly, illegal.)

#3. Install Motion-Detection Lights

Lots of homeowners believe that it’s enough to simply turn on the outside lights. But some security experts will tell you that this strategy can backfire. Because burglars prefer to scout locations before they strike. A well-lit exterior allows them to search for easy access points rather than stumble around in the dark or, worse, shine an easily spotted flashlight. Motion-triggered lights, on the other hand, only flash on when someone passes by, and that’s enough to scare away a burglar or the deer in your garden.

#4. Install a Security System

Along with dogs, security systems are routinely cited by convicted burglars as a top deterrent. Just be sure to install the right kind, don’t install it directly beside the front door, and don’t ever provide the security code to anyone (if you do, change it as soon as possible).

#5. Trim the Bushes

All too often a home’s gorgeous landscaping – the kind installed to provide decorative privacy – works against a home’s security. Thick, tall shrubs, for example, provide excellent hiding places for prowlers (and other bad guys as well) to do their work jimmying open a window (or crawling through the unlocked ones).