Fences That Keep Burglars Out – an effective compromise

Fences That Keep Burglars Out – an effective compromise

In one of my previous articles, “Invisible Dogs that Deter Burglars” I wrote about residential burglaries and how people can use an Invisible Barking Dog alarm as part of an overall layered security “system” to deter burglars. As good as any alarm system may work, all security measures can be defeated. If someone really wants to break into your home – they will. Your goal is to make them not want to trespass upon your property or break into your home!

Landscaping can sometimes be used effectively as an exterior perimeter barrier but for the average homeowner/resident, the first layer of perimeter security is usually a fence. Few people erect a fence strictly to prevent intrusion. In fact, most people build a fence for privacy and appearances and security is an afterthought.  Usually they make the fence as sturdy as they can and as high as the local zoning permits and think to themselves that they are now safe.

Solid fences give residents a false sense of security.

Solid fences give residents a false sense of security. Instead of making their property safer solid fences actually make it more inviting to a burglar. Burglars are creepy cowards who usually target homes that look the easiest to break into. Although most residential burglaries occur during the daytime, burglars like to do their thieving out of sight. They like homes that have barriers that make it difficult for neighbors or people passing by to see them. Big bushes, tall hedges, brick walls, and solid fences give burglars concealment. It gives them as sense of “safety” and can actually entice a burglar onto your property because it looks like an easy mark.

What Kind of Fencing is Best?

When I worked as a patrol officer I investigated hundreds of residential burglaries and on some occasions I chased burglars across yards, through alleys, and over and under fences. The fences that fleeing burglars had the most difficulty getting over were “flimsy” chicken-wire type fences. Burglars (and pursuing cops) could not run through these fences and if they were too high to leap over, you had to detour and run around them as there was usually nothing to grab hold of to pull yourself over.

Now that I operate an investigations and security consulting business, I would serve my clients well if I recommended they erect an 8-foot-tall chicken wire or mesh wire fence around their entire property. Problem is – who wants a cheap rickety wire fence in their front yard or all around their property? Not me.

A compromise that I often recommend to my clients who want the privacy that a solid fence offers (usually wood but sometimes vinyl or other material) and something aesthetically pleasing, is to add a not too sturdy trellis at the top of the fence.









Attaching a trellis to the top of a fence makes it harder for intruders to climb over the fence as gripping and pulling your body up and over the trellis is difficult. Doing so will likely cause the entire section of trellis to break slowing the intruder down and causing some commotion.

Give the intruder some thorns!

Additionally, I often recommend that residents plant some dense thorny intertwining bushes on the inside of the fence. That way, even if the intruder climbs over the fence, when he jumps down he will have to land in an uncomfortable thicket of thorns. Low growing thorny plants can also be planted outside the fence for additional deterrent. All of this might just cause the burglar to give up and move on to an easier target.

Here in the Pacific NW the William Penn Barberry bush (Berberis gladwynesis) with its fine texture and numerous sharp thorns, works just fine.  It looks nice and can grow to 5 feet in height and can be left to grow naturally or sheared to form an impregnable hedge. In the Desert SW some thorny cactus plants will do the trick.










The next time you build a fence give some thought to security. Absent a chain linked or iron fence with barbed wire or razor ribbon on the top, the best fence is one that you can see through and one that is difficult to climb over. As a practical compromise between privacy and security, consider a solid fence topped with a trellis. As an additional “line of defense” consider planting some thorny bushes on the inside and even on the outside of the fence. And, just in case the intruder makes it over your fence as he creeps up to your home with thorns sticking in his flesh, your Invisible Barking Dog alarm (or your real dog) will likely scare him away!

barking dog cartoon

George W. Babnick, is a 34 year law enforcement veteran with an extensive background in physical security, criminal and administrative investigations, training, school policing, supervision and management, and criminal forensics. He retired as a Captain in the Portland Oregon Police Bureau where he managed the Training, School Police, and Forensic Evidence Divisions. He holds criminal justice degrees from Portland Community College and Portland State University and a law degree from Northwestern California University School of Law, Sacramento California. Mr. Babnick is a longtime member of the Western Society of Criminology and is the author of articles on security and law enforcement, investigations, supervision and management, and risk management related to these subjects. As a physical security expert, George Babnick provides private physical security consultations across the United States and consults with clients outside the United States. He specializes in assessing security problems for small and medium businesses as well as select individuals. He offers independent, honest advice and expertise, with the goal of providing all clients with practical and cost-effective security solutions to enhance security and effectively manage business and personal security risks. Mr. Babnick is also a licensed Private Investigator and conducts investigations for attorneys, businesses, and individuals throughout the State of Oregon. To learn more about security consultation and investigative services offered, please visit http://babnickandassociates.com Disclaimer: Nothing in any article on this blog should be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice should seek the counsel of an attorney licensed in their state.