We research all brands listed and may earn a fee from our partners. Research and financial considerations may influence how brands are displayed. Not all brands are included. Learn more.

Expert reviewer:
Published: Apr 24, 2024 10 min read

The terms burglary and robbery are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things.

Burglary involves an offender illegally entering a structure (such as your home or a business) to commit a crime. On the other hand, robbery involves an offender using force or threats to take something from someone else, but it doesn’t necessarily involve the offender entering a structure. Robbery also often involves harm or threats of violence to an individual, while burglary may not always.

Keep reading for more information about burglary and robbery, including how to prevent them.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Smart home security every second with ADT
ADT helps protect your home and family 24/7 with professional monitoring and smart solutions. Select your state and get a free quote today.
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
Get Started

What is burglary?

A burglary occurs when someone enters a building or vehicle (either forcibly or not) to commit theft or another crime. It may not necessarily involve harm to another person — in fact, many burglars break in when no one is present.

Burglars may be armed or unarmed and may enter businesses, homes or other structures. However, according to the FBI's Crime Data Explorer (CDE), most burglaries happen in homes. Additionally, other FBI data shows that most burglaries happen during the day.

Types of burglary

Burglary doesn’t always require the use of force to get inside a building. There are three general types of burglary:

  • Forcible entry: Burglary with forcible entry involves an offender forcing their way into a building or car, such as by breaking windows, breaking down a door, picking a lock and more. If the offender uses a threat to gain entry into a location, the burglary then becomes a robbery.
  • Unlawful entry where no force is needed: This burglary involves entering a home or other structure illegally without using force. This may happen if the offender finds an unlocked door, window or other entry point.
  • Attempted forcible entry: Attempted forcible entry means the offender tried to force their way into a structure but wasn’t successful or otherwise didn’t complete entry.

How to prevent burglary

You can try to prevent burglary by ensuring your home is secure. Follow these tips:

Keep your doors and windows locked

Leaving a door or window unlocked offers a burglar an easy entry point into your house or other structure. It’s best to keep your doors and windows locked at all times, even when home and especially when you leave the property. Additionally, remember to lock your pet door, garage and shed.

Burglars can also target vehicles, so always lock your car when you leave it, even if you’re just running inside for a few minutes. This includes locking it when it’s in your driveway. And remember never to leave valuables in the car so that prying eyes can't see.

Get a home security system

Consider getting one of the best home security systems for your home. Many systems are customizable — you can get security cameras, video doorbells, sensors, alarms, motion detection lights and more.

While you can get convenient notifications to your phone if your cameras or sensors detect someone is there, some companies also offer professional monitoring. With this service, professionals will send emergency authorities to your home if someone is breaking in or if there is another emergency, such as a fire. However, keep in mind that the service can vary by provider.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
ADT: Smarter security for a safer home
Choose ADT for proactive security solutions. Smarter security technology actively works to help protect you and your loved ones. Learn more today.
Get Started

Make sure all points of entry are secure

Even if you keep your house locked, a burglar may still be able to get in through unsecured doors or windows. If any locks are broken or worn down, replace them as soon as possible. Additionally, make sure your doors are sturdy and secure to prevent someone from easily kicking them in.

Don’t discuss your vacation plans in public or on social media

While you may be excited about an upcoming vacation, don’t publicly discuss your plans where potential burglars can hear you or with people you don’t know very well. Disclosing this information exposes your house to a burglary risk because people will know when your home is empty, making it an easy target.

Also, don’t post about your vacation on social media. This creates an increased risk because many people will see it online. If you want to share your vacation memories on social media, consider waiting until you are home.

Keep a light on when you’re not home

Burglars often try to act when no one is home. A clear sign your house is empty is when all the lights are off.

A burglar may be less likely to attempt to break into your home when lights are on inside because they assume someone is home. If you’re planning a vacation, consider getting light timers so they go on at certain times when you’re not there.

Make sure your house is properly lit

A well-lit house or property may deter burglars from targeting you because they’re more likely to get caught. Plus, as mentioned above, lights also signal that someone may be home. Always keep your front door light on at night, and consider lighting other areas of your property.

Don’t leave a spare key outside

Some people leave a spare house key outside, such as under a doormat or in a flower pot. However, this puts your home at risk of a break-in. Consider alternatives, such as a smart lock with a combination code entry.

What is robbery?

A robbery is when someone takes someone else’s property through force or threats, sometimes harming the victim. It’s considered a violent crime.

While robbery sounds similar to theft, it differs because theft is simply stealing someone’s property, while robbery involves using force or threats to steal property.

Though robbery can happen anywhere, it most commonly occurs outside on a highway, street, alley or sidewalk, according to the FBI’s CDE.

Types of robbery

Robbery can be divided into two types:

  • Armed robbery: Armed robbery occurs when the offender uses a weapon.
  • Strong-armed robbery: Strong-armed robbery occurs when the offender doesn’t use a weapon but instead uses their physical strength or power to force or threaten a victim when taking their property.

You may also hear of aggravated robbery and simple robbery. Aggravated robbery is the most serious type and usually involves a weapon, serious threats or injury to at least one victim. Simple robbery usually involves an unarmed offender.

How to prevent robbery

The following tips can help prevent robbery, and many of them could also help prevent theft.

Stay in well-lit and well-populated areas

Avoid walking in dark, secluded areas, especially when walking alone. Well-lit areas where other people are around are typically the safest.

Keep your valuables secure

When in public areas, keep your valuables secure in your purse or pockets so potential robbers can’t see what you have on you. Additionally, don’t carry a lot of cash with you. If you have to carry money, don’t make it known that you have it with you — keep it hidden to avoid becoming a robber’s target.

Don’t walk alone

If you can, walk with other people rather than traveling alone. Being alone makes you more vulnerable to an attack.

Be aware of your surroundings

When in a public area, always observe the people and cars around you. Be wary of anyone who appears suspicious. It’s also important to avoid distractions, such as scrolling on your phone, that can divert your attention from being observant of the area.

Carry a personal alarm

For added security, you can purchase a personal safety alarm. These small devices usually attach to your key ring. If someone approaches you, you can sound the alarm to help deter the individual.

Always carry your cell phone with you

Don’t leave home without your cell phone so you can call for help if you need to. Your phone’s location services can also be helpful if you encounter a robber or other threat. Consider sharing your location with someone you trust. You can tell them about your plans, and they can check your location to ensure you are reaching your destination safely.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Keep your home safer round the clock with ADT
ADT offers top home security that could potentially help save you money on insurance* and energy costs. Get a quote now and protect what matters most.
Get Started
*Homeowner's Insurance Savings: Some insurance companies offer discounts on homeowner's insurance. Please consult your insurance company.

Burglary vs. Robbery FAQs

Is home invasion the same as burglary or robbery?

In many cases, a home invasion is considered a type of robbery. During a home invasion, a criminal enters your house to commit a crime. Home invaders usually break in knowing someone is home and threaten residents with weapons to demand cash and other valuables.

On the other hand, burglars usually illegally enter or break into homes when no one is there.

Do home security systems help prevent burglary?

Home security systems can help prevent burglary and deter burglars from choosing your house out of fear of getting caught. If your home has alarms, a loud siren will sound if someone breaks in. Plus, if your system includes 24/7 professional monitoring, the company may send law enforcement to your home when a break-in is detected.

What constitutes a burglary charge versus a robbery charge?

Crimes can be treated differently depending on your state, but a criminal may be charged with burglary if they illegally enter a building intending to commit a crime (such as theft). They may be charged with robbery if they take someone else’s property by force or threats. Robbery does not necessarily involve unlawful entry into a building or home.

What type of crime is burglary?

Burglary is a type of property crime. It’s usually considered a felony, but some states may consider certain cases a misdemeanor. Additionally, many states have three degrees of burglary — the degree a criminal is charged with usually depends on whether they had a weapon and whether the building was occupied when they broke in.

Summary of Money’s guide to burglary vs. robbery

Robbery and burglary are two types of crimes that may involve theft. The definitions for each are as follows:

  • Burglary: When an offender illegally enters a structure intending to commit a crime (such as theft or something else).
  • Robbery: When an offender uses force or threats to steal property from someone else.

If you are a victim of burglary or robbery, call 911 immediately or as soon as it’s safe to do so. Numerous police departments online recommend not fighting back if someone is robbing you. If someone is breaking into your house, it’s usually advised to stay quiet, hide and avoid confronting the burglar to keep yourself safe.

You can take steps to help prevent burglary and robbery, including securing your home, getting a home security system and following safe practices when out in public.