If you are worried about random miscreants out to get into mischief then yes, motion sensor spotlights can scare them away. This would include teens just out looking for trouble and people such as that. If you are talking professional thieves, spotlights won’t be much of a deterrent.
There are two things to consider when understanding why this is. The first is that the professional thief (and by that we mean the person who breaks into homes a lot, not some dapper James Bond movie fantasy thief) is used to spotlights and motion sensors and knows how to avoid those areas to break in. They often have watched the house and know where they are and may even have watched enough to know how soon you will react to the lights. Spotlights have actually been used to lure people into opening back doors to investigate making them vulnerable to home invasions.
The second thing is that a spotlight creates areas of deep shadow around it. Unless you light up the entire perimeter like a fortress, the spotlight creates blind spots all around thieves can hide in. The bright spot-lit area contrasts to the normal lighting in a way that creates perfect hiding spots for intruders.
A well designed LED landscape lighting system will dispel shadows all around the yard. By using a even, ambient lighting scheme, the thieves are denied hiding spots. This is more of a deterrent to professional thieves that a single point of brilliance. There is a much higher chance of being caught with an even lighting plan than a sporadic spot lighting. Thieves like shadows; they like places to hide. Deny them that and they will go somewhere else to do their mischief.
The exception to this is adding video surveillance to the spot light system to record thieves. The problem with this is the added cost and the fact that if a professional thief is targeting your house and you are not home, the video system is just an added bonus to them. According to the Tampa Tribune an estimated 2000+ video surveillance systems are stolen from Florida homes every year. Apparently they have a very good resale value.
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