Burglary is defined as ‘the illegal entry into almost any structure (not simply into a home or business) with the intent to commit a crime, usually theft.’ It is largely considered a crime of opportunity, and in America, at least one burglary happens every 13 seconds–making burglary the most common threat to a home, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
In an effort to help homeowners better understand how to prevent a burglary from happening at their home, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte examined the decision-making process for 422 burglars incarcerated across three states–North Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky. Following is revealing information provided by these randomly-selected burglars regarding the factors considered when targeting a home, as well as things they regarded as major deterrents.
1. Visibility: A Huge Factor in Preventing a Break-in
Both male and female burglars who participated in the UNC-Charlotte study cited, “close proximity of other people (including traffic, those walking nearby, neighbors, people inside the establishment, and police officers) as a major factor considered when determining a target. As a rule, burglars simply want to both enter and exit a home swiftly–and above all, they want to commit the crime without being detected.
A 2013 Town Hall meeting in Chicago, entitled, “Keepin’ It Real Burglary Presentation”, featured men with less than two years left on their simple burglary sentences. One of the men, who went by the name of “Tim”, said his biggest deterrent was, “that old lady up late looking out the window.”
Simply informing a neighbor when your family will be away from home helps, because those neighbor can then watch the home for signs of unusual activity and can, in turn, alert authorities if something suspicious happens. Further, if your neighborhood does not currently have a neighborhood watch program established, creating one would benefit homeowners throughout the entire neighborhood while creating a greater sense of community.
2. Landscaping Considerations
In keeping with the visibility concerns discussed earlier, study participants revealed that residences with natural coverings–such as large trees or shubbery–which obstruct views of the doors or windows are “highly attractive” to them.
The study concluded that offenders associate high visibility during entry or departure with an increased risk of apprehension. Simply trimming back or removing hedges located near the entry points eliminates hiding places and can reduce the chances of your home being targeted by thieves.
3. Obvious Signs That The Home Is Unoccupied
While some of the study participants admitted to occasionally acting on impulse, most indicated their targets were mainly selected by careful observation. The other factor burglars looked for–occupancy.
Statistics reveal that most burglaries happen during the day (while homeowners are at work or in school). But other studies have revealed a significant spike in residential home invasions during the months of July and August. There’s no coincidence that these months are the most popular months for summer family vacations for American families.
When you’re planning to be away from home for an extended period (i.e., on vacation), it’s important to eliminate any obvious signs that the family is away from home. For example, unchecked mail and packages left at the door tells burglars the family is away. Instead, have the postal service hold mail until you return, or have a neighbor or friend drop by to pick up the mail each day. Homes that are pitch-dark at nightfall also tells would-be burglars you’re away. However, an inexpensive automatic light timer can be programmed to turn the lights on and off at specific times, tricking thieves into believing someone’s at home.
4. Security Systems
Finally, the presence of an alarm system was considered one of the biggest deterrents among the burglars surveyed, with 60 percent indicating that discovering an alarm system would cause them to seek out a different target. This factor was particularly true for those burglars who indicated they were more likely to devote some time to planning a burglary before carrying it out. The study also went on to say that most burglars indicated that they would attempt to determine whether or not a security system was present before attempting to burglarize a property.