Burglary Explained by Burglars

This guest post from our partner site Zing! was written by Tim Krebs, corporate communications manager for Protect America Home Security. Tim regularly contributes to the Protect America Home and Life Blog and covers a variety of homeowner-related topics. Protect America recently released its “Interview with a Burglar eBook, which visualizes some of the data found by researchers when surveying over 400 burglars.

If you haven’t fallen prey to burglary, you probably know someone who has. It’s shocking and disturbing how thieves can rip through homes without a care, completely disregarding others’ privacy and rights. But why? Why do criminals burglarize and how do they do it? A UNC Charlotte study entitled “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective” interviewed over 400 seasoned burglars about their motivations and methods in an attempt to understand this crime. What they learned may surprise you, but how you can defend yourself could as well.

What Is the Most Common Motivator?

I’m guessing you’re not shocked that drugs and money are major motivators for burglary. 88% of interviewed criminals cited these as reasons. Of the 37% who reported money as their motivator, many admitted they needed it to buy drugs. Interestingly, a good portion of the respondents also reported searching homes for prescription drugs during burglaries.

Where Are They Coming From?

The answer? Everywhere. These results were all over the place. Some burglars reported traveling hundreds of miles (perhaps to avoid identification), while others said they would walk or drive a few blocks away. The distances varied from .5 to 250 miles. In our experience, it’s not unheard of to be burglarized by someone living in close proximity to you (and even by someone you know).

Are Burglars Planners?

Only some of them. The study found that most burglars are impulsive to some degree. Only 12% admitted that they commonly planned a break-in, and 41% claimed that most of their burglaries happened on a whim. Nearly half of those who did plan their crimes committed them within a day.

What Dissuades Burglars from Picking Certain Homes?

Active and busy neighborhoods with traffic and people walking by, for one. Other common reasons were home security systems and signs, outdoor cameras, surveillance and dogs inside. Have a combination of these things? That’s a great start. 60% of interviewed burglars said the presence of an alarm would completely dissuade them from a particular home, and it was a huge deterrent for the burglars who were heavy planners.

How Do They Do It?

It appears as if most burglars aren’t master lock-picks like you see in the movies. In fact, only one in eight thieves reported picking a lock or using a stolen key. Most enter through open doors and windows or by forcing them open. One thing that is similar to your silver-screen burglar: One in five criminals admitted to cutting telephone or alarm wires in advance.

How Can We Fight Back?

It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. In a word – proactivity. Burglars are counting on us to become complacent in our daily routines, and it’s easy to do. Does that mean we should lay awake at night clutching the panic button? Absolutely not. However, a few steps can help deter a burglar from paying you a visit.

Don’t Share

Remember when mom taught you to share? It’s not always a great idea, especially when it comes to social media. Constantly updating the world as to your whereabouts can actually be a really bad idea – especially if you’re going on vacation or will be gone for an extended period of time. There are plenty of documented cases where criminals used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn that their victims were gone. Yes, check your privacy settings, but consider not posting so many details until you return.

Use Your TV

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to put lights on a timer to create the illusion of being home, but consider putting your TV on a timer as well. The blue glow emitted from a television (particularly at night) is a great deterrent. This glow is a very distinct sign that there is activity in your home.

Consider a Security System

There are plenty of options for any home, family and budget. Many are controllable and able to be monitored via your smartphone.

No More Hidden Keys

Hiding a spare key under a mat, a rock or anywhere around the home is a traditional but risky practice. It’s so widely known that many police departments adamantly recommend homeowners not try it. Burglars seek these out specifically, and we’re guessing many of them get lucky.

Be a Good Neighbor

The more allies you have in your neighborhood, the safer it becomes. It’s common sense, but a neighbor is much more likely to notice suspicious behavior around your home if they know you and they know what cars to associate with your home and family.

What do you think? What are some steps you’ve taken to protect your home? Let us know in the comments below!

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