Back in 2015, the head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in Thames Valley argued that police officers needed to prioritise their attention away from minor acts of burglary, because of a decrease in the rate of this particular crime (and an increase in other, more serious crimes).1 Australian crime statistics at the time potentially supported this, as it was reported that burglaries decreased by 54% between 2003 and 2013.2
But fast forward to 2017 and now the suggestion seems counterintuitive.
In fact, a recent study from the Australian Bureau Statistics states that cases of robberies actually went up by 5% in 2016 compared to the previous year. This increase suggests that it’s more important than ever to take charge of your home’s security – and with the help of some of Australia’s criminals, we’re going to help you do just that.
What keeps burglars out of the house?
- Buy or adopt a dog.
- Make sure your alarm system works, and is installed by a professional.
- Sensor lights can scare off burglars.
- Always look like you’re at home (even if you’re not).
- Keep items of attraction out of sight from the street.
- Don’t tolerate any security flaws on your property.
- Take photos of any new belongings for insurance purposes.
Now, let us explain why these tips will keep burglars out of your house.
470 prison detainees (nearly a quarter of whom were thieves) were interviewed by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) in 2012 about the falling rate of crime in Australia. They were asked about the factors that would stop them from breaking into homes.
The #1 thing criminals didn’t want to deal with during a burglary was discovery. Drawing attention to themselves was a sure-fire way of inviting trouble to their activities. That is why security measures that alerted homeowners to the presence of thieves were most feared by invaders. Here are the top three.8
A dog can keep burglars at bay
3 in 5 interviewed burglars interviewed by the AIC stated that man’s best friend is the strongest reason to not proceed with a home burglary. This is largely because of how much noise a dog can make when prowlers come to the house.
Considering a dog for your home? The most popular breeds in Australia are Labrador Retrievers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and French Bulldogs.5 That said, the most important thing for you to look for is a pup that’s easily trained.
Working alarm systems. Close to half of interviewed thieves said a working alarm system would stop them from home invasion. We would like to put a big emphasis here on ‘working’, because that is what lets people down in home security.
Let us elaborate. A 2009 report from the Security Research Centre notes the following failures of alarm panels: 5
- Nearly half of panels had sensors that could be easily defeated.
- Close to 1 in 5 were located outside the protected area
- Some panels were “located within the entry/exit point”, and could be tampered with (15%).
If you’re going to install serious security, consider getting a professional to do so. You can even seek out a discounted home and contents insurance premium when your system is properly installed.
Finally, sensor lights (22.8%) proved to be a serious deterrent. After all, no thief wants to be thrown into plain view of any neighbours or homeowners!
Here is the full list of ‘burglar deterrents’ from the AIC:
The most common mistakes we make about home security
Prevention is key, but vigilance is the watchword. You can be as prepared for home invasions as possible, and still you might make a crucial mistake that costs you your most treasured belongings. Here’s what criminals said were the most common mistakes people made that resulted in burglaries.
- No one at home. If your home looks empty, then it means criminals can take their time to dismantle and evade any security in place. Burglars can assume you’re not home if the lights aren’t on during the evening, your rubbish bins haven’t been brought in from the curb, or you have parcels/letters sitting in plain sight.
- Attraction. Certain houses look like they’ll yield better ‘loot’ than others. For example, if you live in a well-off area, chances are you may have more valuable possessions than a neighbourhood on the rough end of town. Things like expensive cars in the driveway or toys left out in the yard may bump up the attraction of your home in the eyes of thieves.
- Security flaws. Low levels of security accompanied by high levels of accessibility make for an easy target. Don’t forget to install those deadbolts, patio bolts on sliding doors, and bars on the windows!
How burglars choose your home above someone else’s
A research paper published by Griffith University details some of the triggers that prompt thieves (having recently been released from a prison in Melbourne) to steal.6
- the need for money
- social factors (e.g. gang membership, peer approval)
- thrills and/or rebellion
The paper goes on to say how certain homes are chosen:
“Three-quarters of their burglars made the initial decision to commit a burglary away from the scene of the crime and then searched around for a suitable area until they found a target.” 7
The above means that many criminals are going to be ‘in the market’ for somewhere to rob – having made the decision to do so already – but are picky when it comes to choosing one place over another.
Our final word of advice: take photos of new belongings as you buy them (for any future insurance claims), review your home’s security flaws, and address your home’s level of ‘attraction’.
If you take that advice seriously, your home will be more secure in the future.
- Nee, C., & Meenaghan, A. (2006) Expert decision making in burglars. The British Journal of Criminology, 46(5), 935-949.