The Ultimate Home Security Guide
This post will discuss everything you need to know about home security, from why it is important to improve yours, to who commits burglary and why, to ways you can protect your home. We also discuss some new police techniques to help fight burglary.
The Census Bureau in their latest 2012 home ownership statistics show 132,802,859 housing units, which includes apartments, in the U.S. with a median value of $181,400 for owner-occupied housing units. The average value of personal property and equipment inside a home is well over $60,000. Do you begin to understand why home burglary is so popular? There is a fortune of goods just waiting and sometimes begging to be stolen.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines burglary “as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. To classify an offense as a burglary, the use of force to gain entry need not have occurred. The UCR Program has three sub-classifications for burglary: forcible entry, unlawful entry where no force is used, and attempted forcible entry.”
Our good friends at Wikipedia offer a simpler way to describe burglary “as a crime, the essence of which, is illegal entry into a building for the purposes of committing an offence. Usually that offence will be theft.”
How Big Is The Problem?
Here are some statistics that will shock you.
- The FBI tells us that a home burglary happens every 13 seconds in the United States and is the most common threat to your home.
- Over 60% of all burglaries happen during daylight hours when the burglar thinks no one is at home.
- 77% of all crime was property related.
- Police tell us that 90% of all burglaries can be prevented.
- Burglars almost always work by themselves and are unarmed.
- 17% of all domiciles are violated by a burglar.
- Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property in 2010.
- Burglars steal $2,119 worth of goods and another $2,000 worth of damage, on average, to every victimized home.
- Police usually only clear 13% of all reported burglaries due to lack of witnesses or physical evidence.
- Of all burglaries, 60.5 percent involved forcible entry, 33.2 percent were unlawful entries (without force), and the remainder 6.3 percent were forcible entry attempts (unsuccessful).
- In 2010, there were an estimated 2,159,878 burglaries. They increased 2.0 percent in 2010 compared to the 2001 estimate.
- We saw a statistic that said more people have car alarms than have home security alarms. Only 17% of the homes in U.S. have a security system.
Who Are These Guys Anyhow?
By far the most common type of burglar is an amateur who is usually a male and under 25 years of age. Many of them are bored neighborhood teenagers who are looking to feed a drug addiction. This group is the easiest to deter, with the simplest of alarms or obstacles to slow them down doing the trick. These amateurs usually do little to no planning.
The next group is not quite at the professional level but they do a little bit of planning in “casing” a neighborhood for easy targets and once identified, monitor and look for a pattern of absence from the home. These folks too are easily dissuaded and not willing to get caught. So a simple alarm may scare them away.
Then there’s a group of professionals- a hard-core group made up of 2% of the total. They do a lot of planning and know exactly what they want and where it is in the home, and not much of a deterrent will get in their way. They are only after high-value targets of cash, jewelry, guns and artwork. These guys may be armed.
What Are They Looking For?
They are looking for items that are small, expensive and easily converted into cash in a pawn shop.
Favorite items to steal are cash, jewelry, laptops, guns, digital cameras, and small electronics such as IPod, GPS, PDA’s, MP-3’s, smartphones and small collectibles such as coin or stamp collections. You can protect many of these smaller items by hiding them in what are known as can diversion hiding places. They are small containers- usually of food or cleaning products-with hollowed out interiors that can hide cash credit cards jewelry and in some cases handguns
Cash that is taken is quickly used to buy drugs.
How Are Homes Targeted?
Burglars target homes that offer cover on the front and sides so they can conceal themselves from the prying eyes of neighbors.
They look for a home that has no visible signs of alarms, dogs or security systems in place. Sometimes just a sign warning of these deterrents is good enough.
They look for a home that has easy access and good escape routes.
Homeowners often make this selection process easy for thieves by failing to take simple precautions like leaving garage doors or windows open. If they are open, they guarantee easy access into the house.
It only takes the average burglar five seconds to break into a house, and he will spend no more than 60 seconds trying so if you can keep him out for a minute, you may be home free. The most common tools a burglar may use are a screwdriver or small crowbar.
Why Is Burglary So Popular?
All we have to do is look at FBI clearance rates for burglary. In 2010 only 12.4 percent of burglary offenses were cleared.
Another part of the equation is that homeowners make it so darn easy to get into the home with slightly over one third of all burglaries requiring no physical force. They just enter through unlocked doors and windows.
How To Prevent Being A Victim?
As we have noted, and home security statistics show that burglars will usually bypass a house if it requires too much effort or takes more skills or tools than they possess.
Make your home more difficult, as a target, as much as you can by taking preventative steps such as locking all your doors and windows even when you are at home, removing potential hiding places around lower-level entry points, installing simple alarms on your doors and windows, put some signage in your front yard warning of a vicious guard dog and consider installing fake security cameras that potential burglars will see when they are casing your neighborhood.
A little-known service that is provided by all police departments is that they will do a free home security survey depending on manpower and time availability.
In a highly quoted article about home burglary prevention David Husted, crime prevention officer for the Falcon division of the Colorado Springs Police Department was quoted as saying when asked if he’d spend his money on an alarm or a canine “the sound of a big dog barking is a really good deterrent, too, I don’t know, I may just go with the dog, if it’s got a pretty good bark.”
Crime-prevention experts say there are simple, cheap ways to deter crime. Leave your porch light on. Close and lock the garage door. Put wooden dowels in the windows and sliding glass doors. Install dead-bolt locks. Such easy steps may keep you from being the vulnerable target on the block. A study in 2002 found that dogs and alarm systems are the most effective ways to keep intruders out. Crime experts agreed there are no downsides to buying an alarm system, other than the cost.
New Police Techniques To Curb Burglary
With the popularity of social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter going through the roof, police departments across the country are tapping into that resource and have their own Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts to post pictures or mention home burglaries in a city. This has been met with tremendous success and has developed into a truly collaborative effort between law enforcement and the community.
Another new technique that the police departments are using is tapping into the resource that many homeowners have for their homes- security surveillance systems. Police departments are asking on a volunteer basis for people to sign up to help prevent crime. If a crime happens in that neighborhood, more than likely a picture has been taken of the criminal. Law enforcement officials tell us that if they have an image of a burglar, the chances of catching him improve by over 50%. That is certainly worth the effort!