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Burglary Statistics: Will Your House be Broken Into This Year?


What are the odds that your home will be burglarized this year? Data from the FBI 2012 crime report shows that we can expect one in every thirty-six homes in the United States to be burglarized this year, resulting in an average loss of $1,675 per break in. These numbers do not account for any additional psychological costs to the homeowners, as burglary victims may subsequently live in fear and harbor feelings of personal violation.

Many people tend to overlook burglary statistics by labeling this as a lesser crime and there are many ways to protect yourself against intruders with a home security system, better lighting and more. While burglary does not usually result in bodily harm to the victim, it leaves a significant impact. Burglary is certainly less severe when compared to violent crimes like assault; however, there is no such thing as a victimless crime. The burglary rate in the United States are particularly high when compared to other nations, but before delving into numbers and statistics it is first important to understand what burglary actually is.

What is Burglary?

Burglary is defined as the unlawful breaking and entering of a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft. When someone breaks into a structure with theft in mind, several situations can fall under this umbrella definition. Burglary can include breaking in to a car to steal an iPhone, breaking in to a home to steal jewelry, or breaking in to a commercial building or construction site to steal copper pipes. If someone breaks into a structure, but does not have theft in mind, the resulting crime could fall anywhere along the gamut of criminal acts. These crimes include burglary with intent to kidnap, burglary with intent to rape, burglary with intent to murder, or burglary with intent to vandalize.

When a structure is burglarized and the burglar is not violent or confrontational, the chances of actually catching the thief in the act are slim to none. Robbery, however, is a different story.

Burglary Statistics Infographic

We created an infographic to visually portray how burglary can impact Americans and to showcase the key takeaways when considering home safety and investing in a home security system.

Burglary Statistics Infographic

How Does Burglary Compare to Robbery?

Many people use the terms burglary and robbery interchangeably, but there is a significant difference. As discussed above, burglary involves breaking and entering a structure with the intent to commit a crime. Robbery, however, is defined as the theft of property or money through the threat of violence. A victim must be present in order for a crime to be considered robbery. Additionally, burglary deems it unnecessary for theft to be committed, and a crime classified as a robbery requires theft to occur. The typical bank holdup is considered a robbery, and like this scenario, many robberies involve the use of weapons and threat of violence in order to intimidate a victim into giving up items of value. Whereas robbers enter a situation knowing that threat and/or violence will be involved, burglars seldom intend a confrontation with their victims and generally do not act violently.

Burglary in the United States

In the United States, burglary is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. What determines whether a burglary is categorized as a misdemeanor or a felony? The state in which the crime was committed is the determining factor, since every state has its own rules regarding the severity of a burglary. Strangely enough, burglars do not tend to think ahead of the game and find out the potential punishment for the crime that they are about to commit. If a potential burglar were to find out that the offense would be considered a felony in that particular state, he or she may be prompted to think twice before committing the crime.

Why should a burglar care whether his or her crime could be punishable as a felony or a misdemeanor? The punishment for a felony is much more severe. After someone commits three felonies, the criminal will receive a much harsher punishment regardless of the nature of the third felony. Punishment is not the only thing that should scare these criminals straight. They should take into consideration the necessity of work and living arrangements, as individuals with a felony conviction on their criminal record have a considerably low chance of obtaining gainful employment or even renting a moderately decent home. Almost everything done in today’s society utilizes a criminal background check. For the convicted felon, this spells doom and prevents advancement within the community even after he or she has completed a sentence.

Down to the Specifics

It is difficult to put the severity of a problem into perspective without providing concrete data measuring the occurrence of a crime, so here are a few numbers to highlight the extent of burglary in the United States. According to the 2011 United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and Operations of the Criminal Justice System, the United States led 68 countries in the frequency of burglaries. The United States reported over 2 Million burglaries in 2010, while England and Wales together came in second with just over 500,000 reported burglaries.

Many of the countries surveyed reported no burglaries for multiple years during the time period 2003-2010. This could be due to the differences in the legal definitions of burglary or different methods of counting and recording crimes in these countries.

Burglary in the United States has declined since the 1970s

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the incidence of burglary in the United States in 2002 was 27.7 households out of every 1,000. Surprisingly, this rate has moderately declined over the past decade. Data from 2008 shows a steady hold in the rate of burglary incidences at around 26.3 out of every 1,000 homes. This decline may seem somewhat small, but looking at the entire United States population, even a small drop in criminal activity per 1,000 households is significant. By expanding the data range from 2002 back to 1973, the declining trend in burglaries can be seen with more accuracy. In 1973, the reported rate of burglary fell at 110 out of every 1,000 households. Compared to the 26.3 out of every 1,000 households reported in the United States in 2008, this is a considerable and noteworthy statistic.

What Caused Such A Decline In Burglary Statistics?

Various speculations have arisen behind the decline of burglary statistics since the early ‘70s. However, the four measures of serious violent crime reveal interesting information. These four measures include: the total violent crime rate, the crimes reported to police, the crimes recorded by police, and the arrests for violent crime. When these significant measurements are compared over the past four decades, they point to increased arrests for criminal behavior and an increase in the amount of crimes recorded by the police. Ironically, as the amount of crimes recorded by police have increased, the number of victimizations reported to police have declined. Burglary is not included in the “serious violent crime” category, which includes homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and assault.

These burglary trends are still rather significant, as they show a growing reluctance to report victimization and an increase in the number of individuals arrested for violent crime. As the arrest rate has increased and the number of victimization reports have decreased, the total number of violent crimes have decreased. We cannot help but wonder about the strength of association between these elements.

How Do Violent Crime Statistics Relate To Property Crime?

As mentioned above, property crime rates have declined for decades. Are the increase in arrest rate and decrease in crimes reported to blame for this decline? According to recent reports, the United States has a prison population larger than those in Russia and China.  Could a “crack down” on arrests and convictions for criminal activity cause criminals to avoid the urge to burglarize? The data does not present enough facts to determine the cause for increased arrests, but it can prove that arrest rates have increased. Since 1920, American prisons held under 200,000 individuals who were convicted of illegal activity. This rate increased to around 265,000 in 1970. As of 2006, however, the prison population has skyrocketed to a mind-blowing 2.4 million. Are citizens today becoming increasingly reluctant to call the police and report criminal activity? One can hold out hope for a reformed criminal population and cleaner streets, but it is unlikely that the entire criminal population of the country remains behind bars.

How is A Reduction in Reporting Crime Related to a Reduction in Criminal Activity?

The media controls what we do and do not see, and questionable police activity certainly makes for a good news story. It seems like every week, we see a news story covering an officer shooting an unarmed individual, an official who didn’t respond quickly enough to an emergency situation, or a classroom taken by storm by a rogue gunman – all can lead people to believe that officials should not be trusted. This points to a possible explanation for the decline in criminal reports. However, without unbiased evidence, this assumption can never be substantiated.

What about the Legalization of Crimes?

Some people have pointed to the legalization of certain crimes as a factor behind the declining criminal activity reporting rates. Major topics like legalization of abortion are said to have had a significant impact on the level of reported crimes. The arrests of those performing illegal abortions no longer occurred after it was made legal, and some argue this impacted the crime rate. However, this argument does not account for the decline in property crime. The only legislation change that could have affected all rates of criminal activity was the implementation of the “three strikes” law, which was enacted in 1993. Even with this three strikes policy in place, however, the bottoming out of burglary statistics did not occur until many years later. It seems that this is not a likely scenario either.

Technological Advances

Technological advances could possibly have played a large part in the reduction of burglary rates throughout the US. When home security systems became available 1969, they were unreliable and unaffordable. New technology later made these systems widely available, increasingly affordable, and much more reliable. Companies like ADT, Alarm Force, and CPI bombarded the general public with scary statistics on burglary, so homeowners were more willing to pay for these systems. Before these large companies took over the market, there were alternatives to keeping the home secure, but a cunning burglar is much less likely to deter the alarm system with a nice piece of steak.

Other advances in home security systems include notification systems that went from alerting neighbors with a shrill and annoying alarm, to directly notifying police. Is it the very existence of these home security systems that deters burglars? Perhaps it is the idea that burglars would be less likely to get away with their crime with the police en route as soon as the alarm sounds. Current data suggests that homes without security systems are 2.7 times more likely to be targeted by a burglar. Unfortunately, these statistics do not shed light on why burglars choose not to break in to these homes.

Is It Better That We Don’t Know Why Burglary Rates are Declining?

Whatever the reason for the declining burglary statistics in the United States, law enforcement officials remain hopeful that it is a sign of things to come and seem happy that they can speak of a decline in criminal activity. In reality, the influence of the media on how citizens view our city officials is perhaps one of the most likely culprits in this “decline” in criminal activity. Perhaps it is beneficial that we do not know the precise reason for the decline in criminal activity. Were we to prove that it came from a lack of confidence in city officials, crime rates would likely begin to creep upwards again. Maybe it is better for the criminal population to think that the implementation of the three strikes law is the reason for lower crime rates. Perhaps it is better for the public to believe it as well, but the chances of either happening are about as likely as the Earth grinding to a standstill.

Some Facts to Help You Prepare Yourself

Burglar breaking into a home

Homeowners should be aware of some important facts regarding domestic burglary. These include: the first area of the home to be burgled, the most commonly stolen items, the most popular time for burglaries to occur, the most common point of entry into a burglarized home, the profile of a typical burglar, and the amount of time a burglar spends in your home.

The First Area of the Home to be burglarized

In a domestic burglary, the first area targeted by burglars is usually the master bedroom. This room frequently houses jewelry, collectibles, safes, and cash that have been “hidden away.” Next to the master bedroom, burglars will also target home offices and formal rooms with openly displayed valuables. The definition of a “valuable” has changed over the years, moving from displayed collectibles like serving sets and china to widescreen televisions and gaming consoles. With this change, has come a change in the pattern of items that burglars most often target.

The Most Commonly Stolen Items

A variety of factors are involved regarding the items targeted during a burglary. However, some items are almost always targeted, including cash, electronic equipment, gold, silver, jewelry, and guns. Most of these items are easy to sell through pawnshops or are easy to pass on through a black market type of trade for use in the perpetration of other crimes. In addition, burglars steal items that are easy to carry and will fetch the highest price for their size.

The Most Popular Time for Burglaries to Occur

Burglaries can occur at any time of the day and any day of the week, but they usually occur between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. In fact, 65% of residential burglaries were between 6am and 6pm in 2011, according to the FBI Crime Report in the US. This fact surprises a great number of homeowners, because they falsely believe that criminals prefer to operate under the cover of darkness. However, homeowners are more likely to be home at night. During the day, most homeowners will be at work or out of the home running errands. This makes the home an easy target for burglary and significantly reduces the chances that the criminal will get caught.

The Most Common Point of Entry

Most homes offer a variety of entry points, but some are easier than others for the burglar to utilize. Surprisingly, the most common point of entry in to the home is the front door, with 34% of burglars gaining entry in to the home this way. Additionally, 23% enter the home through the first floor windows, 22% enter through the back door, 9% enter through the garage, 6% enter through other unlocked entrances and storage areas of the home, 4% enter through the basement, and 2% enter through second floor entrances. The easier the point of entrance to the home, the more likely it is a burglar will use it. However, another concern for the burglar is to look as innocent as possible when entering the home. This is the reason why so few burglaries occur through an entry point on the second floor of the home.

Who is the Most Typical Burglar?

Burglars vary in age, race, sex, and motivation for committing crime. However, most burglars seem to fit a general profile: a male in his mid-to-late teens. The burglar almost always targets homes within just a few miles of their own home. Many burglary victims imagine the thief who burglarized their home as a professional criminal, as seen on popular TV crime shows. The chances of being burglarized by a professional are considerably low, unless you are a person of prominent standing in the community or a collector of invaluable items. The most common home burglary targets do not own enough valuables or have enough access to funds to attract the attention of a professional thief.

How Long Does the Typical Burglar Spend in a Home?

One of the most important things to a burglar, in terms of getting away with a burglary, is to be able to get in and out of a home quickly and with very little hassle. On average, a burglar will spend eight to twelve minutes in a home. The more difficult you make your home for burglars to enter, the less likely they are to target your house in their crime.

Making Burglary Difficult for Criminals

On average, a thief wants to spend no more than one minute breaking in to a home. There are a number of things you can do to make your home less enticing to a burglar. Make your home more difficult to enter by installing jams on windows and patio doors and deadbolts on all entry doors. Ensure that overgrown shrubbery or vegetation in which the thief can hide is trimmed, and keep the outside of your home clutter free. This provides neighbors an unobstructed view of the house and eliminates any convenient hiding places. Finally, always lock doors and windows. This last tip might sound like common sense, but many homeowners frequently leave entrances to the home open or unlocked!

Top Ten Highest Risk Burglary Cities in the U.S. – Updated On July 11, 2013

We thought it would be interesting to take a look at the cities with the highest burglary rate. According to the FBI’s crime statistic rankings of U.S. cities with a population of 250,000 or more, here are the burglary stats by city on cases per 100,000 people for the 2011 calendar year.

Cities in America with the highest crime rate (worst ranked first)

Cities with the Highest Burglary Rates

  1. Houston, TX – 26,630
  2. Chicago, IL – 22,748
  3. New York, NY – 18,635
  4. Phoenix, AZ – 17,924
  5. Los Angeles, CA – 16,388
  6. Dallas, TX – 16,090
  7. San Antonio, TX – 15,668
  8. Las Vegas, NV – 14, 220
  9. Indianapolis, IN – 14,774
  10. Detroit, MI – 13,488

Cities with the Highest Property Crime Rates (includes Burglary, Larceny-theft, Motor Vehicle Theft)

  1. New York, NY – 140, 457
  2. Chicago, IL – 112,466
  3. Houston, TX – 107,678
  4. Los Angeles, CA – 87,478
  5. San Antonio, TX – 82,668
  6. Phoenix, AZ – 60,934
  7. Philadelphia, PA – 56,997
  8. Dallas, TX – 54,3000
  9. Indianapolis, IN – 46,898
  10. Las Vegas, NV – 46, 427

Source: FBI.