Understanding the Burglar Profile Can Lead to Greater Security
Most people have heard or said things like this at least once: “Burglars don’t pick locks to get in.” Or they say “An aggressive dog is a natural alarm system.” Security pros are only human, and they often make the same mistaken assumptions as everyone else. However, customers rely on the experts for advice on keeping their homes and businesses safe from burglary and invasion. It can be difficult to prove some of the most widely held beliefs on home and commercial security, but the below sources can help security professionals understand the burglar’s mentality and use these new insights to serve customers more effectively.
The facts cited in this article come from two highly respected sources: the FBI and the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. The FBI’s annual reports cover most criminal offenses currently on the books, and a study from UNC Charlotte broke down burglar demographics, planning, target selection, and other factors. By combining information from these sources, it’s easier to draw a picture of the average burglar’s mentality.
Profiling the Burglar
There are many signs that no one is around, and not all receive equal consideration from burglars. From least to most important, the UNC Charlotte study lists a full mailbox, newspapers left outside, neighborhood watch signs, window or door type, outside lighting, and the home’s distance from the street as having an effect on the burglar’s decision to target a particular home.
Only about 20% of burglars considered these factors, with numbers being higher for factors such as proximity to police and neighbors, deadbolts and other locks, cars in the driveway, or a dog on the premises. The UNC study did not examine the effectiveness of deadbolts and other physical security measures beyond what has already been cited, but it does say that opportunistic offenders fitting The Burglar Profile will often move on to easier targets when confronted with these physical barriers.
For the purposes of this article, an “easier target” is found when the burglar decides to move on to a different home or business altogether. The FBI study found that one in eight burglars reported picking a lock or using a previously acquired key. While the study does not differentiate between those who pick locks and those who carry the necessary tools, it does report that one in eight burglars carry lock-picking accessories such as those owned by a locksmith.
Burglars tend to carry other tools such as hammers, screwdrivers, and crowbars, which can be useful during forced entry. However, some burglars reported gaining access through a door or window that had been left open. The study concludes with some interesting statistics: only 10% of burglars would attempt access if they knew the building was equipped with an alarm system, and 40% would abort the burglary if an alarm was discovered while on the premises.
While the above-referenced studies are by no means comprehensive, they do provide security professionals with important information straight from the source—the perpetrator. While deadbolts, guard dogs, and alarm systems are not foolproof, a combination of security methods can increase a home or business owner’s chances of staying safe.