Residential Crime 101: Through Proper Education You Can Reduce the Risk of Becoming a Victim

We hear and read news reports every day about crime. But it's the crimes that occur within our own residence at the hands of strangers that are often the most unsettling. Our homes are where we keep some of our most valuable belongings, the things we've worked so hard for throughout our lives, material possessions and family heirlooms. At a very minimum, we as a society should be able to feel safe and secure in our homes and not have to worry about some thug coming along and taking away our sense of security or something even more precious.

Although crime will always be a part of our culture, you shouldn`t have to live each day in fear. If you educate yourself about crime, you can learn what security measures you need to implement to protect yourself. In doing so, you can significantly decrease your risk of becoming a victim and realize the peace of mind you need to fully enjoy life.

A Lesson About Residential Crime

The first step in protecting yourself against residential crimes is education. What does that really mean? That means facing the hard facts and using that information to your advantage. One of the most comprehensive sources for learning about crime statistics is the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Every year, the FBI puts together a Uniform Crime Report (UCR) that includes data on a variety of crimes reported across the United States. The following are a few statistics about property crimes from their 2010 report:

  • Over 2.1 million of property crimes involved burglaries.
  • An estimated 9,082,887 property crimes took place in the U.S. in 2010.
  • Victims of burglary suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property.
  • Residential properties accounted for over 73% of the burglaries (over 1.4 million).

Despite the overwhelming number of property crimes that occur each year, there is some good news. In comparing the 2010 data with that of two years ago, there has been a 2.3% decrease in property crimes. In comparing the data from 2010 to that of 2006, there has been a 9.3% drop in property crimes.

There are a number of reasons for the decrease in these crimes over the years, but most important is that more and more people are educating themselves and taking responsibility for their own safety and security. Today's technology has also provided homeowners with new, innovative security devices that are effective in deterring criminals and protecting people and their homes.

Another important set of data to review in terms of residential crimes is when and how they occur. For example, out of the 1.4 million residential burglaries that occurred in 2010:

  • 38.1% occurred during the day
  • 20.5% occurred during the night
  • 15.3% occurred at an unknown time
  • more than 60% of all burglaries involved forcible entry
  • 33.2% of all burglaries occurred through unlawful entry

In reviewing the above data, it's easy to see that most residential burglaries occur during the day. This is because most criminals prefer to burglarize a dwelling when no one is home. During the day is when most people are at work or school or out running errands, prime opportunities for burglars. As for the 15.3% of burglaries that occurred at an unknown time, this is likely due to the crime occurring while the resident was away from their home for several days due to travel or vacation. Regardless of the time the burglary took place, it still shows us that the crime likely occurred when the no one was home.

This data is very important information because it shows you when your home is most vulnerable to being burglarized—during the day and/or when you're not home. Understanding this information can help you devise a security plan to protect your home when unoccupied.

In terms of the 20.5% of burglaries that occur during the night, as disturbing as that thought may be, it's important to take this data into account. Unfortunately, the 2010 UCR data doesn't tell us if the residents were home during the burglary, or what other crimes took place in cases where the residents were home. Fortunately, there is a report that can shed some light on this for us.

In addition to the FBI, the Department of Justice also oversees the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which conducts the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). This report can be very valuable in terms of learning about other home crimes. Here's what the May 2011 NCVS, which is based on crimes reported during 2008, shows us:

  • Over 11,000 of those crimes involved rape/sexual assault.
  • In 2008, approximately 108,000 violent crimes occurred in homes at the hands of a stranger.

The above data is derived from a sampling of crimes that were actually reported to the police. There are numerous crimes that, unfortunately, go unreported, so the numbers could actually be higher. Although we aren't able to determine just how many of these crimes occurred as a result of what started as a burglary, it's important to be aware of these crimes so that you can effectively protect yourself. Not taking the time to educate yourself leaves you vulnerable to potential dangers.

The Mind of a Burglar

Another important piece of information that can help you better protect yourself and your home is how criminals go about burglarizing residences. The following is some additional data law enforcement and security experts such as myself have learned through the years about how burglars carry out their crimes:

  • Most break-ins occur on the ground floor of the residence.
  • Once a residence is targeted, most burglars will spend no more than a minute or two attempting to break in; less than five minutes once inside.
  • Most criminals gain entry through a rear or side door of the residence (both locked and unlocked), with the garage door the second most common access.
  • The majority of burglars look for easy targets—a house or an apartment that they can easily break into, steal from, and then leave without being seen or caught. Although "professional" burglars do exist, most criminals are opportunists who look for vacant homes with an unlocked door or an open window.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim of a Residential Crime

Now that you know some of the important facts about residential crimes and criminals themselves, you can apply what you've learned to protecting your residence and family.

One of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of being targeted is to survey your property as if you were a burglar. With the information you learned about how burglars target homes, you should now take the time to evaluate your home inside and out, both during the day and at night. Ask yourself: How would I break into my home? Walk around and assess your windows and doors. Push and pull on them to check for loose locks, frames, knobs, hinges, etc. In addition, pay attention to the lighting around your home. Too much light can potentially help a burglar see areas of your home that may allow easy access. Not enough light can perhaps create areas in which he can take cover while breaking in.

After determining which areas of the ground floor of your home need to be better fortified, walk around again and look for ladders, stacks of boxes or wood, trellises, trees, tall shrubs, walls, or anything else along the perimeter of your home that a burglar may use to gain access through an open window or door on the second floor of your home.

Taking the time to evaluate your home both inside and out from the perspective of a burglar can help you identify vulnerable areas of your home that put you at risk.

It's also important to take into consideration that the majority of residential crimes occur through forcible entry. This means that although criminals look for unlocked doors and windows, they have no problem breaking down doors or shattering windowpanes to enter residences. This is why it's important to reinforce the main entry points that burglars target and make it as difficult as possible for them to gain entry.

Remember, most burglars will spend only a minute or two trying to break in. If they aren’t successful within that time frame, they will likely give up, as the extra time and effort increases the likelihood of apprehension.

To fortify the security of your doors and windows, do the following:

  • Replace all standard door hinge screws with 2- to 3-inch steel screws.
  • Ensure your entry doors are equipped with high quality deadbolt locks.
  • Replace all hollow-core entry doors with doors made of solid wood or metal.
  • Install a high quality security door brace that can withstand a minimum of 1700 pounds of pressure.
  • Insert solid-wood dowels or metal rods into the tracks of all windows and patio doors that slide horizontally.
  • Reinforce ground-level windows and any other high-risk windows with a quality glass protection film. This will make the glass much more difficult to break, slowing down an intruder.

As you can see, a little bit of education can go a long way when it comes to protecting your residence and family. By taking the time to educate yourself and implementing simple security measures, you can better enjoy your life and your home with the peace of mind you deserve.

Sources: 1. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States 2010, Property Crime. 2. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2008 Statistical Table, National Crime Victimization Survey, May 2011.

Jordan Frankel, commonly known as The Security Sensei develops revolutionary security products and solutions that protect both lives & property. Countless agencies and corporations such as NASDAQ, the US Military, and law enforcement entrust Mr. Frankel with their security and safety. Jordan Frankel is also frequent media guest addressing the personal and financial consequences associated with home invasions, burglaries and other serious threats. In addition, Mr. Frankel's security products & inventions have been featured on Oprah, FOX news and in countless publications. Jordan's ability to outsmart the proverbial bad guys - coupled with his commitment to making security an affordable reality for everyone is the key to Global Security Experts Inc success. Mr. Frankel (The Security Sensei) is available for media interviews by appointment only.

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