Inside the mind of a burglar

Burglars can be pretty complex people. Some are opportunists, who will act when presented with the right opportunity at the right time, while others are more calculating and prepared, targeting specific properties they believe to have things worth stealing, and when they know the occupants will be out. The split between the two groups is pretty even, according to information that Co-op Insurance got from surveying ex-offenders.

Academic insight into criminal activity leans towards the model of Routine Activity Theory (RAT), which can be represented by the three-circle Venn diagram. The ingredients, as it were, are a likely offender (a burglar), a potential target (your home) and the absence of a guardian (an empty property, lack of alarm or other security measures). When these three factors converge a crime is highly likely to occur. This theory is all well and good, but it doesn’t account for the social factors which provoke people to commit crime. According to RAT almost anyone would commit the crime if there was also a target and a lack of guardianship. There are many more factors which influence people into a life of crime, including their social environment and dependency on drugs or alcohol. If someone has been brought up in an environment where crime of this nature was considered normal, or even a potential career path they are more likely to offend than if they were raised in a different environment. Peer pressure and substance abuse problems are major factors in inciting people to steal to fund their habit, or to fit in with their peers.

The Home Office studied the factors that drive people to burgle by interviewing 82 ex-burglars. The findings showed that over two thirds of the sample would return to a property they have previously broken into to steal more items and that more than half of them knew who lived in the property prior to breaking in. They overwhelmingly said that the expected yield and the likelihood of there being easily stolen items in a house would be the main deciding factors in choosing a target property, although a similar study did find that taking security measures to make it hard to break in would deter a third of criminals.

Taking all this into consideration we can see that motive and opportunity are two key factors that drive burglars to target a certain property. The motive comes from the (perceived or known) presence of desirable items and the opportunity comes from lax security measures. The RAT backs this up, but it is important to also factor in the personality of the burglar – most people wouldn’t steal from a house even if they had the chance, whereas criminals don’t work by the same moral code. It follows then, that burglaries are more likely to happen near areas where there is a considerable criminal element and the precedent of break-ins happening regularly.

While we can’t control the actions of a burglar, we can control the attractiveness of the target, and the presence of a suitable guardian. By making our homes appear to be secure, with CCTV, security lighting and even a guard dog, we can turn around the concept of a lack of guardianship and remove that factor from the equation. By not advertising our valuables (not having things visible through windows, not talking loudly about where you keep your cash) we can help remove that factor from the equation as well.

P&R Alarms provide CCTV, lighting and intruder alarms which can all help towards making your home an unattractive target for thieves, so get in touch today and make sure your home isn’t the target of burglars.