Interpreting crime statistics – how safe are you really?

When we move to a new area the crime statistics are one of the major influencing factors in the decision to move to, or to stay away from a particular area. These statistics give a good idea of the levels, and the types of crimes being committed but they must be interpreted properly or a false image could be created.

When looking at crime statistics it is vital to differentiate between burglary and robbery, which appear as separate crimes on charts. This is because they are very different crimes and although the usual response to a burglary is “we’ve been robbed!” what has happened is not technically a robbery. Robbery is defined as an attempt to take something by force or intimidation and the victim must be present at the time – so a shop can be robbed if someone enters during opening hours and demands money or goods. A burglary is defined as the act of unlawfully entering a structure to commit theft, and the victim does not need to be present – a shop can be burgled if thieves enter when it is closed and take money or goods.

Knowing the difference between these crimes can paint a very different picture of an area, which may have a high level of burglaries but a comparatively low level of robberies. It is also a good idea to visit the area during the day, at night, and at weekends to get an accurate picture of life in the area. By doing this you will be able to see whether there are a lot of large properties that may be the target of thieves, and whether there is a good presence of people around or a lack of observers for much of the time. Looking at vehicle crime statistics is also advisable, especially if you are thinking of moving to a house without a garage.

So, we can see that while published crime statistics are a useful indicator of an area, they must be interpreted according to your lifestyle and needs, and used in combination with in-person visits and experiences of the neighbourhood. Even if you are not moving house it is worthwhile keeping an eye on local crime statistics and monitoring any changes. An increase in burglaries may inform the decision to install an NSI approved alarm or CCTV system if you do not already have one. Your local police station or Neighbourhood Watch scheme can provide information on crime statistics.

Published crime statistics do not provide any information on whether the properties burgled had an NSI approved intruder alarm fitted (or indeed operational) at the time of the crime, but we do know that having one reduces the chances of a successful break in. If you are moving to an area with a high crime rate and it is unavoidable (such as moving for work or family reasons) then your insurance premium could be quite high. It is worth getting an NSI approved burglar alarm fitted as it may reduce your premium, and saving any money during a house move is welcome.

It is also a good idea to get to know your neighbours. If you are friendly with the local community you are less likely to be targeted by someone local, and having vigilant neighbours can help provide information in the event that someone does break in. If you have an NSI approved burglar alarm, be sure to never share the code with neighbours until you have built up a level of trust – even then you should only provide this information on a need to know basis, such as when someone is house sitting or watering plants while you are on holiday.

We want to point out that looking at crime statistics can make you feel wary and unsafe to begin with, especially if the levels are higher than you expected. This is completely normal, but if you remain uneasy after several weeks then taking steps to protect your home, such as getting and using an NSI approved burglar alarm, can help restore your confidence and sense of safety.