Residential Security and Safety Tips

Of all the major criminal offenses, residential burglary is perhaps the most common. A burglary is reported every 15 seconds in the United States. Burglars entered more than 2.1 million homes in 1995. Two out of every three burglaries were residential in nature and at least one home in twenty in the United States was burglarized in 1995. Criminalists say that if all break-ins were reported, the number would be more like one in four. The average victim reportedly lost about $535, but all losses typically are not listed in police reports. Sixty-seven percent of all burglaries involve forcible entry. with over half (52%) occurring during the daylight hours. Fortunately, there has been a decline in burglary rates in recent years. Residential burglary, however, continues to be a serious problem.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines household burglary as "unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a residence." This crime usually, but not always, involves theft. The illegal entry may be made by force, such as breaking a window or slashing a screen, or may be without force by entering through an unlocked door or an open window. As long as the person entering has no legal right to be present in the structure a burglary has occurred. Furthermore, the structure need not be the house itself for a burglary to take place; illegal entry of a garage, shed, or any other structure on the premises also constitutes household burglary. If breaking and entering occurs in a hotel or vacation residence, it is still classified as a burglary for the household whose member(s) were staying there at the time the entry occurred.

The majority of residential burglaries - about 85% - are carried out by youthful amateurs, mostly males under 25 years of age, of normal intelligence, with a record of juvenile delinquency and a minimum of education. Most residential burglaries are crimes of opportunities. The burglars devote relatively little time to advance planning. If their advance checking and examination of the potential target reveals a risk greater than anticipated, they often move onto what they perceive to be a safer or easier target. Thus, the more the homeowner does to keep the home from looking like an easy target, the safer the home usually is.

Intruders look for homes that have few or no obstacles blocking a quick exit. Fences can prevent burglars from carrying away large items if the gates are locked. Fence gates should be locked at all times, even when the owner is at home. Ladders and tools should be stored in a garage or a storage shed, and these facilities should be locked.