Car alarm systems are installed in just about every new vehicle to deter common criminals. Still, only around 1 in 5 homes have security systems—though the number is projected to hit 27% by next year. Have you ever wondered why we view it as less crucial to protect our home than our car? Some individuals who live in certain neighborhoods may not see the point, as there are hardly any issues in their area of town. But a review of national FBI crime stats, crime stats by city, and neighborhood crime stats paints a more complicated picture.
Crime statistics are often somewhat counterintuitive, and the characteristics of a neighborhood (e.g., poverty, stability, or wealth) don’t tell the whole story about the likelihood of crime. Living in an upscale area may provide a false sense of security, for example, as burglars sometimes target wealthier homes.
To understand the factors that contribute to crime rates, let’s look at some key numbers:
FBI crime stats: First,
the good news
Neighborhood crime stats as a whole have shown a dramatic decrease in offenses in recent years. This is true for both violent crimes such as murder, rape, and assault, as well as typically non-violent crimes like burglary and vandalism. As illustrated in the image below from the FBI Crime Data Explorer, the number of burglaries in 2018 was about half the number in 2008, an incredible drop over just a decade. However, burglary remains the second most common serious crime committed in the United States.
So, what’s the reason for such a dramatic drop in burglaries? There are a wide range of theories that try to explain reduced crime overall, including a better economy, high rates of incarceration, and various “environmental and social factors.” The increased use of home security devices has certainly mitigated property crimes. Arizona State University Criminal Justice Professor Deborah Lamm Weisel states that “Studies show that alarms, combined with other security devices, reduce burglaries.”
While the focus of this article is on burglary, there are other forms of property crime that are becoming more prevalent. The sharp rise in online shopping over the past decade, for example, has increased package theft. An estimated 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing each day, adding up to $25 million in daily costs to consumers.
So, while crime has dropped overall, some criminals now operate in new ways.
Neighborhood crime stats
are improving, but what factors put you at risk of becoming a victim?
To answer this question, it’s helpful to think like a criminal. If you wanted to burglarize a house, what factors might influence your decision? You’d likely consider the risk and potential reward associated with each target. For a typical burglar or home invader, these factors include:
Convenience of the location — Is it close to home? Can I get away easily?
Vacancy of the house — Will the homeowners be home? Possibly with a weapon? Is there a dog?
Visibility or potential surveillance — Does the homeowner have security cameras? Are there bushes I can hide in to shield me from neighbors or the police?
Potential rewards — Is the home in an affluent neighborhood with lots of valuables? Have I seen these valuables through a window, or were they posted on social media sites?
And if you live close to neighborhoods with a large pool of potential offenders, the chances of falling victim to burglary increase. This crime map for Columbus, OH provides an example:
Some of the most expensive real estate in Columbus is near the urban center of the city, in neighborhoods such as German Village, the Short North, and Victorian Village. However, these upscale areas still show up as somewhat higher-crime sections of the map because they are close to densely populated neighborhoods. Meanwhile, areas like Gahanna, Westerville, and Hilliard are less expensive than the neighborhoods mentioned above. But they have lower crime rates due to their isolation from the denser population center (and their inconvenient location for burglars).
This trend holds for many large metropolitan areas with an urban center. Take this crime map of San Francisco, for instance: The vast majority of crimes are committed near the urban center of the city:
As you move away from the center of the city, there is a significant drop in crime. There are exceptions to this rule, however. As you can see on both the Columbus and San Francisco crime maps, there are still some high-crime areas in locations well beyond the city centers. But the trend is clear: a neighborhood’s proximity to dense population centers can result in a higher crime rate. And you can't merely look at the wealth of a given area to determine whether or not it will be susceptible to crime.
When do burglaries and other crimes occur?
Some seasonal variations affect crime rates, and whether a home is vacant or not is one of the primary factors prospective burglars consider.
For instance, many people leave town during the holiday season, and this increases the risk of a break-in. December sees a spike in burglaries according to the FBI crime stats, but U.S. crime rates overall are actually highest during the summer months. This trend may be attributed to summer vacations and the impact of weather on behavior. In one study, researchers found a "1.7% increase in violent crime incidence per degree centigrade," and a range of studies across the world have found a positive correlation between warmer weather and all types of crime, including burglaries.
What about the day of the week and time of day? In the United States, approximately 60% of residential burglaries happen during the day when a home is unoccupied. And they occur most often on weekdays between 10 AM and 3 PM.
Robbery and burglary statistics in Oakland, California over January 2020, for instance, show that most burglaries and robberies happened during weekdays:
While there is an uptick in burglaries on weekdays, the data still shows us that a break-in can happen on any day of the week. And 40% of all burglaries in the U.S. do occur at night. Some risk factors may be out of a homeowner’s control, such as when you have to leave the house, but there are steps that can proactively prevent these crimes.
How do I protect myself from break-ins and other
It can be disconcerting to read crime statistics and realize that anyone can become a victim of burglary, home invasion, or package theft, regardless of the neighborhood they live in or the time, day, or season. Overall, crime significantly decreased in the past decade, but there were more than a million burglaries in the U.S. in 2018, according to FBI crime statistics. Varying estimates state that a burglary happens every 13 to 18 seconds.
But technology makes it easier and more cost-effective than ever to protect your loved ones and property. Modern smart home security systems are one of the most effective deterrents.
As CNN reports, surveillance "cameras and home security systems are becoming crucial tools for fighting crime." And “9 out of 10 burglars avoid homes with alarm systems and said if they did encounter an alarm, they would not attack the home.”
The best systems—like a Frontpoint smart security system—create concentric rings of security around and in your home. Visible Outdoor Cameras and Doorbell Cameras signal that your residence is a “hard target” for burglars, and most thieves will move on to an easier opportunity. If they don’t, the motion sensors embedded in cameras will immediately notify you and allow you to see who is trespassing on your property.
Intrusion sensors—including Door/Window Sensors and Glass Break Sensors—send homeowners an instant alert when the perimeter is breached, plus sound an audible alarm. Indoor Motion Sensors also generate alerts and an alarm if an intruder gets inside the home. And indoor cameras, such as Frontpoint’s Indoor Camera and Premium Indoor Camera, will provide you a real-time feed of what is happening—and all cameras start recording if the alarm goes off.
Finally, professionally monitored home security systems add an extra, essential layer of security. Security professionals are immediately alerted if an armed system detects a break-in, and they call you twice to verify the emergency. If you don’t answer or someone provides the incorrect passcode, they call the police. This means your home is protected 24/7, 365 days a year, even if you are on a plane, your smartphone’s battery died, or you are unable to call for help while dealing with a home invasion.
Smart home security can prevent you from becoming a crime statistic.
To learn more about how these systems and their components work, as well as other security tips, read these blogs:
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