It is so easy to have misconceptions about break-ins in the United States, but so hard to know whether one is misconceiving to be too anxious or not anxious enough. Fortunately (from a definition of the word), break-ins are an incredibly well-researched topic in this country.
So, let’s dispel some of the mystique around them. Break-ins are not some huge unknown. They are the product of a very particular set of circumstances. And while those circumstances might feel too broad and chaotic to understand, they all have to arrive at the same point.
It is good to get this out of the way now, as it is the first question many people have. Break-ins happen every day in large numbers. It is tempting to imagine the home security industry as a bunch of fear mongers looking to scare people into buying things they do not need. But all you have to do is look at the numbers to see that a security system is worth it.
But while they might happen a lot, they are not perpetrated by brazen bandits looking to pilfer people’s possessions personally. Break-ins are when someone—you guessed it—breaks into a home. Home invasions are when they do it while there are people there.
Most break-ins are done when no one is home to stop them.
It is significant to note that break-ins happen when no one is home most of the time, as people being home is one of the many things that will stop a break-in before it starts. People, alarms, animals, nosy neighbors, durable glass, and all kinds of other things will dissuade thieves.
A little more than 10% of break-ins are actually planned out before they are executed. That means that not only are the thieves skittish, but they are also not going to know if you have security until after they have run into it. They are not likely to know its weaknesses.
Thieves might not be brave, and they might not be smart, but their cowardice and fear come together to create a pragmatism that can be mistaken for wisdom. A break-in will usually last no more than ten minutes. If you can create ten minutes of barriers, most thieves will give up.
Including break-ins that involve the thief running into a resident, less than 10% of break-ins end up coming down to violence. And of those that do get violent, it is usually the resident getting violent with the person breaking into their home.
In fact, most break-ins are done by drug addicts looking to support their habit. This is why while we say “thieves” when we talk about the perpetrators of break-ins, that stands to paint too many people with the same brush. A drug addict will have a hard time being a professional thief.
What this means for you is that you only really have to construct your security systems to stop a skittish drunk guy. It does not have to be overly complicated.
Some people are almost disappointed to learn this. Essentially what it means is that the whole plan that most thieves have is to try and open the front door. If that does not work, they give up.
And when you tie this together with the rest of the information here, it makes sense. The thieves are usually trying front doors of peoples’ homes while the people are at work. And when the front door is locked, they run. If it is unlocked, an alarm will also make them run.
This is surprising to many people, as it does not fall in line with the “courteous south, crime-infested northeast” image that many people imagine. But it is a result of denser urban living in states like New York as compared to Texas or Oklahoma.
Now, this statistic should be read very carefully. A break-in taking around $3000 is actually pretty uncommon by itself. What it means is that most break-ins take less than that, and then a few break-ins take much more than that, and the average point between those two is $3000.
In short, we mainly bring this up to say that the number should illustrate the vast difference in damage done by different break-ins. There is very little uniformity to the numbers.
Most crimes happen in the spring and summer, if you were wondering. This is important to note, as there are some misconceptions around it, usually as a product of people’s ideas of who is a criminal and why. Since most people expect poorer people to be criminals, they naturally assume that they will get more desperate in the winter. This is an archaic view of many things.
For one, poorer people are not hatching elaborate schemes to steal from anyone in the winter. They are hatching simple schemes to keep warm. And beyond that, most thieves are middle class anyways.
As we alluded to earlier, you can start to get a firm sense of who commits burglaries and why by looking at how break-ins work. It is usually people supporting bad habits who are making incredibly short-sighted decisions with little to no plan. This happens frequently, however.
This means that you need security, but you do not need to build a better mouse trap. You just need something that will scare people away when they think they have gotten caught.