Based on recorded instances reported to police across a selection of 94 countries there were over 5,250,000 burglaries globally in 2014. Add into that any number of unreported crimes and clear under-reporting from some countries (Sierra Leone 625, Jordan 3, for example) and you get a very large figure indeed.
Now this may seem like a depressing statistic, but the good news is that a good deal of them could be prevented by following some simple steps. A combination of awareness, common sense and a little self-education can help you protect your home or business.
- Be overt with your solutions.
Burglars don't like security systems and unless they've deliberately selected you they will move on to an easier target. Signs work as a deterrent, whether it be 'alarm system installed', 'Warning: Smoke Screen', 'Beware of Dog', 'SmartWater in use' etc. Advertising the risks will make a burglar take the path of least resistance.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
By this we mean make sure windows and doors are closed and locked when you're not in (on all floors). Leave lights on, or have them on timers. Devices that mimic the flickering of TV screen are now readily available as well. Reduce the efficiency of their hiding places, like cropping back bushes and hedges.
Be aware of daytime scams as well, if someone suspicious knocks on your door, always use your door viewer and chain, ask for ID. Be polite, tell them you're not interested and ask that they leave. If they are particularly convincing then ask them to call back later while you call the company they are representing. Be mindful of distraction techniques as well. Someone could be trying to sneak in round the back while you are busy at the front door. Feign needing your glasses or fetching a letter or the like and quickly check (and lock) the other entrances.
- Actually have a working security system.
Fake cameras and boxes with flashing LEDs are all well and good, but you run a bit of a risk that experienced criminals might be able to discern them. A loud alarm, the prospect of being on CCTV footage or getting DNA-marked is enough to stop some burglars, the opportunistic ones in particular - though you might need something a bit more hardcore to stop a really determined one. For businesses a remote monitoring system works wonders.
For domestic, you could install motion-activated home security cameras so you can check on your home throughout the day using your phone. Plus, you'll receive an alert if the camera detects motion, so you can evaluate the situation immediately. Or you could just scare them witless with a security fog/strobe combo and be done with it (but we are going to say that aren't we!) Remember to arm your system each time. And test it regularly.
- Have bright lights.
Burglars hate bright lights. The brighter the better. And noise. They don't like loud noises either.
- Try and mix up your routine.
Be a bit unpredictable. This will totally unsettle anyone watching you or your business waiting for the opportune moment to strike. A recent study carried out in the United States suggests that most domestic robberies occur during daytime hours - between 10am and 3pm. Makes sense, most people will be at work or school reducing the chances of being seen / caught. Consider popping home for lunch some days.
Businesses should vary the times they make trips to the bank as well.
When you go on holiday make sure you ask a friend or neighbour to pop round now and again for a check, take out your rubbish etc.
- Get a dog.
Going back to point 1 for a moment, if you've got a 'Beware of the Dog' sign then why not get a dog as well. Your best friend, your security guard, your new fitness partner!
- Never hide a spare key outside.
It won't matter if it's under the mat, or cunningly concealed in that realistic rock. Leave one with a friend/neighbour instead.
- Use other hiding places.
Speaking of hiding, there are a whole host of affordable and effective concealment devices out there. The old faithful tin of beans, the fake plug socket. It's worth looking into these. Burglars want to be quick, in and out in minutes, they will go for the obvious first like jewellery and cash in the master bedroom. They certainly won't be in your food cupboard.
- Go for quality.
It may be tempting to get a security system installed on the cheap, but you'll regret scrimping on costs. Ideally you want good quality gear that conforms to Standards, installed by accredited engineers. Then you can guarantee it will at least work when needed. Rather than niggling over price, just consider how much value you put on the following: peace of mind, protecting your family, protecting your business / staff, protecting your stock, downtime with no stock, increased insurance fees. It's so important to get it right. Most companies offer a monthly fee so you don't always have to worry about finding a lump sum all at once.
The FBI conducted some research in 2014 that concluded the average amount (dollar value) stolen in each domestic burglary (US) was $2,251 - and that doesn't include repairs or emotional/psychological damage. Food for thought.
They also calculated that less than 14% of all burglaries (again US) resulted in an arrest, citing the extreme difficulty in solving this type of crime. And even if the criminal is caught, you may not get your property back.
The moral of this tale is that prevention is key. Stop them before they start.