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June 23-26, 2014


Are Alarms Effective Deterrents for Burglars?

Jason Unger
I  August 02, 2013

Why do burglars do what they do?

It’s a simple question that goes to the heart of the security industry’s main goal: to deter potential crimes and dangers and protect and safeguard people, property and assets.

If the industry is better able to understand why criminals burglarize homes and businesses, it could provide plenty of useful information to help better protect and defend against crimes.

It’s the same question Joseph Kuhns, associate professor of Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, had, so thanks to funding made available by the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF), he was able to work on research on “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective.”

During the CSAA Excellence Awards Breakfast at ESX, Kuhns shared the results of the research - and it’s fascinating. “You learn a tremendous amount by talking to offenders,” says Kuhns. 

Results: Burglar Research
For the research, 422 randomly selected incarcerated male and female burglars in three states (North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio) were surveyed and asked:

  • What motivates them to engage in burglary?
  • What are you thinking about when engaging in burglary?
  • What sort of deterrent measures make you re-think engaging in burglary?
  • What techniques do you use?

According to Kuhns, these were seasoned offenders being surveyed, averaging about 13 arrests and three burglaries each.

So what motivated them?

“This group was highly motivated by drug use,” shares Kuhns. “Almost 3/4 [of those surveyed] said they were using drugs when breaking into your homes or businesses. That’s a little concerning.”

In context, says Kuhns, many of the offenders have little interest in interacting with a homeowner or business owner. “They want to avoid that. Their goal is to get into your home or business and get your money or drugs or property and get away quick,” he says.

“They’re not hard-working people. They spend a lot of time in crime and engaging it, but not in planning it,” he says. A third of the respondents said they went to the crime spot to survey it - to “case the joint” - before they went in, which means that two-thirds of them didn’t.

“Many burglaries are spur of the moment types of offenses,” he says.

Interestingly, there was a big differentiator between how men and women burglarize, says Kuhns. Women would break into homes during the daytime, he says, while men would break into businesses at night.

So what deters criminals from burglarizing? According to the research, they think about dogs, cars in the driveway, alarm systems, video systems and people being on-site. “When I think about primary deterrent measures, those are the things that rise to the top,” he says.

For the security industry, Kuhns wanted to know what these burglars thought specifically of alarms and if they are effective deterrents. According to the research, six out of ten burglars said that if there is an alarm on-site, then they’re going some place else.

“Alarms do deter offenders from entering homes and businesses,” says Kuhns.

For more insights into this study, watch the entire presentation from ESX 2013. It’s available for watching in ESXperience, the premium member-only content area. It’s free for security integration and monitoring companies.

Watch the presentation now.




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