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Guide To Avoiding Risky Situations: Home Theft

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Guide To Avoiding Risky Situations: Home Theft

By the time you finish reading this article; approximately five homes will have been broken into in Australia. In fact, it has been estimated that approximately one home is burgled every two minutes here in our fair country!

Now, given that Australia has a population of nearly 24 million people, one home being broken into every 120 seconds may not seem like all that much. However, when you take it all together and see that it amounts to roughly 200,000–250,000 instances of home invasion every year, things begin to feel a bit more personal.

The Facts

Home invasion is a very real threat, and one that can result in the loss or damage of valuable property, or, in worst-case scenarios, even injury or loss-of-life. And, as with any danger, understanding the facts can help increase preparedness, as well as provide unique insight into the nature of the crime. Here are nine interesting statistics about home theft in Australia.

1. The number one reason that burglars target a property is ease of accessibility

Most home theft crimes are crimes of convenience. The average burglar has neither the skills nor the time to thoroughly ‘case’ a home before committing to a burglary. Instead, they tend to take opportunities as they present themselves. Properties that are left unsecured are thus much more likely to suffer a break-in, even if that property has few valuable items that a criminal might want to steal.

2. Residential locations account for 71% of the total locations being burgled

Although commercial institutions and other locations are certainly not immune to the threat of burglary, it is residential properties that hold most of the focus of would-be intruders. This may be because of the relative lack of security devices installed in most private residences, as compared to the higher-quality security often used on commercial properties.

3. The most often stolen items during burglaries are cash (stolen in 31.4% of break-ins), followed by laptop computers (stolen in 26% of break-ins), and jewellry (stolen in 22.6% of break-ins)

During a break-in, most burglars tend to focus their efforts on items that are portable, expensive, and easy to resell. Electronic computers and smart devices are uniquely valuable, in that they are not only valuable for their parts and components, but also for the fact that they often contain valuable personal data.

4. 20% of invaded households are broken into more than once.

Once a burglar has successfully broken into a home, they are more likely to return to that home in the future. This is because, after having stolen from the home once already, they now have knowledge of the home’s layout, and may have identified valuables that they neglected to take the first time. They may also wait for you to claim the burglary on your insurance and strike again once you have replaced your valuables with new ones.

5. Burglaries occur most frequently during the day, while residents are away

Although we tend to picture burglars as midnight prowlers who wait for cover of darkness before attempting to break into a home, the truth is actually very different. Most burglars prefer to operate during the day, when the property in question is most likely to be empty.

Most burglars prefer to operate during the day, when the property in question is most likely to be empty.

At the same time, passersby are much less likely to make note of suspicious activity occurring during the day.

6. The Australian national average percentage of homes burgled in 2011 was 2.9%

Averaged out across the entire country, the risk of having a home broken into in Australia is roughly 3%. That means that three out of every 100 houses will suffer a break-in in any given year. Of course, that risk diminishes or increases depending upon where in the country a person lives.

7. Those who live in NT are at the highest risk of being burgled, with roughly 6% of homes having suffered a break-in in 2011.

Northern Territory has the highest burglary rates, which are more than double the national average. Australians who live in NT should be prepared to take extra home-security precautions in order to protect their property.

8. Most burglars are unwilling to spend more than 15 minutes attempting to break into a home.

When it comes to defending your home, anything that you can do beforehand to slow an intruder down may mean the difference between a successful break-in and an unsuccessful one.

Criminals realise that while they are in the process of breaking into a home, they are especially vulnerable. As such, it is always in their best interest to finish quickly and escape the crime scene before anyone notices what is happening.

9. Houses with no visible security take on average two minutes to break into, with the entire burglary taking just over ten minutes to complete.

Burglaries a generally very hurried, so don’t leave your valuables out where a potential prowler can quickly and easily grab them. Keep everything in secure places, and the frustrated intruder will likely give up rather than risk taking too long to grab something valuable.

Our homes are where we keep our most cherished possessions. They are where we raise our children and relax with our loved ones. They are supposed to be sanctuaries from the often-cold and unforgiving world. Instead, the sad truth is that despite our inborn desire to keep our families and property safe, many of us tend to engage in practices that actually help burglars, rather than hinder them.

Don’t be an Accidental Accomplice

When we fail to put the necessary effort into securing our homes, we give criminals an open invitation to come and try their luck. Unfortunately, a large percentage of Australians neglect to take even the most basic precautions when it comes to burglary prevention.

The good news is that simply by recognizing this problem and being aware of common home security mistakes, you’ll be able to greatly reduce the likelihood of having your home join the 200,000+ properties that are victimised every year. So, to that end, take a few moments and familiarise yourself with these common home security mistakes that you might be making.

Not locking doors/windows


Do you know what percentage of break-ins occur through an unlocked—or open—door or window? Approximately 66%. That means that ⅔ of all burglaries could potentially be prevented if only people would bother to lock up.

Get in the habit of locking all of your doors and windows, even when you’re at home. It may be the most effective way to secure your property, and it will certainly be the easiest.

Forgetting about the second floor

If you have a two-story house, then chances are that it would be easier for a prowler to gain entrance on the second floor than at ground level. Most people don’t consider their upper-story windows and balconies when they plan for home security. Criminals, on the other hand, see no need to neglect possible entrances when all it takes is a short climb to reach them.

Make sure to trim away any low hanging branches that could be used to gain access to your roof, and if the locks on your upper-story windows and doors aren’t up to par, replace them. Don’t wait until your home has been broken into to start taking steps to protect it.

Letting yards become overgrown

Prowlers love hiding spots. If you have shrubs or bushes growing under or near to your windows and doors, then potential burglars will have a nice place to keep out of sight while they work on circumventing your lock. Additionally, overgrown yards may give a property a disheveled and unkempt appearance, which could lead prowlers to target your home, believing it to be an easy mark.

Leaving garage doors open

Getting into a home-connected garage is often the first step for someone who is attempting a break-in. This is because the doors that lead out to garages are often less secure than those that lead outside.

Additionally, thieves will sometimes “borrow” various tools or other supplies from the inside of a garage to help them break in through another entrance. Alternatively, they may simply decide to rob any vehicles that are parked inside. Close the garage door and cut off their access.

Hiding spare keys on the property

Hiding keys around the yard is a terrible idea. Criminals know how to tell hollow plastic rocks from real ones, and are generally aware of all of the other sneaky places that you don’t expect them to look.

If you’ve ever been locked out of your own home, then you understand the mentality behind wanting to hide a spare key someplace where you’ll be able to get to it when you need to. That having been said, hiding keys around the yard is a terrible idea. Criminals know how to tell hollow plastic rocks from real ones, and are generally aware of all of the other sneaky places that you don’t expect them to look.

Do you want to gamble the safety of your home on the chance that your spare key won’t be found by the wrong person? Instead, leave your spare keys with a trusted neighbour.

Allowing door knockers inside

Once a criminal is in your home, an entire new realm of possibilities is opened to them. And, while it may sound paranoid, the truth is that some criminals will actually pose as door-to-door salespersons in order to try to gain get inside. Once they’ve made it past the front door, they can make note of any valuables, secretly unlock windows or doors, and even steal keys for later use.

Or, they can just overpower you and loot the place right there. If you’re actually interested in what’s being sold, take care of your business outside or onto the doorstep. And don’t assume that just because a salesperson has official credentials that they won’t pose a threat to your security; even someone with a day-job may decide to snatch up something small and valuable if the opportunity presents itself.

Not using outdoor lighting

The last thing that a potential burglar wants is to be discovered, so they tend to target homes that look as though they’ll be easy to break into without creating any sort of public scene. To this end, they prefer to target properties that are insufficiently-lighted. Every shadow in your garden is another place where a prowler could hide.

Outdoor lighting cuts down on those shadows, and helps make your home look like a less-inviting target. However, you don’t need to keep your lights on all day and night to protect your house; instead, invest in motion detection lighting. This way, you’ll be able to scare away criminals without adding hour and hours of continuous use to your electric bill.

Leaving sliding doors unsecured

Sliding glass doors are a structural vulnerability that criminals have learned how to exploit—even when they’re locked. Most sliding glass doors offer no built-in deadbolt lock, and the small locks that are built-in are seldom strong enough to deter a determined burglar.

You can reinforce those locks by using a length of metal tubing or pipe the same length as the door track, and placing it in the track so that the door cannot be opened unless the pipe is removed.

Letting mail/newspapers pile up

When you do decide to leave town for more than a couple days, don’t let your newspapers or post pile up while you’re away, as this could give any passing prowlers a clear signal that the home is currently unoccupied.

Although most of us would rather not be confronted by a burglar in our own homes, the reverse is generally also true. Criminals have a much easier time burgling your home if you’re not around; as such, if they can be sure that you’re out of town, they’ll be more likely to attempt a break-in.

When you do decide to leave town for more than a couple days, don’t let your newspapers or post pile up while you’re away, as this could give any passing prowlers a clear signal that the home is currently unoccupied, and thus ripe for invasion. Have a neighbour pick up your newspapers and post for you. Alternately, contact your local post office and newspaper service and have them suspend delivery until you return home.

Leaving small valuables lying around

The most attractive things for burglars to take are small, valuable items that can be quickly stuffed into a pocket. Jewellery and other small yet expensive items should never be left out. Instead, invest in a safe that can be bolted to the ground, or a remote location safety deposit box, and keep your small valuables inside.

Showing off new purchases

If you’ve recently purchased a new 70’ flat screen TV (or any other expensive, new equipment), don’t leave the box outside on the curb for everyone to see. Keep valuables away from windows so that passersby aren’t able to see what you have inside. An expensive new piece of equipment can be hard for burglars to pass up.

Not involving the police

Your taxes go towards training, staffing, and supplying the local police force, which means that your protection (and the protection of your home) is their responsibility. Take advantage of that protection, and work with the police to help deter crime in your area.

Contact the local police department, and talk to them about adding your neighbourhood to their regular patrol route.

When there is an intruder in your home

Although most burglars would prefer to avoid a confrontation with a homeowner, there are those who are desperate or deranged enough to attempt a break-in while residents are at home. When this happens, there is a chance that you might hear or see an intruder in your home, and be forced to make some quick decisions.

Thing to remember

Never confront an intruder unless you have no other choice. If the intruder is bent on harming your family, or if the intruder has you cornered and unable to escape, then you should certainly be willing to fight in defence of yourself and your loved ones. However, you should never risk your own safety for the sake of a few valuables.

By interrupting a crime in progress, you may be inciting a burglar to attempt to use violence in order escape. Instead, if you hear an intruder in your home, quietly contact the local police (which is why it’s always a good idea to keep a phone nearby at all times), and then lock yourself securely in a room or closet. Train your family members to do the same, and make sure to have a set plan that you can all study beforehand.

Remain locked in your safe-room until the police arrive. Never call out to the intruder unless he or she is actively trying to get into your safe room, at which point you should inform the intruder that you have contacted the police. If the police are unable to locate the intruder, have them investigate your entire house before leaving, so as to ensure that the burglar isn’t simply hiding. Before the police leave, contact a friend and see if you can spend the rest of the evening with them.

Your home is your castle, but it can only protect you as far as you allow it to. By taking the necessary precautions, remaining vigilant, and understanding the facts, you’ll be better able to keep yourself from becoming a home theft statistic.

Make sure you have a home and contents insurance in place in case the worst does happen. At least you’ll have a helping hand and you won’t have to start from scratch.