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If you own a home or live with your family, you might have had troubling thoughts about the prospect of a break-in. At best, a break-in can leave you with property damage and/or stolen property. At worst, it could result in harm to you or your family members. And even if you walk away without any lasting physical damage, you could suffer psychologically from the break-in for years to come.
But just how likely is a home break-in? Is it truly something to be concerned about?
According to the most recent data, burglary and home break-in rates are decreasing. In the last year on file with the FBI, there were just 542 burglaries per 100,000 people (though of course, these numbers vary from area to area). In other words, there was about a 0.542 percent chance that you would be the victim of a burglary in a given year.
Still, total losses associated with burglaries are enormous. The total losses in 2015 amounted to $14.3 billion. You can learn more accurate statistics about your area by looking up the latest crime statistics in your neighborhood.
As you might expect, the chances of becoming the victim of a burglary or break-in can vary wildly, depending on several factors:
- Home security systems. Burglars tend to be opportunistic. They prioritize homes that are easy to break into or those that have minimal defenses. Accordingly, homes without a home security system are much more likely to be targeted than homes that have one. Many homeowners avoid or postpone installing a home security system because they’re afraid of the price, but if you shop around for the best home security providers in your area, you can likely find an option well within your price range. Basic systems are highly affordable, and may be enough to deter all but the most cunning and dedicated thieves.
- Neighborhood variables. Your type of neighborhood also plays a role in your likelihood of being faced with a break-in. As you might expect, urban areas and densely populated cities tend to see more burglaries and property crimes than rural areas and sparsely populated cities. Wealthier neighborhoods tend to have lower crime rates than poorer neighborhoods. Those with better education system tend to have lower crime rates than those with low-quality schools. Even ignoring those variables, one neighborhood may have a lower or higher crime rate than another, for unidentifiable reasons.
- Housing position. The position of your house could make it easier or harder to break into. For example, if your home is positioned in a way that makes it highly visible to passersby, or if you have exterior lighting that makes it hard to approach your home unseen, thieves will be less likely to target you. If your home has quick access to a highway, or is otherwise positioned well for a quick getaway, it could be seen as a more lucrative target.
- Vulnerability. Again, burglars tend to seek homes opportunistically. If your house is more vulnerable to entry than another, it’s going to be more likely to be targeted. For example, if you leave your doors and windows unlocked, a thief would have an easy time gaining access to your home. If you have steel doors and anti-theft measures on all your doors and windows, burglars probably won’t bother trying to get past them.
- Predictability. Your predictability as a homeowner also plays a role in your risk of facing a break-in. While some burglaries and break-ins are purely impulsive, the majority of them are the result of weeks, if not months of forethought. Burglars often “case” neighborhoods, observing the daily and weekly rituals of the people who live there. If they notice that you always leave for work at 9 am, and the sidewalks are practically empty by 10 am, they may stage a break-in at 10 am to take advantage of that absence. If you’re home most of the time, or if your schedule is harder to trace, you’ll be at lower risk.
- Weather. Your risk of burglary also partially depends on the weather. It’s highly unlikely that a burglar will go out of their way to break into your house when there’s a foot of snow and ice on the ground. In fair weather, they may be more inclined to take action.
It’s hard to estimate your exact chances of being the victim of a home break-in, but no matter what, you’re going to bear at least some risk. Even with the best security standards in a perfect neighborhood, there’s a chance you could be burglarized. It’s important that you take proactive measures to protect yourself and your family; even small steps can drastically reduce your exposure to this risk.