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Research reveals the best way to burglar-proof your home

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Over a period of 18 months researchers analysed more than 20 years’ British Crime Survey Data to identify the most successful and cost-effective burglary devices. 

 They discovered that the combination of security devices with the most benefit involved the presence of four devices: external lights on a sensor; internal lights on a timer, double or deadlocks on doors, and window locks.

 The research sought to examine the security protection factor afforded by individual and combined security devices for different people and in different circumstances, such as accommodation type and occupant characteristics. The range of security measures the team looked at included alarms, dummy alarms, security chains, indoor and outdoor lights on timer and sensor switches, bars/grills on windows and doors, deadlocks and window locks and even dogs.

 The study also revealed:

  • A combination of security devices in general afford up to 50 times more protection than no security
  • Protection against the burglar does not consistently increase with the number of security devices
  • Individual security devices confer up to three times greater protection that no security, the most effective being external lights with sensors.
  • Households in the social rented sector are particularly targeted by burglars while their homes have significantly less security than owner-occupiers

 In a surprising development the researchers discovered that the installation of burglar alarms could in fact be counterproductive and actually increase risk of burglary. The crime statistics demonstrated that, particularly in recent years, the addition of an alarm when used in combination with other devices was associated with either no change or, more often, a substantial increase in risk of burglary.

 The findings from the study – the first of its kind – are being launched at a conference being held in Nottingham today (Wednesday 21 January).  It is hoped they will be used by the Police forces and local authorities across the country to successfully target different population groups to further reduce home burglaries.  The team have worked closely with representatives from the public and voluntary sector during the research and a keen to work with such agencies going forward.

 Andromachi Tseloni, Professor of Quantitative Criminology from the Department of Social Sciences at the University led the research.  She comments: “Whilst domestic burglary has reduced substantially in recent years it is still a high volume crime.  At the start of this research we knew that the risk of becoming a victim was not equally spread across households.  We now know what security devices work in what contexts.  This information is important to a range of agencies looking at reducing fear of crime and decreasing the risk of vulnerable people and property.”

 In respect of burglar alarms Professor Tselnoi urges caution, “Our findings about burglar alarms will be of interest to those undertaking crime reduction initiatives but it would be premature to conclude that that the installation of burglar alarms should no longer be encouraged.  More research into the particular impact or burglar alarms is called for,” she says.

 The team responsible for carrying out the study at Loughborough included Dr Louise Grove and Rebecca Thompson also from Loughborough at the time of the study, Nick Tilley from University College, London and Professor Graham Farrell from Simon Fraser University, Canada.  The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Secondary Data Analysis Initiative, Phase 1.