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Criminologists bid to beat the burglars

Dr Louise Grove

Two Loughborough University criminologists have set out to discover the best home security measures in a bid to put burglars out of business.

Dr Louise Grove and Professor Graham Farrell have teamed up with two researchers from other universities to identify the most successful and cost-effective burglary devices for different people – depending on a variety of issues including area, accommodation types and occupants’ characteristics.

They will analyse more than 20 years’ of British Crime Survey data to uncover what works best for which people and properties as part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded 18 months long project.

It is hoped the findings will be used by the police to successfully target different population groups, a move which the researchers believe could have a dramatic effect in reducing home burglaries.

The range of security measures the team will be looking at include alarms, dummy alarm boxes, security chains, indoor and outdoor lights on timer and sensor switches, bars or grills on windows and doors, deadlocks and window locks, and even dogs.

Dr Grove said: “We already know that the risk of becoming a victim of domestic burglary is not equally spread across households, but what we don’t yet know is how households can best reduce their risk of becoming victims.

“In this research we’ll be looking at different security devices and how effective they are in various contexts. For example, is a dummy alarm as effective as a real alarm? Do timer lights work better in some property types than others?

“Because domestic burglary is such a high volume crime, understanding what works to reduce it could have huge benefits for society, not only in terms of decreasing vulnerability, but also by reducing fear of crime and perhaps even lowering the costs of policing the problem.

“For this reason, we’ll be working with representatives from the public and the voluntary sector throughout the project so that we can maximise the benefits of our findings.”

The study – the first of its kind – is being carried out in conjunction with Andromachi Tseloni , Professor of Criminology at Nottingham Trent University, and Nick Tilley, Nottingham’s Professor Emeritus who is currently at University College London.

It comes at a time when there are fears that due to the recession domestic burglary may start rising after a prolonged period of sustained falls.

The researchers are hopeful that the knock-on effect of cutting burglary could mean a drop in other crimes, as was the case when vehicle security improved in the 1990s.

Professor Farrell’s research suggested this was because many young people started on a path to crime by stealing cars for joy-riding, and when this was made more difficult there was a marked reduction in other offences.

The need for identifying tailor-made, cost-effective – and targeted – home security is seen as crucial at a time of massive public spending cuts and declining disposable incomes.

It is hoped that research will benefit both society and the economy by deterring burglary and preventing wasteful financial decisions.

The study comes after the Department for Communities and Local Government highlighted the need for research evidence on cost-effective burglary security devices to inform the debate on minimum standards for security in homes.