Research reveals best burglary deterrents, and identifies those most at risk

Newly published research has shown that the presence of internal and external lights and window and door locks are more effective in reducing burglary than alarms. The findings also reveal the population groups typically without this protection who are more likely to fall victim to burglary.

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Findings show that burglar alarms overall confer no protection

A study led by Professor Andromachi Tseloni, Professor of Quantitative Criminology at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), has identified the best burglary deterrent as the WIDE security combination - Window locks, Indoor lights on a timer, Door double or deadlocks and External lights on a timer or sensor.[1]

Dwellings with the WIDE security combination are 49 times more protected from burglary than those with no security. By contrast, alarms as a stand-alone security feature slightly raise the risk of burglary and, when combined with other security devices, they can even reduce the overall protection the remaining devices would have afforded without them.

Although burglary rates have been falling since 1993, the analysis of 20 years of the Crime Survey for England and Wales data, including the 2011-12 sweep, showed unequal falls in burglary coupled with uneven presence of effective security across population groups during the study period.

In social rented housing, which is 76% less likely to have WIDE security compared to owner-occupied dwellings, the odds of burglary have nearly tripled relative to owner-occupied homes.Owner-occupied dwellings are 77% more likely than those which are privately rented to have WIDE security measures in their homes, leading to the odds of burglary against private rented homes compared to owner-occupied dwellings standing at 63% more.

Analysis also showed that since 2005, single adult households have faced over 40% higher burglary odds and had 50% lower WIDE security relative to two adult households. Three or more adult households have also faced between 39% and 50% higher burglary odds and had 39% lower WIDE security relative to two adult households.

Ethnicity of residents also appears to have an impact on risk. When compared to White households, Asians’ dwellings were shown to be up to 76% less likely to have WIDE security, with their odds of burglary more than doubled at 2.14 times more.

For Mixed, Chinese or Other ethnicities, they were shown to be 54% less likely to have WIDE measures and their odds of burglary stand at 2.22 times higher compared to White households.

Black and White ethnicity dwellings were shown to have equal levels of WIDE security, and therefore equal burglary risks. This is the only good news in terms of fairness of the crime falls – in the mid-1990’s Black ethnicity dwellings were more burgled and less WIDE protected than White.

The findings of the research have been published in a new book entitled Reducing Burglary, written by Professor Andromachi Tseloni, Dr Rebecca Thompson and Professor Nick Tilley. The book includes burglary prevention advice for homeowners, housing associations and crime prevention agencies.

Dr Rebecca Thompson, senior lecturer in Criminology at NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said: “As well as substantial financial loss and property damage, burglary leads to high levels of anxiety and fear of crime. This research is the first study of what really works in security interventions against burglary.

“Our findings show that burglar alarms overall confer no protection and the WIDE combination is the best value for the number of devices.”

Professor Andromachi Tseloni said: “The most recent ONS figures show that domestic burglary falls have come to an end. This masks the uneven trajectories highlighted in this research - burglary rates have recently risen for some but continued to decline for others, resulting in zero change overall since last year.

“What can be done to resume the burglary fall? While there are schemes in place for improving home energy efficiency, there are yet to be any implemented on a large scale for crime-proofing. Local authorities and housing associations should look to upgrade the physical security of their own stock of housing and incorporate effective device combinations in their planning and building of new homes.

“Initiatives like government grants for improving home energy efficiency and energy ratings in estates agents’ sales brochures can be adapted to nudge the public towards crime prevention awareness. For example, offering grants for research-evidenced, effective security upgrades to the population groups identified in this project, who experience most burglaries but cannot afford the expense; and effective security requirements in tenancy agreements for social and private landlords are some policy suggestions.”

The first part of this project was carried out in conjunction with researchers at Loughborough University, University College London and Leeds University. The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Secondary Data Analysis Initiative, with the assistance of an Advisory Committee comprising of national and selected police force burglary leads, Home Office, Office for National Statistics, Neighbourhood Watch Network, Victim Support representatives, and Professors Rachel Armitage and Simon Holdaway.


1. In collaboration with Professor Nick Tilley, UCL, Professor Graham Farrell (currently University of Leeds, at the time of this research at Loughborough and Simon Fraser Universities) and Dr Louise Grove (Loughborough University).
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Research reveals best burglary deterrents, and identifies those most at risk

Published on 19 February 2019
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Social Sciences

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