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Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender's Perspective

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Abstract and Figures

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Building on past research, this study closely examined the decision-making processes of 422 randomly-selected, incarcerated male and female burglars across three states (North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio). The central research questions that guided the project included the following: 1. What motivates burglars to engage in burglary? 2. What factors are considered by burglars during target selection? 3. What deters burglars from burglarizing specific targets? 4. What techniques do burglars use when engaging in burglary? 5. Are their gender differences in burglary motivations, target selection and techniques? In addition, this study was designed to specifically assess the deterrent effect, if any, of burglar alarms on offender’s decisions to burglarize. To address these research questions, we relied on a self-administered survey data collection process using an instrument designed specifically for this study. The following are some of the central findings: 1. What motivates burglars to engage in burglary? • First, it is clear that many in our sample of burglars were seasoned offenders. The overall sample of respondents reported being arrested from 1 to over 100 times in the past (mean = 12.9 arrests). Age of first burglary arrest ranged from 9 to 50 (mean age = 23.6) while the reported age when first engaging in a burglary ranged from 6 to 50 (mean age = 21.8). • It is also evident that some burglars were involved in other forms of serious crime over the course of their offending careers. About 8% reported that they had been charged with homicide, 12% with robbery, and 7% with assault at some point in their past. On the other hand, over 54% reported that burglary/breaking-and-entering was the most serious crime that they had been charged with to date. • Past literature suggests there are multiple motivations for engaging in burglary including drugs, money, foolishness, and thrill-seeking. Within this sample it was quite apparent that drug and alcohol use were, at minimum, correlated to involvement in burglary and, in many cases, the direct cause, and a primary motivator, for males and females alike. o Within the entire sample, 88% of respondents indicated that their top reason for committing burglaries was related to their need to acquire drugs (51%) or money (37%), although many reported needing the money to support drug problems. Crack or powder cocaine and heroin were the drugs most often reportedly used by these offenders and these substances were often being used in combination with other substances, including marijuana and alcohol, during burglary attempts. o When asked how income accumulated from burglaries would be spent, drug use was the most frequently reported answer (64%) followed by living expenses (49%), partying (35%), clothes/shoes (31%), gifts (17%), and gambling (5%). 2. What factors are considered by burglars during target selection? • About half of the burglars reported engaging in at least one residential burglary and about a third reported engaging in at least one commercial burglary during the year before their most recent arrest. • Most of the burglars relied on the use of a vehicle; more often it was their own, but sometimes the vehicle belonged to a family member or a friend. About one in eight reported using a stolen vehicle during the course of a burglary. • There was substantial and wide variation in the distance driven prior to engaging in a burglary, with some traveling hundreds of miles or across state lines (presumably in an effort to minimize identification and capture) and others reporting walking or driving just a couple blocks away (range .5 miles to 250 miles). • Just under a third of the offenders reported that they collected information about a potential target prior to initiating a burglary attempt, suggesting that most burglars are impulsive to some degree. o About 12% indicated that they typically planned the burglary, 41% suggested it was most often a “spur of the moment” event/offense, and the other 37% reported that it varied. o When considering the amount of time dedicated to planning, when planning did occur, nearly half (49%) suggested that the burglary occurred within one day and 16% indicated that the planning process took place for 1-3 days. There were not significant differences in substance use involvement between those who were more deliberate planners and those who were not. • Just over a fourth of burglars typically worked alone and approximately the same proportion reported never burglarizing alone. Among those who worked with others, most committed burglaries with friends and/or spouses/significant others, although nearly one in eight reported working with other family members. 3. What deters burglars from burglarizing specific targets? • Close proximity of other people (including traffic, those walking nearby, neighbors, people inside the establishment, and police officers), lack of escape routes, and indicators of increased security (alarm signs, alarms, dogs inside, and outdoor cameras or other surveillance equipment) was considered by most burglars when selecting a target. • Within a broad set of potential target hardening deterrents, alarms and outdoor cameras and other surveillance equipment were considered by a majority of burglars. • About 60% of the burglars indicated that the presence of an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target altogether. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars that were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary. • Most burglars would try to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary. Among those that determined that an alarm was present after initiating a burglary, about half would discontinue the attempt. 4. What techniques do burglars use when engaging in burglary? • Most burglars reported entering open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open. Only about one in eight burglars reported picking locks or using a key that they had previously acquired to gain entry. • About one in five burglars reported cutting telephone or alarm wires in advance. • Screwdrivers were the most commonly reported tool that burglars carried, followed by crow bars and hammers. • Most burglars (79%) reported an interest in acquiring cash during their burglaries, followed by jewelry (68%), illegal drugs (58%), electronics (56%) and prescription drugs (44%). • About 65% of those who stole items worked to dispose of those items immediately. For those that held onto items, most were usually stored at a friend’s house or, less often, stashed somewhere else including a storage unit or an empty building or vacant house. • In terms of item disposition, most burglars reported selling the items to strangers, pawn shops or second-hand dealers, or friends or trading the items for something else. Smaller numbers of burglars reported selling items online, to family members, or at auctions, and still others reported trading the items directly for drugs. 5. Are their gender differences in burglary motivations, target selection and techniques? • There were some broad similarities between male and female burglars in this study and some substantial differences as well. In terms of past criminal involvement, males and females were fairly equivalent. • Male burglars often planned their burglaries more deliberately and carefully and were more likely to visit a potential target ahead of time to gather intelligence. Female burglars appeared to be more impulsive overall, perhaps as a result of being more involved in, and possibly motivated by, substance use problems. o Drug use was the most frequently reported reason given by females (70%) for their engagement in burglary; for males their top reason was money. • Females clearly preferred to burglarize homes and residences in the afternoon timeframe, while males preferred to focus on businesses in the late evenings. • Significantly fewer female burglars were likely to spend time planning, more females were likely to report engaging in burglaries on the “spur of the moment”, and more females were likely to complete a burglary that day if they did spend any time planning. • Male burglars reported being deterred from targeting a particular location by a lack of potential hiding locations, steel bars on windows or doors, proximity of the target to other houses or businesses, availability of escape routes, and distance to the nearest road (which is consistent with their interest in nighttime offending). o A larger proportion of females than males indicated that alarms, outdoor cameras, outdoor lighting, and indications of neighborhood watch programs were effective deterrents. o The impact of alarms and surveillance equipment on target selection did not vary across gender, although male burglars were less often dissuaded from attempting a burglary if they noticed signs suggesting that a particular location was protected by alarms. Further, male burglars who tended to plan more carefully were also more willing to attempt to disable an alarm that was found at a target location. • Significantly more females reported engaging in burglaries with spouses/significant while significantly males reported doing so with friends. • More males reported being likely to steal illegal drugs, cash and jewelry during burglaries while more females were most likely to seek out prescription medications.
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The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology
UNDERSTANDING DECISIONS TO BURGLARIZE FROM THE OFFENDER’S
PERSPECTIVE
JOSEPH B. KUHNS – University of North Carolina at Charlotte
KRISTIE R. BLEVINS Eastern Kentucky University
SEUNGMUG “ZECH” LEEWestern Illinois University
With data entry and report preparation assistance from:
ALEX SAWYERS – University of North Carolina at Charlotte
BRITTANY MILLER – University of North Carolina at Charlotte
December 2012
Page 2 of 64
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Building on past research, this study closely examined the decision-making processes of 422
randomly-selected, incarcerated male and female burglars across three states (North Carolina,
Kentucky, and Ohio). The central research questions that guided the project included the
following:
1. What motivates burglars to engage in burglary?
2. What factors are considered by burglars during target selection?
3. What deters burglars from burglarizing specific targets?
4. What techniques do burglars use when engaging in burglary?
5. Are their gender differences in burglary motivations, target selection and techniques?
In addition, this study was designed to specifically assess the deterrent effect, if any, of burglar
alarms on offender’s decisions to burglarize. To address these research questions, we relied on a
self-administered survey data collection process using an instrument designed specifically for
this study. The following are some of the central findings:
1. What motivates burglars to engage in burglary?
First, it is clear that many in our sample of burglars were seasoned offenders. The
overall sample of respondents reported being arrested from 1 to over 100 times in the
past (mean = 12.9 arrests). Age of first burglary arrest ranged from 9 to 50 (mean age =
23.6) while the reported age when first engaging in a burglary ranged from 6 to 50 (mean
age = 21.8).
It is also evident that some burglars were involved in other forms of serious crime over
the course of their offending careers. About 8% reported that they had been charged
with homicide, 12% with robbery, and 7% with assault at some point in their past. On
the other hand, over 54% reported that burglary/breaking-and-entering was the most
serious crime that they had been charged with to date.
Past literature suggests there are multiple motivations for engaging in burglary including
drugs, money, foolishness, and thrill-seeking. Within this sample it was quite apparent
that drug and alcohol use were, at minimum, correlated to involvement in burglary and,
in many cases, the direct cause, and a primary motivator, for males and females alike.
o Within the entire sample, 88% of respondents indicated that their top reason for
committing burglaries was related to their need to acquire drugs (51%) or money
(37%), although many reported needing the money to support drug problems.
Crack or powder cocaine and heroin were the drugs most often reportedly used
by these offenders and these substances were often being used in combination
with other substances, including marijuana and alcohol, during burglary attempts.
Page 3 of 64
o When asked how income accumulated from burglaries would be spent, drug use
was the most frequently reported answer (64%) followed by living expenses
(49%), partying (35%), clothes/shoes (31%), gifts (17%), and gambling (5%).
2. What factors are considered by burglars during target selection?
About half of the burglars reported engaging in at least one residential burglary and
about a third reported engaging in at least one commercial burglary during the year
before their most recent arrest.
Most of the burglars relied on the use of a vehicle; more often it was their own, but
sometimes the vehicle belonged to a family member or a friend. About one in eight
reported using a stolen vehicle during the course of a burglary.
There was substantial and wide variation in the distance driven prior to engaging in a
burglary, with some traveling hundreds of miles or across state lines (presumably in an
effort to minimize identification and capture) and others reporting walking or driving
just a couple blocks away (range .5 miles to 250 miles).
Just under a third of the offenders reported that they collected information about a
potential target prior to initiating a burglary attempt, suggesting that most burglars are
impulsive to some degree.
o About 12% indicated that they typically planned the burglary, 41% suggested it
was most often a “spur of the moment” event/offense, and the other 37% reported
that it varied.
o When considering the amount of time dedicated to planning, when planning did
occur, nearly half (49%) suggested that the burglary occurred within one day and
16% indicated that the planning process took place for 1-3 days. There were not
significant differences in substance use involvement between those who were
more deliberate planners and those who were not.
Just over a fourth of burglars typically worked alone and approximately the same
proportion reported never burglarizing alone. Among those who worked with others,
most committed burglaries with friends and/or spouses/significant others, although
nearly one in eight reported working with other family members.
3. What deters burglars from burglarizing specific targets?
Close proximity of other people (including traffic, those walking nearby, neighbors,
people inside the establishment, and police officers), lack of escape routes, and
indicators of increased security (alarm signs, alarms, dogs inside, and outdoor cameras or
other surveillance equipment) was considered by most burglars when selecting a target.
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Within a broad set of potential target hardening deterrents, alarms and outdoor cameras
and other surveillance equipment were considered by a majority of burglars.
About 60% of the burglars indicated that the presence of an alarm would cause them to
seek an alternative target altogether. This was particularly true among the subset of
burglars that were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a
burglary.
Most burglars would try to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a
burglary. Among those that determined that an alarm was present after initiating a
burglary, about half would discontinue the attempt.
4. What techniques do burglars use when engaging in burglary?
Most burglars reported entering open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors
open. Only about one in eight burglars reported picking locks or using a key that they
had previously acquired to gain entry.
About one in five burglars reported cutting telephone or alarm wires in advance.
Screwdrivers were the most commonly reported tool that burglars carried, followed by
crow bars and hammers.
Most burglars (79%) reported an interest in acquiring cash during their burglaries,
followed by jewelry (68%), illegal drugs (58%), electronics (56%) and prescription
drugs (44%).
About 65% of those who stole items worked to dispose of those items immediately. For
those that held onto items, most were usually stored at a friend’s house or, less often,
stashed somewhere else including a storage unit or an empty building or vacant house.
In terms of item disposition, most burglars reported selling the items to strangers, pawn
shops or second-hand dealers, or friends or trading the items for something else. Smaller
numbers of burglars reported selling items online, to family members, or at auctions, and
still others reported trading the items directly for drugs.
5. Are their gender differences in burglary motivations, target selection and techniques?
There were some broad similarities between male and female burglars in this study and
some substantial differences as well. In terms of past criminal involvement, males and
females were fairly equivalent.
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Male burglars often planned their burglaries more deliberately and carefully and were
more likely to visit a potential target ahead of time to gather intelligence. Female
burglars appeared to be more impulsive overall, perhaps as a result of being more
involved in, and possibly motivated by, substance use problems.
o Drug use was the most frequently reported reason given by females (70%) for
their engagement in burglary; for males their top reason was money.
Females clearly preferred to burglarize homes and residences in the afternoon timeframe,
while males preferred to focus on businesses in the late evenings.
Significantly fewer female burglars were likely to spend time planning, more females
were likely to report engaging in burglaries on the “spur of the moment”, and more
females were likely to complete a burglary that day if they did spend any time planning.
Male burglars reported being deterred from targeting a particular location by a lack of
potential hiding locations, steel bars on windows or doors, proximity of the target to
other houses or businesses, availability of escape routes, and distance to the nearest road
(which is consistent with their interest in nighttime offending).
o A larger proportion of females than males indicated that alarms, outdoor cameras,
outdoor lighting, and indications of neighborhood watch programs were effective
deterrents.
o The impact of alarms and surveillance equipment on target selection did not vary
across gender, although male burglars were less often dissuaded from attempting
a burglary if they noticed signs suggesting that a particular location was protected
by alarms. Further, male burglars who tended to plan more carefully were also
more willing to attempt to disable an alarm that was found at a target location.
Significantly more females reported engaging in burglaries with spouses/significant
while significantly males reported doing so with friends.
More males reported being likely to steal illegal drugs, cash and jewelry during
burglaries while more females were most likely to seek out prescription medications.
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INTRODUCTION
Research seeking to understand the criminological factors associated with burglary and
burglars’ decision-making processes has been conducted through victimization surveys,
interviews or surveys with active or incarcerated offenders, and analyses of crime, census, and
land use secondary data (e.g., Bennett & Wright, 1984; Coupe & Blake, 2006; Maguire &
Bennett, 1982; Tseloni, Witterbrood, Farrell, & Pease, 2004; Tunnell, 1992; Wilcox,
Quisenberry, Cabrera, & Jones, 2004). While the contribution of knowledge gained through
these techniques is significant, the number of studies concerning burglary is limited, many
studies have been conducted in countries other than the United States, and few studies examine
differences based on demographic characteristics such as gender. Using a sample of convicted
burglars in North Carolina, Ohio, and Kentucky, the purpose of the current study is to add to the
knowledge base concerning the motivation and techniques used by burglars as they select targets
and carry out their crimes. Additionally, this research will examine what factors, such as burglar
alarms or locks, may deter burglars from committing the act. Importantly, the current study will
collect data from both male and female burglars, which will provide significant insight into the
similarities and differences in motivations and actions based on gender.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Many factors can influence a burglar’s decision when he or she is deciding where, how,
and whether to commit the crime. Burglars have different motivations for their crimes, and some
are more likely than others to be deterred by the threat of punishment. Drugs and alcohol might
also influence the decision to burglarize, as will the availability of desired targets. The following
discussion summarizes the existing literature concerning these issues.
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Motivations for Burglary
The various factors that motivate individuals to commit burglary are fairly common and
consistent (Cromwell & Olson, 2006; Cromwell, Olson, & Avary, 1991, Nee & Meenaghan,
2006; Tunnell, 1992; Wright & Decker, 1994). The need for money is the primary reason
offered by offenders in both ethnographic research and offender interviews (Forrester,
Chatterton, Pease, & Brown, 1988). The money is predominantly used to purchase drugs and
alcohol and maintain a glamorous lifestyle (Cromwell et al., 1991; Wright & Decker, 1994).
However, some burglars acknowledge the need to meet daily expenses including food, shelter,
and monthly bills (Wright & Decker, 1994). Burglary provides a means to quickly obtain a
desirable amount of money or valuable goods in a short period of time.
Individuals may also become involved in burglary, whether for financial or other reasons,
through social interactions. Cromwell and Olson (2006) note that social contributors include
gangs, delinquent subcultures, peer approval and status. Hochstetler (2001) shows that
involvement in street life leads to criminal activity through complex interaction effects of peer
encouragement and collaboration. Criminal collaborations may be especially important for
inexperienced or part-time offenders and for females (Cromwell et al., 1991; Mullins & Wright,
2003; Nee & Meenaghan, 2006; Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000; Wright & Decker, 1994).
Examples of such collaborations include co-offending, sharing or receiving information about
potential targets, and fencing of goods.
The use of drugs and alcohol is commonly associated with burglary and the need to
support a party lifestyle or drug addiction is frequently cited as a motivation (Cromwell et al.,
1991; Wright & Decker, 1994). The decision to commit a burglary is often made while under
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the influence of drugs or alcohol or during periods of substance abuse (Forrester et al., 1988; Nee
& Meenaghan, 2006). Also, offenders state that using substances prior to a burglary helps to
reduce fear (Cromwell et al., 1991; Hochstetler & Copes, 2006). However, being under the
influence is also a common excuse when they are arrested because they believe their mistakes
derived from impairment (Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000). Overall, it is clear that drugs and
alcohol impact some decisions to commit burglary.
Deterrence
Little evidence is offered in support of the deterrent effect of punishment offenders in
general and for burglary offenders in particular (Cromwell & Olson, 2006; Decker, Wright, &
Logie, 1993; Piquero & Rengert, 1999; Rengert & Wasilchick, 1985; Wright, Caspi, Moffitt, &
Paternoster, 2004; Wright & Decker, 1994). Hochstetler & Copes (2006) argue that fear of
criminal consequences for property crime ranked lower as a deterrent than fear of injury or
confrontation with the occupants. Working in groups is also reported to reduce anxiety of
punishment and co-offending is common among burglars (Hochstetler, 2001). Mullins and
Wright (2003) indicate that females, in particular, discount their risk of punishment due to the
belief that society is not likely to punish males and females equally. Forrester et al. (1988)
reported that the majority of their sample of offenders did not consider the risk of punishment in
offending decisions. Yet, these studies also present evidence that some offenders attempt to
reduce their risk by carefully studying and selecting their targets.
Overall, burglary offenders are not likely to be deterred by the perceived risk of
punishment. Many of the reviewed studies analyze the behaviors of individuals who have been
engaged in criminal social networks for extended periods of time. The lack of apprehension and
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subsequent punishment reinforces the belief that they are less likely to be detected or formally
punished. As offenders further engage in burglary, enhanced knowledge and expertise
additionally decreases fear. Furthermore, offenders often work in groups and this interaction is
shown to reduce anxiety as offenders learn from one another. Overall, among individuals
already participating in burglary, the risk of punishment is not an influential factor in the
decision-making calculus, especially when the probability and amount of financial gain are high.
Gender Differences
While the body of research exploring gender roles among offender has grown
significantly, relatively little research regarding burglary specifically has been conducted
(Mullins & Wright, 2003). Burglary is generally considered a male-dominated crime. Only a
few earlier ethnographic samples report a small percentage of female offenders (Cromwell et al,
1991; Wright & Decker, 1994). Mullins and Wright (2003) utilized data from Wright and Decker
(1994) in order to specifically study the gender structure, perception, and expectation of burglary
offending and conclude that several gender differences do exist. First, females are
predominantly introduced to burglary by their significant other (Mullins & Wright, 2003), while
males become involved through peer networks (Hochstetler, 2001). Some females claim that
they were initially unaware of their partners’ burglaries, but eventually began participating.
Among females who willingly engage in burglary, their motivations fail to significantly
differentiate from males, except that women more often report using the proceeds to support
their children, in addition to partying. Target information gathering differs slightly as males
exploit their legal occupations (landscaping, construction, service workers, etc.) or use their
social networks (peers, fences, etc.), while females rely on intimate or social relationships with
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males or on sexual manipulation of potential victims. Females prefer to work in groups and their
roles are generally limited unless the group is all female. However, performing a lesser role is
considered valuable, as they believe their limited participation will be legally viewed as less
incriminating. Yet, the risk of getting caught and being incarcerated is not an instrumental factor
in their decision-making.
Empirical differences between male and female burglary offenders are infrequently the
focus of research. However, several key findings emerge from the select body of available
research. First, both males and females are drawn to burglary to obtain money. The need for
money often results from drug and alcohol addictions. Target selection is relatively the same;
except that males are able to generate more information from their legal occupations or their
social networks. Furthermore, the perception of risk for apprehension and prosecution are
relatively low for both groups. Crime rates for both males and females tend to fluctuate together
and are strongly correlated to poor social and economic factors. Overall, evidence suggests that
male and female offenders are relatively similar.
Target Selection: Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Targets
Wright & Decker (1994) observed that many burglars in their sample typically selected
targets in advance using knowledge of the people or property that was already gathered. This
information is generated in three general ways: by knowing the victims, from receiving a tip, or
through observations. The majority of the offenders indicate that observation is their most
common means of selecting a target. However, most offenders admit to occasionally acting on
impulse by choosing a residence and immediately committing the burglary. In any case,
offenders often survey the target for attractive features and potential risks.
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Many burglaries, however, are not committed using information gathered in advance, but
rather when opportunities arise that are too appealing to resist (Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000;
Wright & Decker, 1994). These opportunities occur when the individual happens upon a suitable
target and takes advantage of the moment. The offender does not have to be motivated to
burglarize prior to encountering the opportunity, but rather must be prepared to engage quickly.
Rengert & Wasilchick (2000) state spontaneous opportunities are more characteristic of amateur
offenders and urban burglaries rather than suburban burglaries that rely on increased preparation.
However, Cromwell et al. (1991) suggest that opportunistic offenses are not specific to amateurs
as even the most rational and professional burglars can determine the value of a random
opportunity.
When a burglar comes across a potential target, whether planned or spontaneous, he or
she generally uses some type of rational calculation process in determining whether or not to
commit the burglary (Cromwell et al., 1991; Hakim, Rengert, & Shachmurove, 2001; Rengert &
Wasilchick, 1989; Tunnell, 1992; Wright & Decker, 1994). This process involves weighing
potential gains and rewards against risks, and the calculation of gains and rewards usually
involves consideration of particular features of the structure that are seen as attractive. An
appearance of affluence is commonly cited as a selling point (Bernasco & Luykx, 2003; Hakim
& Blackstone, 1997; Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000; Wright & Decker, 1994). The size of the
residence, condition of the property, and the types of vehicles driven by the occupants are other
indicators of valuable assets contained within the home (Wright & Decker, 1994).
Offenders perceive the visibility of the property to be a high risk factor, in addition to
occupancy (Cromwell et al., 1991; Hakim & Blackstone, 1997; Wright & Decker, 1994).
Visibility during entry or departure significantly increased the perceived risk of apprehension.
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Residences with fences, large trees, or bushes (natural covering) that block the view of doors or
windows are considered more attractive (Bennett & Wright, 1984). Dwellings built within a
close proximity of each other are less suitable for fear of being heard or seen; therefore detached
single-family residences are preferred. Furthermore, corner houses have fewer neighbors and
more options for escape (Hakim, 1980; Hakim et al., 2001).
Commercial establishments also have certain appealing characteristics that may heighten
their vulnerability to burglary. Again, perceived affluence is the strongest attraction to an
offender (Hakim & Blackstone, 1997). A second characteristic, though less prominent, is the
business’s location in relationship to the concentration of community businesses. Offenders
prefer a lower concentration of businesses and traffic and shy away from major intersections or
highly patrolled areas. Businesses located on corners have a higher risk of burglary as they offer
multiple directions for escape. The types of businesses with the highest burglary rates are office
park suites, retail establishments, and single office buildings. In addition, visibility is an
important factor when selecting a business target. Businesses with increased lighting and less
natural cover often have lower burglary rates.
Potential targets might also have characteristics that deter burglars. Occupancy of the
target is the greatest concern for burglars (Cromwell et al., 1991; Garcia-Retamero & Dhami,
2009; Hakim et al., 2001; Logie, Wright, & Decker, 1992; Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000; Wright
& Decker, 1994; Wright & Logie, 1988; Wright, Logie, & Decker, 1995). Many burglars take
great measures to ensure they will not encounter any person upon entering the home. They fear
potential injury to themselves, being apprehended, or risking more punishment if they harm
residents. Aside from monitoring the occupants’ routines, many will utilize other techniques to
determine whether anyone is home. Some report ringing the doorbell and if no one answers after
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several attempts, they feel the residence is vacated. Others will retrieve identification
information in order to locate a phone number and subsequently call the home. Should the
resident answer the door or phone, the offender will have a story prepared to justify their
presence. Other cues such as accumulating mail or newspapers, closed windows, or the lack of
air conditioning on hot days signals vulnerability. Cromwell et al. (1991) also state that more
seasoned burglars will probe the occupancy of neighbors as well. A few burglars report being
unaffected by residents being at home, or see it as more exciting.
Security measures such as alarms and dogs may serve as substitutes for occupancy. Most
offenders report being highly deterred by such security measures (Cromwell et al, 1991; Wright
& Decker, 1994; for extensive review of existing studies, see Lee, 2008). Previous studies
consistently have found that alarms are beneficial to individuals as well as neighborhoods (Buck,
Hakim, & Rengert, 1993; Garcia-Retamero & Dhami, 2009; Lee, 2008; Wright et al., 1995).
Signs or stickers that advertise alarm ownership are also effective deterrents. If a burglar does
choose to enter a home while unsure of an alarm (silent or audible), they often stall for a select
period of time in case police or occupants respond. Among those offenders not deterred by
alarms, they project either being confident they will depart before the police will arrive or
capable or disabling the alarm. Of the offenders that accept the risk associated with dogs, many
attempt to either befriend or do away with them. Like alarms, however, only a small percentage
of burglars will proceed with the event when confronted with dogs. Overall, alarms and dogs
seem provide an effective means of deterrence for burglars, though alarms are cited as more of a
deterrent than dogs (Hakim et al., 2001).
Commercial establishments can also employ effective measures to deter criminals.
Hakim and Blackstone (1997) argue that alarms, particularly advertised by alarm signs, are
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effective at reducing the likelihood of victimization. As many offenses are conducted at night
while the dwelling is likely unoccupied, the use of cameras substitutes for witnesses (Hakim &
Blackstone, 1997). Furthermore, businesses can us motion detectors and pressure mats to detect
the presence of potential offenders.
Locks on doors and windows are not often visible during the initial target selection
process. Most offenders encounter these measures after already deciding to commit the
burglary. However, this does not imply that locks are not effective. Dead bolt locks, especially
double-cylinder dead bolts, are overwhelmingly disliked but can still be circumvented with tools
or physical force (Wright & Decker, 1994). Cromwell et al. (1991) argue that the effectiveness
of dead bolt locks depend on the type of burglar. Rational offenders will use other means of
entry when faced with perceived physical barriers. However, opportunistic offenders will be
more deterred and some may proceed to a more vulnerable target. Other devices, such as bars on
windows and storm doors, are also unattractive features for offenders. In addition, Hakim and
Blackstone (1997) recommend placing pins in windows. The key to physical guardianship is to
actively utilize the measures, as burglars often simply enter through an open or insecure window
or door instead (Cromwell et al., 1991; Hakim & Blackstone, 1997; Maguire & Bennett, 1982;
Wright et al., 1995).
Considering the Temporal Dimensions of Burglary
Analyzing temporal patterns is critical for offenders (Cromwell et al., 1991; Hakim &
Blackstone, 1997; Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000). Most residential burglaries are committed on a
weekday in the daytime (Coupe & Blake, 2006; Cromwell et al., 1991; Goodwill & Alison,
2006; Hakim & Blackstone, 1997; Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000); fewer are committed at night or
Page 15 of 64
on the weekends. Of those committed at night, the offenders generally are acquainted with
occupants and are confident the premise is vacated. Businesses, however, are more likely to be
targeted at night when most are closed. Research suggests that residential burglars favor
suburban neighborhoods because the routines of the occupants (particularly females) are
considerably more predictable (Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000). Traditional housewives are the
principal guardians of the home during the day and their habits can generally characterized into
time blocks of running errands and transporting spouses and children to and from work, school,
and various activities. Working females also have consistent routines throughout the week that
extend into the weekend. They find that the most vulnerable times are between 9-11 a.m. and 1-
3 p.m., when most females are out of the home. In addition, Hakim and Blackstone (1997) add
that most burglaries (residential or commercial) occur within the first year of occupancy,
between May and September when more residents spend greater amounts of time away from
home, particularly in August and September. Coupe and Blake (2006) also considered the types
of dwellings targeted during different time periods. During the day, single-home dwellings with
greater cover are more likely to be targeted; at night townhouses or attached residences are more
susceptible.
Considering the Spatial Dimensions of Burglary
Many burglars offend within close proximity to their own residences (Bernasco & Luykx,
2003; Hakim & Blackstone, 1997; Goodwill & Alison, 2006; Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000;
Wright & Decker, 1994). Goodwill and Alison (2005) also report that offenders commit
subsequent burglaries close to the location of their initial offense. Reasons for operating close
by include a lack of transportation, lack of money for gas, or poor quality of personal vehicles.
Page 16 of 64
More importantly, offenders feel more comfortable in familiar environments or where they can
blend into the demographics of the neighborhoods, which is common among commercial
burglars as well (Hakim & Blackstone, 1997). The chance of residential burglary also increases
within a restricted but highly accessible distance from major roads and highway exits (Bernasco
& Luykx, 2003; Hakim & Blackstone, 1997; Hakim et al., 2001). However, commercial
burglary is most likely to occur further away from high traffic areas. Wright and Decker (1994)
suggest that burglars refrain from areas with elevated police presence, such as hot spots for drug
markets, though Rengert and Wasilchick (2000) argue that this position is debatable as criminals
are attracted to opportunities around the drug market.
Burglary and Repeat Victimization
Prior victimization increases the risk of future victimization for burglary. Offenders
often admit to targeting the same residence multiple times (Wright & Decker, 1994).
Victimization studies also report a higher risk of repeat victimization either by the same offender
or different offenders in the United States as well as other nations (Bowers & Johnson, 2005;
Forrester et al., 1988; Tseloni & Farrell, 2002; Tseloni et al., 2004). In addition, dwellings near
the victimized property with similar layouts are at higher risk as burglars find the familiarity of
the target particularly attractive (Bowers & Johnson, 2005; Bowers, Johnson, & Hirshfield, 2003;
Nee & Meenaghan, 2006).
SUMMARY
Decisions made by burglary offenders are shaped by economic and social factors. While
the choice to commit burglary is a calculated deliberation, the full scope of information for risks
Page 17 of 64
and benefits information is limited. Bounded rationality is further complicated by drug and
alcohol abuse. Burglars operate in the present, with little thought to the future. Consequently,
deterrence measures seem to have little effect on curbing their behaviors. Although males often
dominate the study of burglary and street crime, the role of female offenders has recently caught
the attention of researchers. Socioeconomic factors that traditionally lead males into crime are
also being linked with females, and this evidence questions the opinion that females are better
shielded in society from the consequences of disadvantaged conditions.
Existing literature suggests that burglars tend to target residential or commercial
dwellings that are perceived to be affluent. Offenders often operate within a short distance of
their own residences, but choose targets with easy access to major roads or highways and have
various potential escape routes. Residences with greater natural coverage and reduced visibility
to neighbors will be at higher risk. Also, businesses situated in more remote areas with less
commercial traffic are more desirable targets. Most residential burglaries occur during the day,
but commercial offenses predominantly happen at night. Both of these timeframes are indicative
of periods when the dwellings are least likely to be occupied.
Cost-effective measures have been shown to reduce residential burglary. First and
foremost, burglar alarms are reported as having the greatest impact in deterring offenders. In
addition, signs that advertise the ownership of an alarm also decrease the attractiveness of the
residence. However, research has yet to discern the impact across specific types of alarm
technology for residential burglaries. The presence of dogs significantly reduces the risk of
burglary. Other types of effective target-hardening devices may include dead bolt locks, window
locks and pins, window bars, and storm doors since they are perceived to increase the entry time
and risk of detection.
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Building on past research, this study will contribute to the existing body of literature
concerning the decision-making processes of burglars by gathering information related to the
following research questions:
1. What motivates burglars to engage in burglary?
2. What factors are considered during target selection?
3. What deters burglars from burglarizing specific targets?
4. What techniques do burglars use?
5. Are their gender differences in burglary motivation, target selection and technique?
Page 19 of 64
METHODS
Sampling
The target population for this study was all inmates in state prisons currently serving time
for burglary in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Ohio. These three states were selected based on
their proximity to the research team and willingness to participate in the study. The research
team worked with the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at their respective universities and at
the Departments of Corrections1 in the three target states to determine appropriate sampling and
data collection techniques for each site. Because of the intricacies and resources involved with
distributing the survey, IRB representatives requested that investigators limit the number of
facilities used in this research and the prison system was equally supportive of limiting state-
wide access.
Each Department of Corrections provided the researchers with an initial sampling frame
list that contained identification and facility information for all adult inmates currently serving a
prison sentence for burglary. From these lists, investigators were able to select facilities of
differing security levels that had ample numbers of potential respondents. Once the facilities
were chosen, the final sampling frame was created using the inmates within these selected
institutions, and the sample of potential respondents was selected from this list.
The initial objective was to select 500 inmates in each state (n=350 males and 150
females) and ask them to participate in the study. Four prisons were selected in Kentucky and
Ohio, and 10 prisons were selected in North Carolina. At the time of data collection, there were
less than 150 females serving a prison sentence for burglary in North Carolina (n=129) and
Kentucky (n=124), so the entire populations of these inmates were included in our sample. In
1 The generic “Departments of Corrections” used in this report refer to the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the
North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Page 20 of 64
Ohio, there were 212 females convicted of burglary who were housed at the women’s
reformatory, where 120 inmates were randomly sampled and data were collected. Male inmates
were randomly selected from the other facilities in each state (n=350 in Kentucky and North
Carolina and n=440 in Ohio2). The final list of invited respondents (n=1513) consisted of a mix
of minimum, medium, and maximum security male (n=1140) and female (n=373) inmates in
each state. The 1,513 invited participants were selected from a total incarcerated population of
2,709 burglars in the three states at the time of sampling.
Data Collection Processes
Departments of Corrections in Ohio and Kentucky requested that researchers distribute
and collect the surveys on-site. In these two states, potential participants were notified about the
study via informed consent letters and memorandums distributed by correctional staff members.
They were asked to report to a specific location (e.g., chapel, classroom, or cafeteria) at a certain
time on the date of data collection if they were interested in learning more about the study.
Investigators met with potential respondents on the specified day, talked to them about the
purpose of the study, and distributed and discussed the informed consent document. The
informed consent document included statements of confidentiality, risks and benefits of
participating in the study, assurances that participation was completely voluntary, that there were
no incentives or rewards for participating, that there were no consequences for not participating,
and that volunteers were being asked to complete a 30 to 45 minute questionnaire during which
they could skip any items to which they did not feel comfortable responding or stop taking the
survey at any time. At this time, self-administered surveys (see Appendix A) were distributed to
inmates who agreed to be a part of the project. Each specific data collection site (prison) was
2 Data collection efforts in Ohio occurred after the other two states, so more males were sampled to try to increase
the overall number of valid responses.
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visited one to three times and these visits resulted in 90 usable surveys from Kentucky and 236
from Ohio.
In contrast, prison officials suggested that mail surveys would be the most efficient
means of data collection for the North Carolina facilities. Therefore, investigators mailed
packets containing the approved informed consent document that contained an additional section
with instructions for completing and returning the survey, a copy of the survey instrument, and a
pre-addressed business reply envelope to each potential respondent. A total of 90 instruments
were returned from inmates in North Carolina. Our time and resources did not allow for
reminders and any such reminders would have been impossible to deliver given the anonymous
nature of the data collection process, concerns with inmate transfers and releases, and other
logistical challenges.
Response Rate
A total of 422 completed surveys were ultimately collected using an overall sampling
frame of 1,513 incarcerated burglars (for a 28% response rate) that was comprised predominantly
of randomly selected males in each state and females in Ohio, or which included all female
burglars who were incarcerated in NC and KY at the time of data collection. Response rates
varied somewhat across prison systems given the variability in inmate access, institutional
cooperation, data collection procedural requirements, and data collection protocols (in-person
dissemination of surveys versus mailed surveys).
The study sample therefore represents 15.9% of the total population of incarcerated
burglars at the time of data collection. Although the overall response rate of 28 percent is
somewhat low, it is not unusual when studying incarcerated populations. Many prison studies
that deal with criminal behavior or sensitive issues report response rates of 25 percent or less,
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especially if incentives are not offered (Gaes & Goldberg, 2004; Hensley, Rutland, & Gray-Ray,
2000; Hensley & Tallichet, 2005). Further, there is little reason to assume that respondents are
different from non-respondents in this study. During on-site data collection, correctional staff
members reported that many potential respondents indicated that they would like to participate in
the research, but they were unable to do so because of work assignments or educational classes
that they were not allowed to miss during the preset data collection times.
RESULTS
Demographic Characteristics of Subjects
About 56% of the 422 surveys were completed in Ohio, 23% were completed in North
Carolina and the other 21% were completed in Kentucky. The inmates that participated ranged
in age from 18-64 (mean = 32.9). Approximately 65% of the final sample was male (we targeted
70% but ended up with a slightly larger sample of females). Two thirds (67%) of the sample
respondents were Caucasian, 25% were African American, and the rest were mixed or other
races. About 63% reported being single and never married at the time of the current arrest, 7%
were separated, 9% were married, and 13% were divorced (see Table 1).
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Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of 422 Burglars
Frequency Percentage
Survey State
Ohio 236 55.9
North Carolina 96 22.7
Kentucky 90 21.3
Gender
Male 275 65.2
Female 147 34.8
Race
Caucasian 281 66.6
African American 107 25.4
Hispanic 2 0.5
Native American 8 1.9
Other 20 4.7
Marital Status
Single (Never Married) 266 63.0
Separated 30 7.1
Married 39 9.2
Divorced 55 13.0
Widowed 4 0.9
Other 26 6.2
Mean Age = 32.9 (range = 18 64)
________________________________________________________________________
1) WHAT MOTIVATES BURGLARS TO ENGAGE IN BURGLARY?
Criminal History and Extent of Burglary Involvement
This sample of burglars appeared to be broadly involved in crime and consistently involved in
burglary. The overall sample of respondents reported being arrested from 1 to over 100 times in
the past (mean = 12.9 arrests) and respondents from NC and KY (OH subjects were not allowed
to answer this question and some other questions per Ohio DOC policy) reported being convicted
from 1 to 60 times (mean = 6.8 convictions). More specifically, respondents indicated that they
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had been arrested for aggravated burglary, burglary or breaking-and-entering anywhere from 0 to
90 times (mean = 3.0) and convicted of these offenses from 0 to 90 times (mean = 2.5) during
their lives. Age of first burglary arrest ranged from 9 to 50 (mean age = 23.6) while the reported
age when first engaging in a burglary ranged from 6 to 50 (mean age = 21.8).
More than half (54%) of respondents reported that burglary or breaking and entering was
the most serious crime they had been charged with to date, though some had been involved in
other forms of serious crime during their offending careers. Specifically, about 8% reported that
they had been charged with homicide, 12% with robbery, and 7% with assault at some point in
their past. Based on these responses, it seems clear that this sample of offenders was engaged in
a fair amount of crime and was continually involved in burglary specifically.
Drug and Alcohol Use among Incarcerated Burglars
Our self-reported survey data confirms findings from prior studies of burglars which
suggest that drug and alcohol use are, at minimum, correlated to involvement in burglary and, in
some cases, the direct cause of it (and a primary motivator) for males and females alike. First,
among the 409 subjects who answered the series of drug use questions, only four reported not
using any drugs or alcohol in their lifetime and only 38 reported only using one of the substances
in their lifetime. More than half of the burglars had used alcohol, marijuana, and powder or
crack cocaine in their lifetimes (see Figure 1). Further, half of the sample reporting using more
than five drugs to date (mean = 5.5; range = 0 to 14+ depending on contingency questions).
Second, 73% of the sample indicated that they had used drugs and/or alcohol while
engaged in a burglary at some time in the past and many respondents reported using multiple
drugs and/or alcohol while doing so. Crack or powder cocaine and heroin were the drugs most
Page 25 of 64
often reportedly used by these offenders and these substances were often being used in
combination with other substances, including marijuana and alcohol, during burglary attempts.
Third, we also asked the respondents more specific questions about their substance use in
the six month period prior to the arrest for their current offense using a 7-point Likert scale (0 =
never used, 1 = less than 4 times a month, 2 = about once a week; 3 = 2-6X a week; 4 = about
once a day; 5 = 2-3 times a day; and 6 = 4 or more times a day). In summary, 79% had used
marijuana, 55% used cocaine, 47% used crack, 30% used stimulants, 32% use heroin, 26% use
methamphetamines, 27% used non-prescription methadone, 31% used barbiturates, 17% used
tranquilizers, 10% used PCP, 24% used hallucinogens, and 11% used inhalants within the past
six months. But a large number also reported using a wider range of other drugs that included
Ecstasy, bath salts, cough medicines, Oxytocin, and a variety of other prescription-based
substances.
Page 26 of 64
Figure 1
Percent of burglars indicating which drugs they have used (N=409)
0 20 40 60 80 100
Alcohol
Marijuana/Hashish
Powder Cocaine
Crack Cocaine
Heroin
Amphetamines/Stimulants
Hallucinogens
Barbiturates
Methamphetamines
Non-Prescription Methadone
Tranquilizers
Glue/Paint Thinner/Inhalants
Other
PCP
Drugs Used
Later in the survey protocol, we also asked how the offenders typically spent the income
that was generated from burglaries. Among other expenses, 64% indicated that they would
spend at least some portion of the money on drugs. More directly, we asked the subjects to
report their top reason for engaging in burglary (see Table 2). About 44% (N=187) who
answered this question indicated that the influence of drugs and/or the need to purchase drugs
was their primary motivation, although this is likely a lower-bound estimate given that many
others (particularly males) indicated that their primary motivation was to get money (some of
whom would likely use it to purchase drugs). Within the entire sample, 88% of respondents
indicated that their top reason for committing burglaries was related to their need to acquire
drugs (51%) or money (37%). We also asked the offenders how they would spend the income
Page 27 of 64
they accumulated from burglaries. Drugs again was the most frequently reported answer (64%)
followed by living expenses (49%), partying (35%), clothes/shoes (31%), gifts (17%), and
gambling (5%).
Table 2. Reasons for Engaging in Burglary and Use of Burglary Income
Frequency Percentage
Top Reason for Engaging in Burglary
Drugs 187 44.3
Money 136 32.2
Thrills 16 3.8
Foolishness 20 4.7
Revenge 8 1.9
How Burglars Spend the Income
Drugs 271 64.2
Living Expenses 205 48.6
Partying 148 35.1
Clothes/Shoes 130 30.8
Gifts 73 17.3
Gambling 21 5.0
Other
_____________________________________________________________________________________
2) WHAT FACTORS ARE CONSIDED DURING TARGET SELECTION?
Target Selection
We asked respondents a series of questions about burglary targeting, specifically focusing
on interest in residential (including houses, apartments, mobile homes or other places where
people lived) versus commercial establishments (that included businesses, churches, schools and
government buildings). About half (192) of the subjects reported engaging in at least one
residential burglary (ranging from 1 to 300 with a mean of 8.8) and about 31% reported engaging
in at least one commercial burglary (ranging from 1 to 100 with a mean of 2.7) during the year
before their most recent arrest. These are likely to be lower-bound estimates since some subjects
Page 28 of 64
responded to this open-ended question with answers such as “more than I can count” or “too
many to remember.”
We also asked about other types of places that offenders may have burglarized, including
government buildings, schools, churches, cars, constructions sites, storage facilities, and
hotel/motel rooms. While a small number of offenders occasionally burglarized these different
targets, most offenders preferred to enter either homes or businesses for a wide variety of reasons
related to potential payouts, perceived risk of detection and capture, ease of access, limited
security measures, and overall seclusion.
Evidence of Offense Planning
For those subjects that reporting committing residential or commercial burglaries prior to
their current arrest, most (62.3%) relied on the use of a vehicle; more often it was their own
(35.5%), but sometimes the vehicle belonged to a family member (9.2%) or a friend (22%).
About one in eight (12.6%) reported using a stolen vehicle during the course of a burglary.
Some prior evidence suggests that burglars tend to offend in close proximity to their own
home. In this sample of burglars, there was actually substantial and wide variation in the
reported distance driven prior to engaging in a burglary, with some offenders reporting traveling
hundreds of miles or across state lines (presumably in an effort to minimize identification and
capture) and others reporting walking or driving just a couple blocks away (range .5 miles to 250
miles) in some cases.
Importantly, just over a third (36.5%) of the offenders reported that they collected
information about a potential target prior to initiating the burglary attempt, suggesting that some
Page 29 of 64
burglars are more impulsive to some degree while others are indeed more deliberate in their
approach and planning efforts (see the discussion about gender differences below). In response
to a different, but related question, 12% indicated that they typically planned the burglary, 41%
suggested it was most often a “spur of the moment” event/offense, and the other 37% reported
that it varied at times. When considering the amount of time dedicated to planning, when
planning did occur, nearly half (49%) suggested that the burglary occurred within one day and
16% indicated that the planning process took place for 1-3 days. A smaller proportion took more
than three days to plan some burglaries.
Just under a third of the offenders indicated spending time “casing the place” ahead of the
burglary. Slightly less than one in five received information from an insider or an informant
prior to burglarizing and another one in five received information from a friend ahead of time.
Other burglars reported assessing the viability of targets based on the presence of locks, dogs,
alarms, and nearby residents or workers.
About 28% of burglars typically worked alone and approximately the same proportion
reported never burglarizing alone. Among those who worked with others, most engaged in
burglaries with friends and/or spouses/significant others, although nearly one in eight reported
working with other family members (again, note the gender differences below).
Finally, about 60% of the burglars reporting engaging in more than one burglary in a
single day or night at least sometimes, with about 10% reporting doing so often or always.
Approximately 40% reported that they would only commit one burglary within a single day or
night.
Page 30 of 64
3) WHAT DETERS BURGLARS FROM BURGLARIZING SPECIFIC TARGETS?
A number of questions focused on the types of security, target-hardening devices or
security strategies that are considered during burglary target selection. When examined in rank
order from high to low (high indicates that a larger percentage of respondents reported thinking
about this specific factor or security measure when gauging their willingness to burglarize), we
separated the responses into two broader groups representing less (see Figure 2) and more (see
Figure 3) effective deterrents.
External indicators of target suitability (mailboxes were full of mail, newspapers were
left in the driveway), isolation of the target (distance from the road or others), lighting (both
inside and outside), potential hiding places, and some target hardening, preventive measures
(steel bars, dog or neighborhood watch signs) were generally considered by less than a third of
the burglars as they contemplated a particular target. This is not to suggest that these factors do
not influence ultimate target selection, but rather that most of the burglars in this study reported
that they do not consider these factors while planning or engaging in a burglary.
Page 31 of 64
Figure 2
Perception of Effectiveness of Burglary Deterrents According to Burglars:
% of sample indicating they considered these factors (N=373)
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Lights inside
Distance from others
Hiding places
Steel bars on doors/windows
Distance from road
Type of door/window
Ouside lights
Beware-of-dog sign
Neighborhood Watch sign
Newspapers in driveway
Mailbox is full
Other
Less Effective Deterrents
Page 32 of 64
Figure 3
Perception of Effectiveness of Burglary Deterrents According to Burglars:
% of sample indicating they considered these factors (N=373)
On the other hand, close proximity of other people (including traffic, those walking
nearby, neighbors, people inside the establishment, and police officers), lack of escape routes,
and indicators of increased security (alarm signs, alarms, dogs inside, and outdoor cameras or
other surveillance equipment) was considered by more burglars when selecting a target. Within
this broad set of potential target hardening deterrents, alarms and outdoor cameras and other
surveillance equipment were considered by a majority of burglars.
The survey also included a separate set of questions that attempted to determine, among a
limited subset, which deterrent factors would cause an offender to ignore a particular target and
move on to the next potential house or business (see Figure 4).
Page 33 of 64
Figure 4
Perception of Effectiveness of Burglary Deterrents According to Burglars:
% of sample identifying factors that would cause them to avoid a target
(N=360)
Generally, the presence of residents or workers (or noises indicating that someone was
there), visible police officers, neighbors, others walking nearby, and dogs are primary deterrents
for burglars. In addition, alarms, outdoor cameras and other forms of surveillance often deterred
potential offenders from a specific location according to these offenders.
In a separate question later in the survey, we asked respondents if alarms in particular
dissuaded them from burglarizing a particular establishment. About 60% of the burglars
indicated that an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target. In addition, about 83% of
offenders would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary. For
those that initially decided to burglarize an establishment, and then subsequently determined that
an alarm was present, half reported that they would discontinue the attempt, 37% would
Page 34 of 64
sometimes continue, and 13% would always continue. A smaller percentage (16%) of burglars
would attempt to disable an alarm and this group reported some effectiveness at doing so (see
Table 3).
Table 3. The Impact of Alarms on Burglar Decisions
Frequency Percentage
Does an Alarm Make a Difference in Target Selection?
Yes 255 60.4
No 96 22.7
How Often Do You Continue a Burglary After Determining an Alarm is Present?
Never 181 50
Sometimes 134 37
Always 47 13
If I Find an Alarm after Deciding to Burglarize What Do I Do?
Never Attempt 181 42.9
Sometimes Attempt 134 31.8
Always Attempt 47 11.1
How Often Do You Attempt to Disarm an Alarm?
Never Attempt 281 80.3
Sometimes Attempt 41 11.7
Always Attempt 28 8.0
_____________________________________________________________________________________
About 63% of the respondents indicated that they considered whether security personnel
or police would respond if an alarm was triggered, although the vast majority feared a police
response more than a security response. About half of the burglars indicated that they were
aware that alarm calls sometimes needed to be verified prior to police actually responding, and
about half of that group considered this response protocol within the context of their target
selection and offending decisions.
Page 35 of 64
Finally, just under half of burglars (48%) considered the likelihood of getting caught
while engaged in the burglary and just over half (53%) thought about this after engaging in the
crime. Still, only half of the burglars reported that they would desist from engaging in a burglary
even if they thought there was a good chance of detection and apprehension. Over a third did not
at all consider the type of punishment they could potentially receive if caught.
4) WHAT TECHNIQUES DO BURGLARS USE?
Entry Planning and Preparation
When attempting to burglarize a home or a residence, most burglars reported entering
open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open. About one in eight burglars reported
picking locks or using a key that they had previously acquired to gain entry. These preferences
were fairly consistent for those offenders who reported burglarizing businesses as well.
About one in five burglars reported cutting telephone wires in advance of an event and
about the same proportion reported cutting alarm wires ahead of time. Screwdrivers were the
most commonly reported tool that burglars carried, followed by crow bars and hammers. About
one in eight burglars reporting carrying lock-picking tools and nearly a quarter indicated that
they disguised themselves in some way prior to initiating the burglary. Most of the burglaries
were quick (less than 10 minutes) although some lasted over an hour. Burglars were equally
likely to commit their crimes in the daytime or nighttime, although early morning and late at
night were often preferred times.
Stolen Item Preferences and Disposal Strategies
Page 36 of 64
Regarding item preferences, most burglars (79%) reported an interest in acquiring cash
during their burglaries, followed by jewelry (68%), illegal drugs (58%), electronics (56%) and
prescription drugs (44%). About 65% of those who stole items during the course of a burglary
reported that they worked to dispose of those items immediately, although some would hold onto
and store some or all of the items for some period of time. Stolen items were usually stored at a
friend’s house or, less often, stashed somewhere else including a storage unit or an empty
building or vacant house. Many burglars indicated that they would not store stolen items in their
own home or even with family members. In terms of item disposition, most reported selling the
items to strangers (44%), pawn shops or second-hand dealers (40%), or friends (32%) or trading
(29%) the items for something else. Smaller numbers of burglars reported selling items online,
to family members, or at auctions, and still others reported trading the items directly for drugs.
5) GENDER DIFFERENCES IN BURGLARY MOTIVATION, TARGET
SELECTION AND TECHNIQUE
Motivation
There were some broad similarities between male and female burglars in this study and some
substantial differences as well. First, males and females in this study had comparable criminal
arrest and conviction records overall and with respect to burglary specifically, although males
tended to report higher numbers of arrests in their past.
However, female burglars appeared to be more involved in, and possibly motivated by,
substance use problems than males. Although males and females were equally likely to report
drug use as a top reason for burglarizing, it was the most frequently reported reason given by
females (70%) for their engagement in burglary; for males their top reason was money. Females
Page 37 of 64
also reported using significantly more drugs on average (6.4) than males (4.8) suggesting broader
exposure to substance use experiences. Further, significantly more females reported spending
the income derived from burglaries on prescription medications (presumably some of which was
both legal and illegal), although significantly more males (70%) reported spending burglary
income on illegal drugs than females (59%). Finally, more females (67%) than males (47%)
indicated that the availability of substance abuse treatment programs (and religious or faith-based
programs) in prison would help reduce their chances of future involvement in crime following
release from prison, suggesting some recognition that substance use problems facilitated such
activities in the past. Males indicated that educational programs would be more useful in
preparing them for future desistence (see Table 4).
Page 38 of 64
Table 4. Overall Sample and Male-Female Differences in Burglary Motivation, Target Selection and
Technique a
Overall % Female % Male % Significance
Motivations
Top Reason
Drugs 31.5 41.2 25.8 34.5**
Money 37.9 19.1 48.7 -
Drugs & Money 18.8 27.2 14.0 -
Other 11.8 12.5 11.4 -
Items Taken
Electronics 63.5 60.3 65.3 0.9
Illegal drugs 65.9 58.8 69.9 4.6*
Jewelry 77.8 69.5 82.4 8.2*
Cash 90.0 84.7 92.9 6.3*
Clothing/Shoes 18.4 18.3 18.4 0.0
Prescription drugs 50.5 58.0 46.4 4.5*
Criminal Justice Response Preference
Educational 34.7 28.3 38.4 4.0*
Vocational 62.4 59.4 64.0 0.8
Drug treatment 54.2 66.7 47.1 13.5**
Life Skills 52.3 55.8 50.8 0.8
Religious/Faith 35.3 42.0 31.4 4.3*
Anger Management 24.5 29.0 21.9 2.4
Target Selection
Homes 72.5 77.5 68.4 1.8
Businesses 30.3 22.5 36.7 4.2*
Govt. buildings 2.8 0.0 5.1 4.2*
Schools 3.4 1.3 5.1 2.0
Extent of Planning
Immediately (<24hrs) 59.1 68.6 54.3 6.7*
1-3 days 19.4 13.6 22.4 3.9*
4-7 days 6.6 2.5 8.6 4.7*
~2 weeks 3.1 3.4 3.0 0.0
1 month or more 3.4 1.7 4.3 1.6
Deterrence Measure Effectiveness
Police Nearby 64.4 63.5 65.0 0.1
Indications of Alarms 53.3 58.7 50.4 2.3
Outdoor Cameras 50.3 51.6 49.6 0.1
Outdoor Lighting 15.8 15.9 15.8 0.0
Neighborhood Watch 12.8 15.1 11.5 0.9
Security Sign 24.7 24.6 24.8 0.0
________________________________________________________________________
* p < .05; **p < .01
a Comparisons were between male and female burglary. Overall sample statistics are also included for
reference.
Page 39 of 64
Target Selection
In terms of targeting, females clearly preferred to burglarize homes and residences. In fact,
significantly more females indicated that they had burglarized or attempted to burglarize
homes/houses, and significantly more males reported that their attempts and completed
burglaries targeted stores/businesses, government buildings, schools, and churches. These
patterns were generally consistent when examining a separate set of “preferred target” questions.
Fewer female burglars were likely to spend time planning burglaries, more females were
likely to report engaging in burglaries on the “spur of the moment”, and more females were
likely to complete a burglary that day if they did spend any time planning. More males were
likely to spend several days or more planning a particular burglary, and males who planned their
crimes were more likely to visit a potential target in advance to gather information. These data,
and other indicators below, suggest perhaps increased impulsiveness among female burglars.
With respect to security and deterrence measure effectiveness, more male burglars reported
being deterred from targeting a particular location by a lack of potential hiding locations, steel
bars on windows or doors, proximity of the target to other houses or businesses, availability of
escape routes, and distance to the nearest road. These responses are consistent with the other
planning data and suggest a more deliberative process of target selection among male burglars
than female burglars. The impact of alarms and surveillance equipment on target selection did
not vary across gender groups, although male burglars were less often dissuaded from attempting
a burglary if they noticed signs suggesting that a particular location was protected by alarms.
Planning Strategies and Techniques
Page 40 of 64
While there were no gender differences regarding whether offenders preferred to
burglarize alone or with one or more others, significantly more females reported engaging in
burglaries with spouses/significant (46% of females versus 7.5% of males), while significantly
more males reported doing so with friends (71% of males versus 53% of females) or colleagues
(16% of males versus 3% of females). Significantly more males also indicated receiving
information from friends about potential targets.
More males reported walking or riding a bike to a potential burglary location, although
males and females were equally likely to use a car. More males reported engaging in multiple
burglaries within a single day or night. Males also were more likely to proactively enter a
location through an open window, force open a closed window, enter through an unlocked door,
or force open a door or a window to facilitate a burglary. Other proactive steps among
significantly more male burglars, which further suggest a greater degree of planning, included
cutting telephone or alarm wires. Interestingly, more males were likely to steal illegal drugs,
cash and jewelry during burglaries while more females were likely to seek out prescription
medications. Again, these data suggest males and females were often motivated by substance
use problems although the nature of those problems may vary.
Significantly more males were also likely to bring along burglary tools including
crowbars, screwdrivers, disguises, lock-picking kits, alarm disabling tools, and even bags and
containers to carry stolen goods. Additionally, males who planned their burglaries were more
willing to attempt to disable an alarm that was found at a target location. More females reported
engaging in afternoon burglaries, which is consistent with their interest in targeting
homes/houses that are more often empty during these times. Significantly more males preferred
Page 41 of 64
engaging in late evening burglaries, again perhaps in an attempt to avoid detection while
focusing on businesses and other non-residential establishments.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The purpose of this study was to explore the motivations, target selection strategies,
factors that deter, techniques used during burglary, and gender differences among a sample of
422 randomly selected incarcerated burglars in three states. Consistent with previous research
(Cromwell et al., 1991; Forrester et al., 1988; Wright & Decker, 1994), many burglars in this
sample reported committing their crimes in order to directly or indirectly acquire drugs or cover
living expenses.
Similar to previous findings (Rengert & Wasilchick, 2000; Wright & Decker, 1994),
most burglars in this sample did not plan their crimes in advance. Specifically, about two-thirds
of these offenders said their crimes were “spur of the moment” offenses. Of those that did plan
their burglaries, the planning phase was a relatively short one to three days. Comparisons of
individuals who planned their burglaries in advance to those who did not plan their crimes
revealed no significant differences in patterns of substance use.
Regardless of whether the crimes were planned in advance, the majority of these burglars
indicated they would consider a number of factors before committing a burglary. The largest
proportion of respondents considered cameras/surveillance equipment, followed by alarms,
people inside the structure, dogs, and cars in the driveway. They said they tended to avoid
targets that had people inside, a police officer nearby, noise inside, alarms, or if they saw
neighbors. Notably, both the planners and those who did not plan were likely to seek alternative
targets if they detected the presence of an alarm.
Page 42 of 64
When asked specifically about alarms, the vast majority of burglars said they never
attempted to disable alarms, while only 8% indicated they always tried to disable an alarm.
Further, approximately a majority of these burglars said that the mere presence of an alarm
would cause them to seek a different target. Only one in ten burglars said they would always
attempt a burglary if an alarm was present, but over 40% of said they would discontinue a
burglary that was already in progress if they discovered an alarm. These findings are consistent
with previous research (Cromwell et al., 1991; Hakim & Blackstone, 1997; Lee, 2008; Wright &
Decker, 1993) and indicate that, although alarms are not always an effective deterrent, they do
act as deterrents for many burglars.
Once the decision has been made to burglarize a structure, these burglars reported most
often entering the premises through windows or doors (either already open or forcing them
open). Only a few respondents reported picking locks or other entry methods. The most
common tools carried by these burglars were screwdrivers, crow bars, and hammers. Once
inside the target, sample members reported the most desirable items to obtain during burglaries
as cash, jewelry, illegal drugs, electronics, and prescription drugs. After a burglary was
committed, most offenders indicated they would try to dispose of items immediately by selling
them to strangers, pawn shops, or second-hand dealers. Only a small percentage of the sample
said they sold stolen items online or to family members.
Male and female burglars in this sample tended to plan and operate in similar manners.
Females, however, were significantly more likely than males to cite drugs as the primary
motivation for burglary, while males cited money as the top motivating factor. Additionally,
females were significantly less likely than males to be involved in commercial versus residential
burglaries. Females also reported spending less time planning their burglaries. Further, as
Page 43 of 64
expected based on extant literature (Hochstetler, 2001; Mullins & Wright, 2003), females tended
to commit burglaries with a spouse or significant other and males tended to commit their crimes
with friends.
Overall, the results of this study of incarcerated burglars in North Carolina, Kentucky,
and Ohio are consistent with various samples of burglars in other states and countries as found in
prior research. Still, we cannot be sure whether these findings can be generalized to the total
population of burglars in these and other states. Specifically, it is not known if the patterns
established from this sample would apply to burglars who have not been caught and/or
incarcerated for their crimes. For example, active or former burglars who have not been
apprehended for their crimes may have different motivations, spend more time planning their
crimes, consider different factors when choosing targets, or use different techniques during crime
commission as compared to those who have been arrested and convicted for burglary. If
possible, future research should investigate possible differences among burglars who have and
have not apprehended.
Page 44 of 64
REFERENCES
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Bernasco, W., & Luykx, F. (2003). Effects on attractiveness, opportunity and accessibility to
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Bowers, K.J., & Johnson, S.D. (2005). Domestic burglary repeats and space-time clusters: The
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Bowers, K., Johnson, S., & Hirshfield, A. (2003). Pushing back the boundaries: New
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Buck, A. J., Hakim, S., & Rengert, G. F. (1993). Burglar alarms and the choice behavior of
burglars: A suburban phenomenon. Journal of Criminal Justice, 21, 497-507.
Coupe, T., & Blake, L. (2006). Daylight and darkness targeting strategies and the risks of being
seen at residential burglaries. Criminology, 44(2), 431-464.
Cromwell, P., & Olson, J.N. (2006). The reasoning burglar: Motives and decision-making
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42-54). Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.
Cromwell, P.F., Olson, J.N., & Avary, D.W. (1991). Breaking and entering: An ethnographic
analysis of burglary. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Decker, S., Wright, R., & Logie, R. (1993). Perceptual deterrence among active residential
burglars: A research note. Criminology, 31, 135-147.
Garcia-Retamero, R., & Dhami, M. K. (2009). Take-the-best in expert-novice decision
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Goodwill, A.M., & Alison, L.J. (2006). The development of a filter model for prioritizing
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Hakim, S., & Blackstone, E.A. (1997). Securing home and business: A guide to the electronic
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Hakim, S., Rengert, G. F., & Shachmurove, Y. (2001). Target search of burlars: A revised
economic model. Papers in Regional Science, 80, 121-137.
Hochstetler, A. (2001). Opportunities and decisions: Interactional dynamics in robbery and
burglary groups. Criminology, 39(3), 737-763.
Hochstetler, A., & Copes, H. (2006). Managing fear to commit felony theft. In P. Cromwell
(Ed.), In their own words: Criminals on Crime (4th ed.). (pp. 102-112). Los Angeles,
CA: Roxbury.
Lee, S. (2008). The impact of home burglar alarm systems on residential burglary.
Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The State University of New Jersey.
Logie, R., Wright, R., & Decker, S. (1992). Recognition memory performance and residential
burglary. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 6, 109-23.
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victim. London, U.K.: Heinemann.
Mullins, C.W., & Wright, R. (2003). Gender, social networks, and residential burglary.
Criminology, 41(3), 813-839.
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Criminology, 46, 935-949.
Piquero, A., & Rengert, G. F. (1999). Studying deterrence with active residential burglars.
Justice Quarterly, 16, 451-471.
Rengert, G. F, & Wasilchick, J. (1985). Suburban burglary: A time and place for everything.
Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas.
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Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd.
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victimization, micro and macro-level routine activities. In P. Nieuwbeerta (Ed.), Crime
victimization in comparative perspective: Results from the International Crime Victims
Survey, 1989-2000. The Hague: Boom Juridische Uitgevers.
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Tunnell, K. (1992). Choosing crime: The criminal calculus of property offenders. Chicago, IL:
Nelson-Hall.
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windows: Toward defining the role of physical structure and process in community crime
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Wright, B.R.E., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T.E., & Paternoster, R. (2004). Does the perceived risk of
punishment deter criminally prone individuals? Rational choice, self-control, and crime.
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 41(2), 180-213.
Wright, R.T., & Decker, S.H. (1994). Burglars on the job: Street life and residential break-ins.
Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Wright, R., & Logie, R. (1988). How young burglars choose targets. Howard Journal of
Criminal Justice, 27, 92-104.
Wright, R., Logie, R. H., & Decker, S. H. (1995). Criminal expertise and offender decision
making: An experimental study of the target selection process in residential burglary.
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Page 47 of 64
APPENDIX A: SURVEY INSTRUMENT
Official Information
1. How old are you? _______
2. What is your gender?
Male
Female
3. What is your race?
Caucasian
African American
Hispanic
Asian
Native American
Other (please specify) _________________________________________
4. How many times in your life have you been arrested? ______________
5. How many times in your life have you been convicted? ________________
6. How many times in your life have you been arrested for burglary or breaking and
entering? ___________
7. How many times in your life have you been convicted for burglary or breaking and
entering? __________
8. What is the most serious crime you have ever been charged with?
____________________________________________
9. For which offense(s) are you currently serving time?
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
Page 48 of 64
10. What is your most serious current offense? ____________________________________
11. How old were you the first time you were arrested for burglary? ____________
12. At the time you were arrested for your current offense, were you:
Single (never married)
Separated (married but not living together)
Married (and living together)
Divorced
Widowed
Other (please explain) ____________________________
13. How old were you the first time you committed a burglary? _________________
14. Please circle any of the items below that you have ever used:
Alcohol
Marijuana or hashish
Powder cocaine
Crack cocaine
Amphetamines or other stimulants
Heroin
Methamphetamine
Non-prescription methadone
Barbiturates
Tranquilizers
PCP
Hallucinogens or other psychedelic drugs
Glue, paint thinner, or other inhalants
Other non-prescription drugs (please explain) _____________________________
Page 49 of 64
14a. Think about the six months before you were arrested for your current offense. In the list below, please
check how often you used each of the drugs listed during these six months.
Substance
Never
Used
Less than
4 times
per month
About 1
time per
week
About 2 to
6 times
per week
About 1
time per
day
About 2 to
3 times
per day
4 or more
times per
day
Alcohol
Marijuana or hashish
Powder Cocaine
Crack Cocaine
Amphetamines or
Other Stimulants
Heroin
Methamphetamine
Never
Used
Less than
4 times
per month
About 1
time per
week
About 2 to
6 times
per week
About 1
time per
day
About 2 to
3 times
per day
4 or more
times per
day
Non-prescription
Methadone
Barbiturates
Tranquilizers
PCP
Hallucinogens or
Other Psychedelic
Drugs
Glue, paint thinner,
or other inhalants
Other drugs for
which you did not
have a prescription
(please list drug(s)):
_______________
Page 50 of 64
_______________
_______________
15. Have you ever used drugs or alcohol when you committed a burglary?
No
Yes, Which drug(s) were you using? __________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
16. Over the past year, how many times did you break into a house, apartment, mobile home,
or other place where someone lived? _________
17. Commercial establishments include places like businesses, churches, schools, and
government buildings. How many commercial burglaries would you say you committed
in the 12 months before your arrest? _________
18. In previous burglaries, did you use a car?
No
Yes (complete 19a and 19b)
18a. If you used a car, was it your own vehicle, a family member’s vehicle, a friend’s
vehicle, or a stolen vehicle?
Own vehicle
Family member’s vehicle
Friend’s vehicle
Stolen vehicle
Other, please explain ____________________________________
18b. How far did you drive to commit the burglary? _________________
19. Which types of places have your burglarized or attempted to burglarize? (please check all
that apply)
Homes or other places where someone lived
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Stores or other businesses
Government buildings
Schools
Churches
Other (please explain) ________________________________________
20. Which types of places have your burglarized or attempted to burglarize most often?
(please check all that apply)
Homes or other places where someone lived
Stores or other businesses
Government buildings
Schools
Churches
Other (please specify) ________________________________________
21. Which type of place do you prefer to burglarize (please check choose your favorite
target)?
I prefer to burglarize a house or other place where someone lives
Why? ______________________________________________________
I prefer to burglarize a store or other business
Why? ______________________________________________________
I prefer to burglarize government buildings
Why? ______________________________________________________
I prefer to burglarize schools
Why? ______________________________________________________
I prefer to burglarize churches
Why? ______________________________________________________
I prefer to burglarize some other type of building
Please explain what type of building ______________________________
Why? ______________________________________________________
I do not have a preference
22. Do you typically plan a burglary ahead of time or is it spur of the moment?
I plan the burglary
It is spur of the moment
It varies
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23. If you plan a burglary, about much time is there between selecting the target and the
actual burglary?
It happens immediately (within 24 hours)
1 to 3 days
4-7 days
About 2 weeks
About a month
More than a month
Other (please explain) ________________________________
24. What types of things do you think about when deciding whether to burglarize a place
(please check all that you consider)?
Whether there is a dog
Whether there are cars in the driveway or parking lot
Whether there is a security sign
Whether there are outdoor cameras or surveillance equipment
Whether there is a beware of dog sign
Whether there is outdoor lighting
Whether indoor lights are on
Whether I can see people in the house
How close the neighbors are
Whether there is an alarm
Whether there is a place to hide (e.g., bushes) where I will enter the house (e.g.,
doors or windows)
How far the target is from other houses or businesses
Whether I have several possible escape routes
Whether there is a police officer parked nearby
Whether there are neighborhood watch signs
The amount of traffic in the area
Whether there are newspapers piled up in the yard
If the mailbox full of mail
Amount of people walking in the area
The types of doors and/or windows
The distance from major road
Whether there are steel bars over windows or doors
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Whether there are no trespassing signs
Other (please explain) ________________________________________
25. Do any of the following cause you not to burglarize a particular place (please check all
that apply):
An alarm
A dog
Cars in the driveway or parking lot
A security sign
Outdoor cameras or surveillance equipment
A beware of dog sign
Outdoor lighting
Indoor lights are on
Noise coming from the house
Seeing people in the house
Seeing neighbors
No cover (e.g., bushes) at the place you will enter the building
Police officer parked nearby
Neighborhood watch signs
Steel bars over the windows or doors
No trespassing signs
Other (please specify) _____________________________________________
26. Thinking back to your most recent burglary (current offense), did you collect information
about the place before deciding whether to burglarize it?
Yes
No
27. If you collected information about your most recent burglary, where did you get the
information?
I went there and watched
I saw or heard advertisements about the place
An inside person or informant gave me information
I got information from friends
Other (please specify) __________________________________
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28. Do heavy-duty locks on windows and doors make a difference when deciding whether or
not to burglarize a place?
Yes – I prefer not to burglarize a place with heavy-duty locks
No I will go ahead and burglarize a place with heavy-duty locks
29. During a burglary, how do you deal with locks?
I try to avoid dealing with them
I smash them
I try to pick them
Other (please specify) _________________________________________
30. Do alarms in buildings make a difference when choosing a target?
Yes – I prefer not to burglarize a place with an alarm
No – I will go ahead and burglarize a place with an alarm
31. How often can you determine there is an alarm in the building before attempting to
burglarize it?
Always
Sometimes
Never
32. If you decide to burglarize a place and then learn that there is an alarm in the building,
will you:
always attempt the burglary
sometimes attempt the burglary
never attempt the burglary
33. How many of the buildings you have attempted to burglarize have alarms?
None of them
A few of them
Half of them
More than half of them but not all of them
All of them
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34. If there was an alarm on the building, did you attempt to disable it?
Always
How did you attempt to disable it? _______________________________
___________________________________________________________
Sometimes
How did you attempt to disable it? _______________________________
___________________________________________________________
Never
34a. Are you usually effective at disabling alarms?
Yes, I can disable them before they are activated
Yes, I can disable them after they are activated
No
35. Do you consider whether police or security guards will respond if the alarm is activated?
Yes
No
35a. Are you more concerned with getting apprehended by private security guards or
police?
Private Security Guards
Police
35b. Are you aware that some police departments will not respond to alarms unless
the call is verified?
Page 56 of 64
Yes, and I consider this when deciding whether or not to burglarize a place
Yes, but I do not consider this when deciding whether or not to burglarize a place
No
36. When planning a burglary, do you think about how likely you are to get caught?
Yes
No
37. Do you think about the likelihood of getting caught while you are committing the
burglary?
Yes
No
38. Do you think about the likelihood of getting caught after you commit the burglary?
Yes
No
39. If you feel that there is a good chance of getting caught during or after the burglary, are
you less likely to commit the burglary?
Yes
No
40. When you first attempted to commit a burglary, what punishment did you think you
would receive if you were caught?
Prison
Some local jail time
Probation
I did not even consider what the punishment would be
Other (please specify) _________________________________________
41. How do you spend the income generated from burglaries (please check all that apply)?
Page 57 of 64
Living Expenses/Bills
Clothes/Shoes
Drugs
Gambling
Partying
Gifts
Other (Please explain) ____________________________________
42. How much profit do you usually make from an average burglary of a house or other place
where people live? _______________________________________________________
43. How much profit do you usually make from an average burglary of a store or other
business? _______________________________________________________________
44. About how much of a profit do you think you have you made from all of your burglaries
combined? ______________________________________________________________
45. After you commit a burglary, what do you typically do with the items?
Get rid of the items immediately
Hold on to the items until a good profit can be made
Get rid of some items and hold some items
46. If you do not get rid of items immediately, where/how do you store the stolen items?
In my home
In a family member’s home
At a friend’s home
Stashed somewhere outside (e.g., bushes)
In a storage facility
In an empty home or building
Other (please explain) _____________________________
47. What do you usually do with the stolen items?
Keep the items for myself (do not sell/trade them)
Sell to a family member
Sell to a friend
Sell to a stranger
Sell at a market or garage sale
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Sell online
Sell at an auction
Sell to a pawn shop or second-hand dealer
Trade the items for other items
Other (please explain) _________________________________________
48. Of the burglaries you have committed, how many of them do you commit alone?
None of them
A few of them
Half of them
Most of them
All of them (skip to Q52)
49. When you worked with others, how many other people helped you commit the
burglaries?
1
2
3
4
5
More than 5
50. If you work with others, who are these individuals?
Spouse/Significant Other
Family Members
Friends
Colleagues
Other (please specify) __________________________
51. Would you rather burglarize places that are empty or that have people in them?
I prefer to burglarize places that are empty
I prefer to burglarize places that have people in them
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52. How do you identify the places you want to burglarize?
Other burglaries were committed at the same place
I check for signs of an alarm
I check for signs of a dog
I check for locks
I check for any signs of someone being in the place (e.g., lights on, car parked)
I check to see how many cars are in the street and people are on the sidewalk
A friend tells me about it
I check for signs that no one has been around (e.g., newspapers in driveway,
solicitations on door, unmowed/untidy lawn)
Other, please specify _________________________________________
53. If you see a sign of the grounds of a building that an alarm system exists, do you attempt
to burglarize the place?
Always
Sometimes
Never
54. If you see alarm equipment on the outside of a building, do you attempt to burglarize the
place?
Always
Sometimes
Never
55. How do you typically get to the place you want to burglarize?
I walk
I ride a bike
I drive
Other (please explain) _________________________________
56. If you come in contact with another person during the commission of the burglary, do
you:
Pretend to be a delivery person
Pretend to be a maintenance worker
Pretend to be a neighbor
Pretend to be an employee
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Run away
Other (please explain) ________________________________________
57. When you were burglarizing a home or other place where people live, how did you get in
(please check all that apply)?
I broke a window
I used an opened window
I forced a window open
I used an unlocked front door
I used an unlocked back door
I picked the lock on the front door
I picked the lock on the back door
I forced the front door open
I forced the back door open
I got a key to the building
Other (please specify) ___________________________________
58. When you were burglarizing a store or other business, how did you get in (please check
all that apply)?
I broke a window
I used an opened window
I forced a window open
I used an unlocked front door
I used an unlocked back door
I picked the lock on the front door
I picked the lock on the back door
I forced the front door open
I forced the back door open
I got a key to the building
Other (please specify) ___________________________________
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59. Prior to breaking in to a place, do you cut telephone wires?
Always
Sometimes
Never
60. Prior to breaking in to a place, do you cut alarm wires?
Always
Sometimes
Never
61. When you are looking for a place to burglarize, what type of place are you looking for?
_________________________________________________________________
62. What type of neighborhood do you look for when deciding on a place to burglarize?
_________________________________________________________________
63. What items do you prefer to take during a burglary (please check all that apply)?
Electronics
Jewelry
Cash
Clothing/Shoes
Prescription Medication
Illegal Drugs
Other (Please Specify) _______________________________________
64. What tools do you typically take with you when you burglarize a place (please check all
that apply)?
Crow Bar
Screw Driver
Mask/Disguise
Bump Key
Lock Picking Kit
Window Punch
Hammer
Bag/containers in which to carry the items you obtain
Electronic tool to assist in disabling an alarm
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Other tool(s) to assist in disabling an alarm
Other(s) (please specify) _______________________________________
65. Think about the amount of time that passes from the time you enter a building for a
burglary until the time you leave the building. How long does it usually take you to
commit a burglary?
Less than 5 minutes
5 to 10 minutes
11 to 15 minutes
16 to 20 minutes
21 to 30 minutes
31 minutes to one hour
More than one hour
66. What is your top reason for committing burglaries?
_________________________________________________________________
67. How often have you committed more than one burglary in a single night or day?
Always
Often
Sometimes
Never
68. Do you prefer to commit burglaries at night (when it is dark), in the day time, or both?
At night
During the day
Both
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69. What time of day or night did you most often attempt to commit burglaries?
Morning
Afternoon
Evening
Late at night
70. What programs or services would be effective in preventing you from further criminal
activity upon release from prison?
Educational program (get GED)
Vocational program (to help develop skills and get a job)
Life skills program (to help develop skills such as financial management and
communication)
Participation in faith-based groups/religious programming
Anger management
Substance abuse treatment
Other (please specify) _________________________________________
71. How has your incarceration in prison changed your thoughts about whether you will
commit burglaries after you are released?
I will never commit another burglary
I will think twice before committing another burglary
I will continue to commit burglaries because I have learned from other inmates
how to not get caught the next time
I will still commit burglaries as I did before coming to prison because I will need
to in order to support myself
72. If your thoughts about committing burglaries have changed, how has being caught and
sent to prison impacted this change (please check all that apply)?
I do not want to come back to prison because it is terrible being incarcerated
I know I will get a much longer sentence to prison if I am convicted again
I have received programming in prison that has changed me as a person (please
explain) ______________________________________________
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... Studies have been done on alarms and security devices on their impact in the prevention of burglars. From a sampled 1513 burglars imprisoned in Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina, about 60 percent agreed that the presence of an alarm device would discourage them from making a burglary attempt on a facility (Blevins, et al, 2012). Similarly, of the studied 82 offenders in a community in Southern England identified through snowball sampling, it was found out that 84 per cent rated the installation of an alarm system outside a facility as a deterrent (Hearnden & Magill, 2004). ...
... For this reason, it is expected for it to have come second to manned guarding. The same had been found in other studies that, alarm response service was perceived as more favorable because its crew are reliable when responding to criminal activities (Blevins, et al, 2012;Tseloni, et al, 2016). ...
... This concurs with a study which acknowledged that, the installation of an alarm system outside a facility reduces perceptions of threats to the users (Hearnden & Magill, 2004). Similarly, another study informed that, the presence of CCTVs and security devices gives the users a peace of mind from threats (Blevins, et al, 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Maintenance of security and good order for the citizens, had traditionally been undertaken by the state. However, non-state actors have come up to offer security to those who can afford to pay for it. And this is the liberalists view of the provision of security that, the pursuance of security can be achieved with the involvement of other actors offering the same. Despite this development, few studies have examined commercialized security industry services on national security in Kenya. Using Security Governance theory and Network Analysis theory, this study sought to understand the topic. The study took on a cross sectional survey design, and was carried out in Nairobi with the adult residents as the target population. A multistage sampling technique was employed to obtain the respondents. Questionnaires, scheduled interviews and structured observation were used to collect data. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 25, 2017) was used in data management and analysis. The results demonstrate that (1) Manned guarding significantly contributes to the 26 % of outcome of the commercialized security B = .260, β = .135, P = .007; (2) Alarm and Electronics 22.9 %; B = .229, β = .224, P = .001; (3) CVIT security service contributes significantly and positively at 10.8 %; B = .108, β = .118, P = .018. While commercial investigative security service 3.6 % (B = .036, β = .084, P < = .103 although it was not significant. The study concluded that, commercialized security though motivated by profit making plays a significant role that enhances state capacity in provision of security as well as contributes to safety of citizens. Thus the study recommended that, there should be efforts to increase the usage of commercialized security investigation service. It is expected that the findings of this research will provide data that can be used to inform policy and practice amongst commercial security providers to increase their impact on national security in Kenya. The data can also stimulate the academic community towards more research in the field.
... Studies have been done on alarms and security devices on their impact in the prevention of burglars. From a sampled 1513 burglars imprisoned in Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina, about 60 percent agreed that the presence of an alarm device would discourage them from making a burglary attempt on a facility (Blevins, et al, 2012). Similarly, of the studied 82 offenders in a community in Southern England identified through snowball sampling, it was found out that 84 per cent rated the installation of an alarm system outside a facility as a deterrent (Hearnden & Magill, 2004). ...
... For this reason, it is expected for it to have come second to manned guarding. The same had been found in other studies that, alarm response service was perceived as more favorable because its crew are reliable when responding to criminal activities (Blevins, et al, 2012;Tseloni, et al, 2016). ...
... This concurs with a study which acknowledged that, the installation of an alarm system outside a facility reduces perceptions of threats to the users (Hearnden & Magill, 2004). Similarly, another study informed that, the presence of CCTVs and security devices gives the users a peace of mind from threats (Blevins, et al, 2012). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The Contribution of Commercial Security Services on National Security
... While there are findings that alarm systems act as an important factor (Garcia-Retamero & Dhami, 2009), Pascoe and Lawrence (1998) concluded that there was only qualitative evidence suggesting the effectiveness of alarm systems to deter burglary. Likewise, some researchers found that the presence of cameras has only limited influence (Hamilton-Smith & Kent, 2005;Verwee, Ponsaers, & Enhus, 2007), although others have shown the influence of the CCTVs (Blevins, Kuhns, & Lee, 2012;Poyner, 1993). In this study, we did not find a significant influence of the security alarm/camera on selecting the intrusion route on the site-boundary. ...
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This study examines how the environmental features of residential property influence the choice of intrusion routes in a burglary, based on the assumption that burglars mainly judge whether there are proper intrusion routes rather than assessing the entire house. In order to collect reliable data, a virtual reality technique was used to simulate the choices of intrusion routes. Frequency analysis was conducted to examine the various features of intrusion route selection. Logistic regression analyses were performed to identify factors influencing the choice of intrusion route. The findings indicated that the choice of intrusion routes of the site-boundary and the building was strongly affected by physical features related to the ease of penetration of possible intrusion routes. Moreover, participants tended to consider the risk of detection when comparing intrusion routes that do not function as normal entrances, such as the side-window and the 2nd-floor window. The findings of this study provide clues to examine more specific decision-making processes of burglars and suggest various advantages of virtual reality as an experimental tool, especially in the field of environmental psychology.
... A recent criminological report investigates the motivation and decision making of burglars by interviewing offenders. It found that offenders are deterred from burglarizing a target home when they see a sticker on the window or a sign posted indicating that there is either an alarm system or a dog on the premises (Blevins et al. 2012). These stickers or signs are types of signals. ...
Article
In this study, we argue that institutional factors determine the extent to which hospitals are symbolic or substantive adopters of information technology (IT) specific organizational practices. We then propose that symbolic and substantive adoption will moderate the effect that IT security investments have on reducing the incidence of data security breaches over time. Using data from three different sources, we create a matched panel of over 5,000 U.S. hospitals and 938 breaches over the 2005-2013 time frame. Using a growth mixture model approach to model the heterogeneity in likelihood of breach, we use a two class solution in which hospitals that (1) belong to smaller health systems, (2) are older, (3) smaller in size, (4) for-profit, (5) non-academic, (6) faith-based, and (7) less entrepreneurial with IT are classified as symbolic adopters. We find that symbolic adoption diminishes the effectiveness of IT security investments, resulting in an increased likelihood of breach. Contrary to our theorizing, the use of more IT security is not directly responsible for reducing breaches, but instead, institutional factors create the conditions under which IT security investments can be more effective. Implications of these findings are significant for policy and practice, the most important of which may be the discovery that firms need to consider how adoption is influenced by institutional factors and how this should be balanced with technological solutions. In particular, our results support the notion that deeper integration of security into IT-related processes and routines leads to fewer breaches, with the caveat that it takes time for these benefits to be realized.
... We provide an abbreviated summary of the data and methodology here, but a full description is available elsewhere (Blevins, Kuhns, & Lee, 2012). Survey data were collected from inmates in state prisons in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Ohio who were sentenced on a burglary charge. ...
Article
Full-text available
Relying on rational choice theory, we compare burglars’ varying levels of offense planning to understand differences among types of burglars. Surveys were collected from a sample of incarcerated male and female burglars in three states. Participants answered questions detailing aspects of a burglary including motivations, target selection, deterrents, and techniques. Comparisons were made between 119 deliberate (32%) and 257 impulsive (68%) burglars. Deliberate burglars focused on obtaining cash, whereas impulsive burglars were more motivated by drug habits. Impulsive burglars were more easily dissuaded from a target when multiple obstacles are present. Burglars consider how many obstacles they may have to overcome, providing support for rational choice-based, situational crime prevention efforts. Differences in burglar motivation emerged and are discussed.
... It may be that the alarm provided an additional cue as to resident affluence (Cromwell and Olson, 2006). Blevins et al (2012) sent self-completion questionnaires to a sample of 1513 burglars incarcerated in Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina. They achieved a response rate of 28 per cent. ...
Article
Full-text available
Burglar alarms are widely used as a means to try to reduce the risk of domestic burglary. Previous research has suggested that some burglars are deterred by alarms and that they are therefore effective. Using multiple sweeps of the Crime Survey for England and Wales, the research reported here sought to corroborate these findings. It finds that alarms have become associated with increased rather than decreased risk of burglary with entry. This counter-intuitive finding needs to be treated cautiously. A series of hypotheses that might explain it are outlined.
Article
Full-text available
The growth and expansion of commercialized security markets are as a result of deficiencies in the ability of nations to effectively deliver security-related services. Therefore, a range of players is explicitly looked upon to supplement the supply of security services. Perhaps, the most important of these players are the commercial security firms, which have developed and grown expansively. These firms provide some aspect of security/policing services to their fee-paying consumers aimed at protecting the people and their physical assets, as opposed to public security which is a public good. The commercialized security industry has grown and expanded in Nairobi, Kenya, and offers a range of security services. Despite this development, few studies have examined the effects of these services on national security in Nairobi, Kenya. Using the Security Governance theory and Network Analysis theory, this study sought to understand the subject matter. The study took on a cross-sectional survey design and was carried out in Nairobi with the adult residents as the target population. A multistage sampling technique was employed to obtain the wards to be studied, whereas those who purchase or manage commercial security services for their organizations and management of the commercial security firms were purposively sampled, the general public and the security guards were systematically sampled. Questionnaires, scheduled interviews, and structured observation were used to collect data. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 25, 2017) was used in data management and analysis. In the analysis, descriptive statistics used included percentages and frequency distribution tables. These descriptive statistics were used to summarize variables into thematic areas and to convey the characteristics of key variables. Inferential statistics used was Multiple Regression analysis to establish relationships, provide predictions, and in concluding. The results demonstrated that the study identified five effects with each having a unique variance on national security: Visible presence that discourages criminal activities (B = .372, β = .383, P=.001), detection of criminal and harmful activities by the electronic devices (B=.250, β = .257, P = .001), intervention in stopping crime and harm (B = .213, β=.194, P = .001), intelligence on criminal activities through surveillance (B = .176, β= .159, P = .001) and creating a culture of security and crime awareness (B = .086, β = .076, P = .024). Together, both were significant predictors of national security F(5,368) = 111.42, p ˂ .001, R2 = .231. The study concluded that the effects of commercialized security on national security bring to fore the huge responsibility the industry is endowed with. Consequently, there should be favorable mechanisms in the country that can oversee the continuous development of the industry. The favorable mechanisms can only be realized through the consultation of the stakeholders: the commercial security industry, the citizens, and the state. Thus the study recommended that the Private Security Regulation Authority needs to start implementing some of the requirements that are in the PSRA No. 13 of 2016, which are meant to streamline the industry in terms of the training of the security guards, remunerations of the security guards, minimum requirements for recruitment and working environments. This is so that the country and citizens can benefit from the basis of which the authority was formed. It is expected that the findings of this research will provide data that can be used to inform policy and practice amongst commercial security providers to increase their impact on national security in Kenya. The data can also stimulate the academic community towards more research in the field.
Chapter
Security countermeasures is applied to all critical infrastructures, key resources, or key assets that are vulnerable to natural, accidental, or intentional hazards and are at serious risk of degradation or loss in the event the vulnerabilities are exploited. Hardening is simply the process of making the security countermeasures at a critical asset more robust to provide additional protection so that it can resist an attack with minimum casualties and damage. Strengthening and hardening are often used together to protect critical assets. The jurisdiction/critical asset should establish a procedure that establishes how access is controlled into critical assets. The critical infrastructure protection (CIP) process is an all hazards discipline that guides the jurisdiction to consider threats from all hazards. The information sharing and analysis centers (ISACs) provide timely notification specifically designed to help protect critical infrastructure from threats posed by an adversary.
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This paper discusses the development of a filter model for prioritizing possible links in dwelling burglary. The filters utilize the central aspects of crime scene information that is available and accessible to investigators in burglary, namely geo-spatial, temporal, behavioural, and dwelling information. The proposed filters were analysed using a sample of 215 dwelling burglaries committed by 43 serial burglars (i.e. 5 offences each) in order to determine the sequence in which the filters should be considered in prioritizing possible linked offences. The results indicated that the following order (i.e. better performance to worse performance) was most effective at linking offences, utilizing: (1) geo-spatial information, (2) temporal aspects, (3) behavioural information and, lastly, (4) dwelling characteristics. Specifically, the results indicated that offences in close proximity to one another should be given priority. Further, any offence occurring within a 28-day span before or after the index offence should be given priority. The paper argues that behavioural and dwelling characteristics are less effective for linking than geo-spatial and temporal information because the former two aspects are influenced significantly by situational and contextual cues on offender decision-making.
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This article reports the results of an experiment designed to explore (a) the environmental cues used by active residential burglars in choosing targets, and (b) the extent to which such offenders possess specialized cognitive abilities (commonly referred to as expertise) that might facilitate this decision-making process. Forty-seven active residential burglars and a matched group of 34 nonoffenders were shown photographs of houses and asked whether the dwellings would be attractive or otherwise to burglars. Subsequently, subjects were given a surprise recognition test where, in some photographs, physical features of the setting had been changed. Results revealed that active residential burglars were significantly better than nonoffenders at recognizing certain “burglary relevant” environmental changes. Moreover, offenders differed from controls in the mix of environmental cues they employed when selecting targets. These results argue for the importance of acquired expertise in explanations of offender decision making.
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This article investigates home attributes that attract residential burglars in choosing a target. These attributes are the location of the home, its physical appearance, demographic characteristics of the residents, and the security precautions present. The theoretical foundation of the empirical model is the criminal utility maximization behavior that considers costs and benefits as formulated by Becker. However, this article introduces to the model the spatial dimension of the burglar's search for a target. The incidence of burglary is the dependent variable and is measured in a dichotomy scale. The empirical analysis utilizes a survey database of burgled and non-burgled homes that was conducted by the researchers. A logit model is used for the investigation, and the effects of the explanatory variables are calculated as probabilities. The database is unique in the wealth of attributes of individual homes that are relevant to burglars' decision process.