SINCE 1997

Burglaries fall but the fear remains

The percentage of homes burgled continues to fall but the public's fears around home invasions remain high, particularly among women.

Burglar with torch breaks into window of domestic residence
The Northern Territory had the highest rate of burglaries, while New South Wales had the lowest in the country.

It’s human nature to leave the house, get to the end of the street and think, “did I close the garage door?”

We’ve been subconsciously programmed to look after our biggest and most valuable asset, our home, so it’s little wonder we can’t escape the thought of potential home burglary, whatever the actual versus perceived risk might be.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD) profiled areas in terms of whether they were deemed advantaged or disadvantaged, with scoring based on incomes and skilled jobs. ‘Disadvantaged’ areas were 48 per cent more likely to experience break-ins and 29 per cent more likely to have attempted break-ins compared to ‘advantaged’ areas. 

The Northern Territory had the highest (1.5 per cent) rate of burglary compared to New South Wales recording the lowest (0.3 per cent). Three quarters of break-ins were at residential premises, with 62 per cent reporting property had been stolen.

Number of victims of unlawful entry with intent as a proportion of state/territory populations in 2020

Burglary victim graph

Source: Savvy - Australian Home Burglary and Security Statistics 2021

Canstar’s finance expert, Steve Mickenbecker, said lockdowns and working from home conditions have been a factor in the lowering of burglary rates, as well as pet ownership.

“Higher rates of pet ownership during COVID and lower burglaries looks to be no coincidence, suggesting that dogs continue to be a do-it-yourself home security system.”

A pandemic upside

Not surprisingly, lockdown restrictions and working from home conditions not only reduced the spread of the virus but also the number of burglary victims.

For the 2019/20 financial year, break-ins were at their lowest in almost 30 years, with a steep 23 per cent drop from the previous year with just over four per cent of households (423,900 properties) experiencing an actual (2.4 per cent) or attempted (1.9 per cent) break in.

This data doesn’t provide a full snapshot of burglaries, with a surprising 11 per cent of break-ins not reported to police. Reasons varied, from 23 per cent of victims who thought the incident was either ‘too trivial or unimportant’ to 16 per cent believing there was ‘nothing police could do’.

Bill Tsouvalas, Managing Director of Savvy said a positive to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic was falling home burglary figures.

“Although we believe it will never happen to us, it could be just a matter of time, so never be complacent.”

It takes a village

If property wasn’t stolen from the break-in, the second highest consequence was property damage and, more frighteningly, 12 per cent of victims had contact with the intruder.

If you do suspect an intruder in your home its encouraged to not confront them but to contact police immediately. Don’t touch anything and create a list of the items you know are missing.

A recent study by the University of Sydney asked if people were worried about being a victim of crime.

There were 43 per cent of respondents worried about crime and 22 per cent specifically about home burglaries.

Women aged 45-59 were the most worried about home invasions with women in general more worried than men. Those aged 25-34 are becoming more concerned, with this age bracket commonly first home and with new home ownership comes new responsibilities and concerns.

Budget Direct’s latest Home Burglary survey found a quarter of Aussies were more concerned about home invasions in their suburb than the year prior, maybe due to spending more time at home and being more aware of what was happening in their neighbourhood.

Getting to know your neighbours certainly adds protection, with 80 per cent of respondents feeling safer if they knew their neighbours, and 70 per cent if they received advice from local police on how to stay vigilant. Only a fifth of Aussies know about their local Neighbourhood Watch program.

“Our livelihoods and houses are our most valuable assets, so we should do all we can to protect ourselves, our homes and property and most importantly, to reduce crime, we need to remain socially connected to our neighbours and communities - it’s good for us too!’ Mr Tsouvalas said.

“Staying close to neighbours and letting them know when you are going to be away from the house for an extended period is also an age-old safeguard against burglaries,” Mr Mickenbecker added.

Security key

Despite the high level of concern over potential burglaries, it is perhaps surprising in this digital age that only 32 per cent of households use home security cameras and only 27 per cent use alarm systems, with traditional non-electronic methods still the most popular (locks, gates and security screens).

Tools (17 per cent) were high on the list of items that were stolen, narrowly surpassed by money/purse/wallet at 19 per cent and personal items at 25 per cent. Sporting equipment and computer equipment rounded out the top five items thieves look for.

To reduce your risk of break-ins, Savvy recommends the following:

Reporting: Even if it is attempted, or you feel it was ‘unimportant’ or not worth making an insurance claim, it is worth reporting it and detailing the incident to police purely to assist the police in solving crimes, catch perpetrators (especially repeat offenders), potentially recover goods stolen and track crime trends.

Rebranding: Engrave your details on goods, especially tools, and keep them secure in a locked shed.

Good neighbours: Get to know your neighbours and keep an eye out for each other’s properties for suspicious activity. Find out when they are away to bring in bins and empty the letterbox.

Safe and secure: Keep your house secure with locked doors and windows, install a home security camera or alarm and sensor lights.

Safe houses

The Darling Downs-Maranoa region is Queensland's safest area in regard to property crime. Brisbane’s western suburbs are the safest, from northwest suburbs including The Gap to Moggill in the southwest via Indooroopilly and the Centenary suburbs.

The Sunshine Coast has a higher proportion of ‘lower than average risks’ suburbs (27 per cent) than the Gold Coast, which has none.

Sydney suburbs north of the Harbour Bridge are the safest for property crime, including the upper and lower north shore to Hornsby, Northern Beaches and Ryde.

The Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region, which takes in regional centres such as Nowra, Bowral and Batemans Bay, has the highest proportion of “lower than average risk” suburbs (38 per cent). Sydney’s eastern suburbs have a higher proportion of “lower than average risk” suburbs (41 per cent) compared to the inner west (35 per cent).

In Victoria, Warrnambool and southwest Victoria are regarded as the safest regions in the state, including regional centres along the Great Ocean Road such as Apollo Bay extending to Colac and Casterton. Melbourne’s outer-east suburbs rank highest in the metropolitan area, extending from Doncaster East to Belgrave and Lilydale.

The South Australian outback is the safest region in the state for property crime (48 per cent), while Adelaide Central and Hills has the highest proportion of “lower than average risk” suburbs (28 per cent).

 

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