Studies show that burglars typically spend no more than one minute breaking into a home and fewer than 10 minutes inside. Although they work quickly, burglars have a keen eye for valuable possessions. The FBI reports that each home burglary victim suffers an average of $2,188 in property loss.
To find out which items are most likely to be among a burglar’s loot, we looked to a recent study entitled, “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective.” The research, which is based on interviews with 422 incarcerated burglars, sheds light on what motivates burglars to commit crimes. Here are the top six most coveted possessions according to the 2012 study.
6. Clothing and Shoes
Carrie Bradshaw isn’t the only one who likes her money hanging in the closet where she can see it: Americans do, too. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. consumers spend an average of $1,700 a year or 2.72 percent of their yearly income on their wardrobes. About 18 percent of burglars reported that they frequently rummaged through victims’ closets in search of clothing and shoes. And, it’s ok if the shoes don’t fit; about 31 percent of offenders said they would spend the income gained during a crime to purchase clothes (in their own size).
5. Prescription Drugs
It’s bad enough that 40 percent of house guests admit to snooping through a homeowners’ medicine cabinets, but burglars are even worse. Half of the burglars interviewed said that once inside a home, they are on the lookout for prescription drugs. And, they rarely come up empty-handed. A recent report produced by Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center revealed that nearly 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug, more than 50 percent take two and 20 percent take five or more.
In addition to TVs and stereos, the average U.S. household owns five web-enabled devices and six percent own more than 15 devices. With several high-tech goods lying around the average home, it’s no wonder that nearly 64 percent of convicted burglars said that they’ve taken electronics during a burglary. Although the easiest devices to grab are smartphones, laptops, cameras and tablets, ambitious burglars will pull a flat-screen TV off the wall or help themselves to a desktop computer.
3. Illegal Drugs
More than half of offenders (51 percent) indicated that their top reasons for committing burglaries were related to their need to acquire drugs or the money to purchase them. While it’s unclear how many U.S. homes stow illegal drugs, nearly 66 percent of burglars told researchers that they stole illegal drugs from victims’ homes. It’s not an exaggeration to say that many perpetrators weren’t in their right minds; approximately 73 percent of respondents said they used drugs and/or alcohol while engaging in a burglary.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they rank second on a burglar’s wish list. From ruby earrings to 14 karat gold watches, jewelry is one of the easiest things to sell to a pawn shop, which makes it a “must steal” item for many criminals. About 68 percent of burglars are interested in obtaining jewelry during a crime and research shows that 78 percent actually end up nabbing jewels.
Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming amount of burglars abide by the old adage “cash is king.” While more consumers are reaching for a debit or credit card to make purchases, a recent report from Bankrate.com showed that 88 percent of Americans still carry cash. Cold, hard cash is virtually untraceable and easy to exchange for goods, which makes it the most coveted and most stolen item during burglaries.
The top six most coveted possessions weren’t the only secrets divulged by the convicted burglars. Find out what home security measures stop offenders in their tracks and which ones they ignore by checking out the entire study at www.AIREF.org.