There is perhaps no personal violation as intrusive and offensive as the illegal entry into the places where we live. Formally defined as “unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft”, there are over 1 million burglaries in the U.S. each year, according to the FBI. In fact, a new burglary happens every 26 seconds.
Top 10 burglary statistics
- Over 1 million burglaries are committed each year in the US, according to the FBI.
- Most recently, 1.1 million burglaries took place in 2019, down 9.5% since the previous year.
- One burglary happens every 25.7 seconds, so approximately 3,300 per day.
- The average value of property taken during burglaries is about $2,600, making the total cost of burglaries in 2019 about $2.9 billion.
- Burglars are drawn to homes that do not have home security systems. Homes that don’t have a security system are 300% more likely to be burglarized (Alarms.org).
- Unfortunately, less than 30% of homes have an effective security system installed (Security.org).
- 27% of the time, a person is home while the burglary occurs; 26% of those people home are harmed.
- Someone was injured in 7.2% of all burglaries committed.
- In 85% of burglaries, the crime is committed by amateurs, often done by someone who is desperate. It is assumed these amateurs are more unpredictable and dangerous than professional thieves.
- Despite the grim statistics burglaries have declined by 49% in the last 20 years, according to FBI data.
Table of Contents
- Burglary defined
- Burglary statistics 2021
- Burglary statistics over time
- What you need to know about burglary
- Burglary statistics state by state
- The impact of burglary
- Burglary prevention
What is burglary and home invasion?
Burglary is a very specific crime that involves a person making an unlawful entry into a structure with the intent to commit a separate felony or theft. The crime is frequently referred to as “breaking and entering” although the entry into a structure does not need to be physically violent. Burglary can occur in connection with any structure, including a business or even an airplane. Home invasion involves the act of breaking into an occupied residence. A burglary can involve entering a structure intending to commit any crime not just theft, including murder, robbery, rape, assault or even credit card fraud.
In most states burglary is classified in four degrees. all except fourth-degree are felonies; fourth-degree is a misdemeanor:
- First-degree burglary – the most serious, involves harm to a victim with the use of a deadly weapon after entering a home intending to commit a theft or other crime.
- Second-degree burglary – involves entering a non-residence such as a business premise or buildings detached from homes such as sheds.
- Third-degree – is a burglary without the violent consequences. It often is charged when there is a break-in but it is not clear why the person broke in.
- Fourth-degree – burglary generally involves removing items from areas surrounding homes and businesses such as fenced-in yards.
Burglary statistics 2021
The FBI has not yet released its comprehensive annual crime statistics for 2020. However, the FBI’s Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for the period from January to June, 2020 shows a decline in the number of total property crimes as well as violent crimes during the first six months of 2020, compared with those crimes during the first six months of 2019.
Major metropolitan crime reports also shed light on very current trends. In metropolitan New York for the week of March 1 through March 8, 2021, the New York Police Department (NYPD) indicates burglaries declined 9.4% compared to the same week in 2020. Burglaries have also declined for the entire year of 2021 to date by 12.8% from this period in 2020.
Chicago Police Department (CPD) data shows similar declines in burglaries. For the same week in March — 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 — burglaries declined 14%. Year to date comparisons of 2021 with the previous 4 years show an encouraging steady decline in burglaries of 35% (1 year), 40% (2 years), 47% (3 years) and 61% (4 years). Los Angeles experienced similar but less dramatic declines in burglaries for the same periods.
Burglary statistics over time
Burglary is a form of home invasion which has evolved as a very specific defined crime in the United States with various degrees of severity. Burglary was defined in the 17th Century under English common law by Sir Matthew Hale as a crime involving breaking and entering into another person’s house at night, intending to commit a felony.
From that narrow charge, the elements of the crime of burglary in the U.S. have expanded to include breaking and entering any time of the day. Additionally, each state has now codified the common law into statutes broadening burglary to include unlawful entry into any structure including offices, side buildings and even boats.
Data from the FBI shows a steady decline in the number of burglaries over the past several years, as well as the percentage of burglaries involving forceable entry. Just recently however, perhaps related to efforts to cut back on policing, there has been a noticeable increase in other violent crimes such as assault, robbery and murder.
|Year||Burglaries||Burglaries involving forcible entry||Average amount of loss per burglary|
What you need to know about burglary
Anatomy of a burglary
The fact that burglaries are declining on the whole is good news for homeowners. The burglary rate in the United States is currently one-fifth of what it was in 1980. There are a several potential reasons for this:
- People are less likely to have cash on hand today — thieves’ preferred target
- Residents are taking more precautions with security systems
- Cybercrime is a less risky way for “break ins”
- Drug interdiction may be having an impact, reducing the number of desperate people in need of money to fund an addiction
When do burglaries happen?
Although many might assume that most burglaries naturally occur at night when burglars can operate under the cover of darkness, in fact, the opposite is true. The most frequent times for burglaries is on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., or from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Based on these time ranges, it appears burglars prefer to sacrifice the cover of night and break in when they know from observation that no one is home. It would seem burglars want to avoid physical confrontation as much as dwellers do.
Burglaries are more likely to occur in urban settings. The size of a community makes a difference, as crime rates are generally higher in urban than rural areas. The rates of both property and violent crime are three to four times greater in the largest U.S. cities than rural rates.
Past studies by the Justice Department revealed that burglary victims knew the burglar 30% of the time and the burglar was a stranger in 24% of the crimes. Most of the time (46%), the burglar’s identity was never established.
Who do burglaries happen to?
There are significant differences in the impact that home break ins and burglaries have on various demographic groups:
- A 2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics study reveals that renters are more likely to experience burglaries and home invasions than those who own homes. The highest incidence of break ins typically occur in small, two to four unit apartment buildings. It is assumed that the higher rate is based on the fact that many people come and go from these apartments and burglars can blend in.
- Students are burglary victims more often than other groups. It’s suspected that students are frequent targets because of the desirable electronics they are assumed to own. The elderly are next most likely targets. It is assumed that this group has a number of the prescription drugs popular on the street, or is less capable of stopping the burglary in progress.
- Middle-aged people are least likely to be burglary victims.
- Two racial groups experience the highest victimization rates across all forms of crime – Native Americans and those reporting two or more races.
How do burglaries happen?
While burglaries have declined over the past years, those statistics mean nothing to a traumatized burglary victim. Understanding how burglaries occur can help in prevention efforts:
- Burglaries take much less time than most people assume. According to the FBI, the average time it takes to commit a burglary typically ranges from 90 seconds to 12 minutes.
- Most burglaries are not violent. One study found that actual violence or even the threat “ranged from a low of .9% in rural areas” to “a high of 7.6% in highly urban areas.”
- In 2018, the average dollar loss for a burglary offense was $2,799.
- The most commonly stolen items during burglaries are those that can be used immediately, easily fenced to get cash and carried away without difficulty. Cash tops most burglars’ wish lists. Other items sought include guns, jewelry, state of the art electronics (smart phones, iPads) and drugs.
Burglary statistics state-by-state
The table below provides a good snapshot of how each section of the country and each state reflects the encouraging long term trend of decline in the number of burglaries:
- In 2019, the estimated number of burglaries declined in every region of the country — 13.5% in the Northeast, 10.3% in the Midwest, 9.4% in the West, and 8.4% in the South.
- The overall decline of burglaries for the United States for this period was 9.9%.
- This pattern of decline was similar for all property crimes nationwide which decreased 4.1% when compared with the 2018 estimate.
|State||Population||Burglary rate per 100,000||Yearly burglary rate increase|
|United States||328, 687, 501||340.5||-9.9|
|East North Central||46,992,431||301.4||-12.2|
|West North Central||21,426,573||345.5||-7.0|
|District of Columbia||705,749||261.1||+2.5|
|East South Central||19,176,181||469.6||-10.7|
|West South Central||40,619,450||456.7||-6.2|
The impact of burglary
Burglary and home invasions generally enact a costly toll on society. Despite the positive trends showing that burglaries have steadily decreased over the past several decades, the crime is still the direct cause of more than $3.4 billion in economic damages every year in the United States.
A 2017 British study reminds us that victims of burglary still suffer from severe trauma:
- Twelve percent of citizens in the study who had experienced burglary moved to a new location;
- One out of three victims found it difficult to sleep afterwards;
- Almost one-in-ten people experienced a loss of confidence in all areas of their lives;
- Eight percent of those who had been burglarized were scared to be to be left alone at home; and
- A substantial minority became ill and were required to take anxiety and depression medication.
How burglary will affect your home insurance
Standard homeowners insurance will typically cover you for damage to your home and the loss of stolen personal items, with theft a common covered loss, but there are limitations depending upon the extent of coverage you have purchased:
- Actual Cash Value (ACV) coverage compensates you for the depreciated value of stolen items. A laptop purchased five years ago for $2,000 may today only be valued at $400 according to depreciation tables maintained by insurers.
- If you have a more expensive Replacement Cost Value (RCV) policy, you may be compensated the amount required to buy a replacement laptop at today’s cost.
- Some policies have a hybrid approach and reimburse the ACV immediately while later paying the full RCV amount from receipts evidencing the reasonable cost to replace an item.
- Some carriers require policy limits to be set on certain high value items such as jewelry or rare antiques.
- The amount you set for your deductible will have a big impact on the price you pay for coverage. Talk to your agent about finding the right balancing between your risk of burglary versus overpaying for coverage.
Finally, home insurance rates will typically rise after a burglary. Increases can vary depending upon where you live in the country and whether you are located in a high crime area, and depending on the value of the claim loss. Look to determine if you can minimize these increases with discounts offered, for example, by installing security equipment.
How to prevent burglary
There are many simple steps and precautions that can be taken by homeowners to help reduce the risk burglary. In fact, many of these have already been implemented by many and are certainly a factor in the steady decline of burglaries since 1980:
- When you are away from home, make your residence appear occupied with automatic lights that turn on and off at normal intervals. Leave a car in your driveway if possible.
- Make sure all of your outside locks are in working order. Lock all doors and windows before leaving or retiring for the night. Check that your garage door is closed and locked.
- Take care that you’ve arranged with your post office to hold your mail when you are away. Ask a neighbor to check your front door area to make sure a package hasn’t been delivered when you are away.
- Arrange to have someone tend to your yard and mow your lawn if you are away for a lengthy period.
- Make sure that everyone in your family refrains from sharing any of your travel plans on social media.
- Invest in good exterior lighting. Install motion-sensitive lights in several locations on all sides of your house.
There is good reason to take an extra step and consider investing a bit in your safety:
- There are a wide range of security systems available today that fit most budgets. Do some research and see what best fits your needs.
- You may want a safe for your valuables bolted securely to your floor.
- Have someone look at your entry doors to see how easy it would be to kick them in. You may want to invest in steel doors.