Many factors affect burglary rates, including socioeconomic factors, location and resident security practices. Though crime rates overall have gone down over the past decade, there are still many cities of all sizes that have experienced an uptick in burglaries. It is critical that people everywhere take home security seriously and practice good habits—such as locking up when they leave the house—with absolute consistency.
Here are five cities (listed alphabetically) that have increasing demand for home security protection, plus information about how local law enforcement agencies are addressing the issue.
1. Erie, Pennsylvania
Neighborhoods in East Erie have experienced an increase in home burglaries since 2010. Complaints to the Erie mayor's office have resulted in the city's Coordinator of Community Initiatives asking for increased patrols in that part of the city. While the police department's "saturation patrols" may deter some home burglaries, the police rely on community members themselves to help in catching criminals and have encouraged neighborhood monitoring by formation of neighborhood watch groups.
2. San Antonio, Texas
The city of San Antonio is attempting to fight home burglary in multiple ways. For one thing, the police department's "Safe Unit" offers free home security audits by trained police officers, who go over specific vulnerabilities with homeowners and give suggestions as to how to address them. In some cases, simple measures—such as using longer screws to attach door strike plates to door frames—can make a big difference. The police department is also now using Leads Online, software designed to track stolen property that is pawned. They recommend everyone record serial numbers of electronics and other commonly pawned items.
3. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Sioux Falls is battling property crimes with high-tech methods. The police department now has a "Crime Reports" program that people can use on their personal computers or smartphones to help them follow specific crimes and look at local crime data maps to see how different parts of the city are affected. It's similar to a visual version of listening to a police scanner. Residents can also sign up to receive email alerts when crimes are committed in their neighborhoods. The idea is that if a resident sees unusual activity in their neighborhood, they can check the crime map and determine if there is a pattern of criminal activity. The police department hopes this will encourage more people to report suspicious activity.
4. Spokane, Washington
In mid-2011, the Spokane Police Department eliminated its property crimes division as a result of budget cuts. While property crimes have not gone up since then, residents who are victims of property crimes have been frustrated with police response. In many cases, burglary reports are added to the bottom of a long list of crimes being investigated as police are able. As a result, Spokane residents are concentrating on preventing burglaries because police cannot investigate as quickly as before. Nationwide, only around 15% of burglary cases are ever solved, so prevention is important throughout the United States.
5. Wichita, Kansas
Wichita's property crime rate is estimated to be 94% higher than the state average. The police department in Wichita posts crime reports online daily, giving residents a real-time "snapshot" of local crime. This free information protects the identity of the victims, but offers basic information about when, where and what kinds of crimes occur in the city. The city also uses its Facebook page to engage residents and to post pictures of suspects. Police have received many solid leads through social media, and its Facebook page has far exceeded expectations.
Wherever you live, preventing burglary is preferable to dealing with it after it occurs. Everyone should understand their risks and how to reduce them. They should use physical security measures, such as high-quality locks, and they should consider using a monitored home security system. Homes without security systems are two times more likely to have a break-in* than homes with them. It may be worthwhile to check with your local police department to find out if they offer free home security audits so that you can address your home's biggest vulnerabilities first.
*Burglar Alarms and the Choice Behavior of Burglars: A Suburban Phenomenon; 1993; George F. Rengert; Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University.