Crime statistics on a state level can be informative, but they can become even more eyeopening when they are examined in context.
The FBI released its 2011 report titled Crime in the United States in October 2012, with statistics gathered by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.* The entire report includes numerous spreadsheets listing crime statistics by offense and by region, as well as demographic arrest data and data on police employee numbers.
By searching through these spreadsheets, it is possible to determine which states had the highest burglary rates for 2011 (the latest year for which statistics are currently available).** Burglary rates by state are contained in Table 4, which can be downloaded by clicking "Data Tables" on the FBI's page of downloadable spreadsheets.
States with the Highest Burglary Rates
While there are several individual cities within the U.S. that have higher burglary rates, when burglary is considered on a statewide basis, the 5 states with the highest burglary rates per 100,000 residents are:
Arkansas: 1,173.3 per 100,000
North Carolina: 1,099.2 per 100,000
Alabama: 1,064.2 per 100,000
Mississippi: 1,037.7 per 100,000
New Mexico: 1,028.9 per 100,000
Reasons for high crime rates are difficult to pin down. While crime rates overall have declined since the mid-1990s, when the economy was growing rapidly, the decline persisted even when the 2008 recession hit. Factors that are associated with higher overall crime rates (including violent crime rates) include drug use and decreased economic opportunities, yet it's hard to consistently find lock-step correlations between these factors and crime rates.
The Importance of Home Security Awareness
Regardless of what causes the high burglary rates in the five states listed above, residents should make a particular effort to address home security on multiple levels. The core level of good home security is awareness. If you are not sure how secure your home is, your local law enforcement office may offer free security audits in which an officer surveys your home and points out vulnerabilities in its security. If this service is not available where you live, you can learn to do this type of survey yourself. Consider watching online videos like this 10-minute home security audit primer by Corporal Alan Wilkett of the Pasco County, Florida, Sheriff's Office.
Physical Home Security Measures
Address your home's physical security vulnerabilities by upgrading locks, reinforcing lock strike plates and ensuring that all window locks work properly. Keep your garage closed and locked, and put padlocks on all outdoor storage sheds and gates. Never leave tools or ladders out in the open, because these can make a burglar's job easier. Make sure everyone in the household understands the importance of locking the house up when it's going to be empty and checking all locks before bedtime.
Monitored Home Security Systems
A monitored home security system adds another layer of security to your home. Intruders are not only greeted with a piercing alarm, but the monitoring company is also notified within seconds, and emergency responders can be summoned by the monitoring center. When used along with good physical security measures, a monitored home security system is one of the best ways to help protect your home and family.
Remember: even if you live in an area with fairly low crime, you could still be the victim of a burglary. Good home security practices are fairly easy habits to get into, and could make the difference between a burglar trying to get into your home or a burglar realizing he's up against a formidable challenge and better off going elsewhere.