How likely is it that your house will be targeted by thieves?  Joseph Kuhns is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina, and he and his team interviewed over 400 convicted burglars, in prison, to find out why they choose one house over another. Here are their findings:

  • First: A huge deciding factor is if you live in a high-traffic area, with lots of neighbors and pedestrians. That usually scares off burglars, since there are more pairs of eyes watching. But if you live close to a highway, or busy street, but the street your house is on is relatively quiet, it’ll attract burglars, because no one will spot them, and they can make a quick getaway.

  • Then, burglars usually skip houses that look secure. Like they have alarm signs on the lawn and windows, outdoor cameras, and dogs. All those elements dramatically boost their odds of getting caught. They’re looking for easier, low-drama houses instead.  

  • And finally, most burglars avoid houses with a working alarm system. A survey found that 60-percent of criminals would pick another house if they knew the alarm worked pre-break in, like they could see it blinking through the window, or could hear it beeping when you left the house. And if they discovered the alarm worked mid-break in, 87-percent of criminals would high-tail it out of there. 

So what’s the main motive for burglars? Drugs. Half the criminals interviewed said they committed burglaries to get drugs that may be inside the house, like prescriptions, and 37-percent said they robbed houses for money to support a drug habit. Only one of over 400 convicted burglars interviewed said he was trying to steal a gun.

And their favorite way to get into your house? An open window or door. Only one in eight said they picked locks or forcibly broke in.