The latest edition of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, 2008 Crime in the United States published in September, offered the latest snapshot of the crime level in the U.S. While the numbers for violent crimes made some modest declines, the statistics on burglary illustrated more of a roller coaster effect.
The national rate for burglary in 2008 was 730.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total burglaries were 2,222,196, up 2 percent from 2007 and up 3.6 percent over the five-year span dating back to 2004. The news was especially discouraging if you’re a homeowner, landlord or renter. Residences took a significant hit in 2008, burgled 1,562,976 times, up 5.4 percent from 2007 levels, and accounted for 70.3 percent of all burglary offenses.
Interestingly, the largest increase in residential burglaries was those that occurred during the day. Daytime burglaries of residences jumped 8.3 percent, up to 805,193 from 738,654 in 2007. In comparison, residences were burglarized 437,007 times at night in 2008, an increase of just 3.5 percent from 2007.
“People aren’t home during the day,” said James Alan Fox, Lipman professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, Boston, explaining the higher number of burglaries during the daylight hours. “You have single parents or two-career households; mom and dad are at work, the kids are at school and nobody’s home.
“During the day, it may be easier to see, but it’s also easier for the burglar to identify a target. No car in the driveway; ring the doorbell and no one answers. They may even have a phone number and try to call,” Fox added. “If they get the answering machine that says no one’s available, their first thought isn’t going to be that someone might just be in the bathroom.”
Fox also suggested that people might not set the alarm during the day. He said many are more likely to activate an alarm at night to prevent burglary or an attack, but in the daytime they may be too rushed or too indifferent to activate it.
Not all of the news from the report was bad, however. Burglaries of nonresidential buildings such as stores and offices fell 5.9 percent from 2007 to 2008. Daytime incidents were down 2 percent, while nighttime burglaries fell 6 percent; the five-year trend in nighttime burglaries fell more than 10 percent.
“Security measures in a commercial establishment may seem better than what people have in their homes, as perceived by the burglar,” Fox said. “It may be that the commercial establishment has better resources, or may put greater resources into it â€” whether it be a guard service or an alarm system â€” than a private residence does.” Fox added that, as the economy has struggled, residents may have chosen to cut back on their alarm systems.
As for stolen property, not surprisingly, locally stolen motor vehicles topped the list. Jewelry and precious metals were next (excluding miscellaneous items at almost $3.8 billion) at $1.5 billion stolen, 4.3 percent recovered; followed by currency at nearly $1.2 billion stolen, 3.5 percent recovered.
The value of other common goods stolen: electronics â€” televisions, stereos, etc. â€” office equipment, and household goods totaled almost $2.2 billion.