It might seem like those alarm yard signs are screaming “Valuables Inside!” but the research paints a slightly different picture. To better understand the mindset behind burglary, researchers at the University of North Carolina Charlotte interviewed 422 incarcerated burglars from three states in 2012. Some key findings from their survey:
- Within a broad set of potential target hardening deterrents, alarms and outdoor cameras and other surveillance equipment were considered by a majority of burglars.
- About 60% of the burglars indicated that the presence of an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target altogether. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars that were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary.
- Most burglars would try to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary. Among those that determined that an alarm was present after initiating a burglary, about half would discontinue the attempt.
But, if we’re thinking about the quick in-and-out cognitive script that burglars often stick to, it makes sense that the extra hurdle of the alarm is more of a deterrent. Given that robbery is often a crime of opportunity, it makes more sense for the burglar to opt for another location that provides easier access (I.e., no alarms on entry points) and an easier escape (I.e., no automatic calling of police). Does this mean that those yard signs are kryptonite to every single burglar? Of course not. Vigilance will always be key!