Conventional wisdom has long suggested that the majority of burglaries take place during the daylight hours. As the thinking goes, burglars target vacant homes left empty when parents go to work and kids are off at school. Vacant homes are better targets because they represent a lower chance of getting caught.
Crime statistics bear this out to a point. But are things changing? Is it possible that evening and overnight burglaries are on the rise? According to the statistics, yes. Burglars are more frequently targeting both homes and businesses during what have long been considered off hours.
The Numbers Are Changing
Safewise cites 2016 statistics demonstrating that residential burglaries occur most frequently between noon and 4 PM. Those statistics were backed up by additional data in 2018 showing that 51% of all residential burglaries occur during the daylight hours.
However, Safewise conducted their own consumer survey with surprising results. Some 58% of the respondents claimed to have been victimized by a burglary occurring during the evening or overnight hours. Just 33% of the respondents said they were burglarized during the day. So what’s going on here?
Crimes of Opportunity
The first thing to understand is that burglaries are crimes of opportunity. In other words, the most successful burglars know how to take advantage of the easiest opportunities. For instance, consider an overnight burglary at a Dallas 7-Eleven convenience store. The burglary took place in early April 2020.
You might not expect a well-lit convenience store to be a target for burglars on the prowl in the middle of the night. After all, it’s pretty easy for anyone driving by to observe burglars breaking in. But consider the circumstances.
Like most other communities, Dallas was under lockdown from mid-March through the middle of May. People who would otherwise have been out working or playing when the burglary occurred were safe at home. That means a lot less traffic in the area where the burglary occurred.
A burglar’s biggest fear is being discovered in the act. That is why burglars tend to target vacant structures in quiet neighborhoods. During a typical work week, many American neighborhoods are virtually empty, so burglarizing homes in the middle of the day makes a lot of sense.
Burglars that prefer to target businesses are more likely to operate at night. The Dallas burglary was a textbook case. The burglars waited for the right time when local traffic was minimized. And they got away with it. Police say the burglars stole roughly $200 worth of cigarettes
Later Residential Burglaries
Common sense explains why burglars would hit a 7-Eleven store at 1:30 in the morning during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet it is a little unsettling to consider that residential burglaries during the evening and overnight hours could be on the rise.
Burglars, by and large, still aren’t looking for occupied homes to target. Coronavirus or not, they have no desire to encounter property owners in the midst of doing what they do. Vacant is still better. So perhaps it’s not enough just to look at the numbers of burglaries that take place in the evening and overnight. Maybe we need to look at the homes and those who live in them.
We do not have any specific numbers to look at from Dallas. But let us assume that it has its fair share of essential workers who work in B and C shifts. ICU doctors and nurses immediately come to mind. So do police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and so forth.
All of those essential workers were at risk of burglary even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. That is pretty clear. But the pandemic has led to quieter neighborhoods because people just aren’t going out as frequently as they used to.
The Dallas 7-Eleven was more prone to burglary because traffic was down. But that means traffic in residential neighborhoods was down as well. Our neighborhoods get eerily quiet once the sun goes down. Moreover, people are more likely to be sleeping longer hours because there is less to do.
All of these factors combine to make neighborhoods quieter. And when neighborhoods are quieter, people whose homes are vacant during the overnight hours are more likely to be victimized by burglars looking for easy opportunities.
Lighting and Surveillance
Vivint Smart Home, a nationwide provider of home security and smart home equipment, explains that lighting and surveillance are two effective tools for keeping burglars at bay. Both become more essential once the sun goes down.
Remember that burglars choose vacant structures to reduce the risks of being caught. When you are talking evening and overnight burglaries, the criminals have the lack of light working in their favor. Property owners can mitigate that advantage with good lighting.
As a homeowner, think about the most likely entry points for burglars targeting your property. The front door is a given. But what about the back of the house? Do you have a sliding glass patio door or a rear door accessing the kitchen or family room? Perhaps you have a third door that provides access to the basement.
These back entrances might be more attractive at night because of the lack of light in your backyard. A few motion sensitive lights mounted at those entry points can stop a burglar in his/her tracks.
As far as surveillance is concerned, it is all about placing a few cameras at key locations. Vivint recommend starting with a camera pointed at the front door. Another good option is a video doorbell. It does the same job with the added benefit of being able to communicate with someone at the door via a smartphone.
Additional cameras providing coverage of other vulnerable areas are equally helpful. And of course, placing cameras inside is a good idea as well. The more cameras deployed, the better the surveillance net.
Are evening and overnight burglaries on the rise? The statistics seem to suggest as much. The only remaining question is what we are going to do about it.