University research funded by the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) provides a look into the mind of a burglar by examining the behaviors of convicted offenders in three states.

The 64-page survey, “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective,” was conducted by Dr. Joseph B. Kuhns of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It uses feedback from 422 incarcerated male and female burglars selected at random from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio to shed light on their decision-making processes, target-selection strategies, techniques, gender differences, and effectiveness of deterrence factors.

The study highlights the value of alarms, outdoor cameras and other surveillance equipment in preventing burglaries. Approximately 83 percent of the offenders said they would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary and 60 percent said they would seek an alternative target.

Even during impulsive, unplanned burglaries, more than half of the intruders said they would discontinue the burglary if they discovered an alarm. Another 31 percent said they would consider discontinuing the burglary, while only 13 percent said they would continue regardless.

Other findings include:

  • Nearly 60 percent of the burglars said they would consider the presence of cameras or other surveillance equipment when selecting a target, and more than 40 percent said that would be a factor in prompting them to choose another target.
  • About half of the respondents reported engaging in residential burglary, while 31 percent said they preferred commercial targets.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the respondents indicated their top reason for committing burglaries was related to the need to acquire drugs (51 percent) or money (37 percent), which was often used to support drug habits.
  • Slightly less than a third of the offenders reported that they collected information about a potential target prior to initiating a burglary attempt, suggesting that most burglars are impulsive to some degree. About 12 percent indicated that they typically planned the burglary, 41 percent suggested it was most often a “spur of the moment” event/offense, and the other 37 percent reported that it varied.
  • Male burglars often plan their burglaries more deliberately and carefully, and were more likely to gather intelligence about a potential target ahead of time. Female burglars appear to be more impulsive overall, engaging in “spur-of-the-moment” burglaries.

For more information and to read the study in its entirety, go to