Home burglaries during the holidays: Increase, decrease – or who knows?
There is a longstanding belief that all types of crime, including home burglaries and other residential affronts, increase during the holidays.
But how valid is this belief? The short answer is, it depends on who you ask or which source you choose to cite. After an extensive search of the topic on Google and reading a wide variety of articles, it still remains an open question – and a source of great mystery to homeowners. It’s my guess that there is more agreement on the existence of Santa Claus than there is on the topic of holiday crime.
For our purposes, let’s focus solely on residential burglaries.
A 2013 article in CNNMoney claims that, according to the FBI, December is the peak month for burglaries as people leave homes unattended during the holidays.
The article goes on to say that there were 21,900 burglaries in California in December 2011 – the latest statistics available – which is 18% more than the average month.
Ok, that’s relatively straightforward. But the story continues and the article says that in the US, burglaries peak during the summer vacations, though December is close behind. So which is worse in the US – December or summer? Or, as the article implies, is it a regional thing?
Now let’s shift to a 2014 article in the Real Estate section of the Boston Globe. The title, It’s Not Clear Home Break-Ins Happen More Often During the Holidays, gives a strong hint as to the ambiguity of the premise. The article states that based on statistics from the past few years, the answer about whether holiday crime sprees are myths or justifiable fears kind of depends.
The article’s premise is described in great detail – much greater than there is room for here. And to be fair, it does just focus on the US state of Massachusetts. I encourage you to check it out, as the methodology is quite interesting but the bottom line is, as the author suggests, there is no definitive way to say that the holidays brings an increase in home burglaries – or any other crime for that matter.
Let’s move on to an article on Vice.com from December 2015. The article focuses on an interview with Dr. Janet Lauritsen, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, who has extensively researched seasonal crime patterns. A report she co-authored for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2014 found that property crimes were actually at their lowest during winter in the US, which is also the holiday season,—apparently contradicting the annual bevy of bulletins from media outlets and police departments. In fact, a highlight from the report states that while seasonal patterns do exist in household larceny and burglary victimisation rates, rates of these household crimes tend to be higher in the summer than during other seasons of the year.
“When you try to spread crime reports across months, you’re spreading the data thinner than you normally would. Even though it’s a large sample, because victimisation is a statistically rare event, you can sometimes see spikes in data that don’t really mean anything so you have to be cautious in interpreting monthly data,” says Janet.
A very recent (September 2017) article in criminaljusticedegreesguide.com presents a point that is somewhat peripheral to this discussion but still quite revealing. The article claims that home burglary is especially bad during the holidays but it actually ranks seventh on the list of top ten holiday crimes (identity theft, shoplifting and robbery occupy the top three spots). So while their claim is that there is a spike in home burglaries during the holidays (a claim that, incidentally, they don’t back up with any statistical proof), it’s far down on the list of the crimes we should be really worried about.
What’s the takeaway from all this? In my estimation, it’s simple. There are all kinds of studies and reports claiming that home burglaries increase during the holiday season but there are an equal number claiming the opposite. More importantly, there are a vast number of investigations that have proven inconclusive, unable to offer a definitive judgment one way or another.
As a security industry professional, my advice is equally simple; get the most effective security system that you can find to ensure that your home, your property and your family are protected year-round. What’s more, make sure it has video verification capabilities, ensuring that you’ll always have eyes on your home and business whenever you’re away.
Don’t worry about what season or holiday it is; approach each day as if it is another opportunity for a burglary to take place and make sure that your security system – such as Home8’s DIY-MIY video-verified security system powered by the Mivatek platform – works equally diligently 365 days a year.