Residential burglary is one of the most common felony crimes in the US, with about 1.1 million incidents reported per year. That works out to more than 2 burglaries per minute, every day of the year. It’s also an expensive crime: FBI data shows that the average loss in a residential burglary is about $2,800. That works out to over $3 billion of losses every year, not including the psychological toll it takes on the victims.
It’s also expensive for law enforcement agencies. Recent studies at two large US agencies (San Diego and Cleveland) show that the average time spent per burglary incident was one hour of officer time and ten hours of detective time. That’s 11 hours of scarce resources dedicated to investigating a crime that will only rarely be solved.
That’s right, burglary is one crime that an offender is highly likely to get away with. Clearance rates for burglaries have remained remarkably constant over the last 50 years, hovering between 12 to 14 percent. Put another way, only one in every eight reported burglaries is expected to result in an arrest. When you consider that only half of all burglaries are estimated to go unreported, the actual chances for a burglar getting caught are about one in sixteen.
This leads to the obvious conclusion that the best way to deal with burglaries is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. As a law enforcement agency, you probably already offer home security tips to your community: lock your doors, add security cameras, install alarms, keep an eye out for your neighbors.
Patrol officers have a major role to play in preventing burglaries as well. It has been well documented across multiple countries, and cities large and small, that most burglars will develop predictable patterns of behavior. This is known as the “repeat/near-repeat theory of victimization” in criminology. Briefly stated, criminals – like the rest of us – are likely to develop habits over time. If they discover a neighborhood where they can successfully break into houses with minimal perceived risk, they are likely to return to that neighborhood again and again, until the risk becomes elevated or they discover a location with higher rewards.
The way to break that pattern of behavior, then, is to find a way to anticipate it and deter the burglary from occurring in the first place. If the offender is in his targeted neighborhood and sees patrol officers cruising through at the same time, his perception of the risk has just gone up. He doesn’t want to be that one-of-sixteen burglars who get caught! Can you eliminate all of your burglaries altogether? Probably not. However, by increasing the risk over and over again through proactive patrol, you will see your burglary rates drop significantly over time.
But how do your officers know where and when to patrol? The most common current practice in most departments is to put dots on a map or create heatmaps of known recent burglary locations and patrol where the dots are most dense.
There are a couple of problems with that approach. First of all, it doesn’t isolate crimes by time of day or day of week. It might be that a burglar is operating in a specific neighborhood during weekdays in the early afternoon. Having your officers patrol that neighborhood at night or on weekends is unlikely to have any deterrent effect. The second problem is that it’s very labor-intensive and easy to drown in data. If your jurisdiction is busy with many different concurrent crime types it can be difficult to isolate and focus on just a single event type, map it out, analyze dates and times, and discover the patterns by location and time.
That’s where Geolitica comes in. Our machine learning platform analyzes your historical and current crime data to find behavioral patterns in the data. For any targeted crime type, we can pick up the different patterns by season of the year, day of week, and time of day – for every location in your jurisdiction. We then uniquely identify the highest-risk locations for each shift, day, and patrol area, down to the micro level of a 500x500-foot box. Officers provide a deterrent effect by just dropping into these locations from time to time throughout their shifts.
Geolitica gives your officers the technological edge to throw burglars off their game.