Convicted Burglars Confirm Value of Alarms, Other Deterrents

AIREF-Funded University Study Provides Remarkable Insight
into Habits and Methods of Intruders


Irving, Texas (May 10, 2013) — Groundbreaking university research funded by the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) provides a fascinating 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.


“This study broadens our understanding of burglars, their motivations and their techniques,” Kuhns said. “It also helps us to understand gender differences in offending motivations and techniques. By asking the burglars what motivates and what deters them, we believe this research can help people better understand how to protect themselves against these crimes and help law enforcement more effectively respond.”


In particular, 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.


The study is the latest in a series of research and education efforts funded by AIREF, which is the tax-exempt foundation that serves as the research arm for the electronic security industry with support from the Electronic Security Association (ESA). Through research and education, AIREF provides relevant information for use by public safety officials, consumers and the industry to make communities safer.


AIREF has a positive impact on our industry by funding and encouraging research that helps public safety officials and consumers, especially when the information is used to influence policy decisions,” said AIREF Chair John Jennings, who also is CEO at Safeguard Security in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Law enforcement officials and electronic security professionals are united in their goal to deter and apprehend burglars nationwide, and this latest research is an exciting step toward achieving that mission.”


Other notable findings for industry professionals 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.




The Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation (AIREF) is a tax-exempt foundation serving as the research arm of the electronic security industry and is supported by the Electronic Security Association (ESA). Through research and education, AIREF provides relevant information used by public safety officials, consumers and the industry to make communities across the nation safer. More information is available at



Established in 1948, the Electronic Security Association (ESA) is the largest trade association representing the electronic life safety and security industry. Member companies install, integrate and monitor intrusion and fire detection, video surveillance and electronic access control systems for commercial, residential, industrial and governmental clients. In cooperation with an alliance of chapter associations, ESA provides technical and management training, government advocacy and delivers information, advice, tools, and services that members use to grow their businesses and prosper. ESA may be reached at (888) 447-1689 or on the Web at