Burglary is a crime that violates the sense of safety and security that everyone deserves in their own home. Understanding when burglars are most likely to break in can help homeowners take preventative measures and be extra vigilant during high-risk times.
When are most burglaries committed?
Research shows that most home burglaries occur during the daytime when homeowners are away at work or running errands. According to FBI statistics, nearly 60% of burglaries happen during the day between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Only about 1/3 of break-ins occur at night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Here is a breakdown of the average timing of burglaries:
- 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. – 13%
- 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 23%
- 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. – 22%
- 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. – 20%
- 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. – 12%
- 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. – 6%
- 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. – 4%
The most common window for break-ins is between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when many people are at work or running errands during the day. Burglars take advantage of homes sitting empty with fewer neighbors around to notice suspicious activity.
Weekday vs Weekend Burglaries
In addition to time of day, the day of the week also impacts burglary patterns. During the week, most break-ins coincide with work hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. On weekends, burglaries are more spread throughout the day with fewer following a consistent timeline.
Overall, significantly more burglaries happen during the workweek compared to weekends. According to a report by ADT home security company, burglary rates were:
- Mondays: 15%
- Tuesdays: 15%
- Wednesdays: 14%
- Thursdays: 15%
- Fridays: 14%
- Saturdays: 13%
- Sundays: 14%
Monday through Friday see the highest chance of burglaries. Thursdays and Fridays are especially risky days right before the weekend when households are likely stocked with new purchases and payday cash.
Seasonal Trends in Burglaries
Burglary rates also fluctuate depending on the time of year:
- Summer – peaks in June, July and August when more people travel for vacations
- Back-to-School Season – rises in September when school starts and homes are empty during the day
- Holiday Season – increases around Thanksgiving and Christmas when homes have gifts and new purchases
- Cold Winter Months – declines in January and February when fewer people travel and burglars face poor weather
The most burglaries happen during the summer months when homeowners take vacations and leave their properties unattended. The holiday shopping season in late November and December is another spike when burglars hope to steal gifts and valuables purchased for the holidays.
How do burglars choose a house to target?
For a burglar, not all homes are created equal. They selectively seek out houses where they can get in and out quickly and undetected. Here are some factors criminals look for when deciding which house to break into:
Burglars scope out neighborhoods and look for signals a house is empty. Some telltale signs include:
- Piled up mail and newspapers
- Yard overdue for mowing
- No cars in the driveway
- Lights off after dark for multiple nights
- Closed blinds/curtains at all times
- No activity coming from the house
Before breaking in, burglars may knock on the front door to check if anyone is home. Houses that clearly look unoccupied are ideal targets.
Burglars tend to prefer homes set back from the street with fewer neighbors nearby. Homes with fencing or vegetation blocking views give them added privacy to enter and exit unnoticed. Corner lots, cul-de-sacs and houses at the end of streets surrounded by empty lots offer prime seclusion.
Ease of entry
Burglars look for unlocked doors and windows that provide easy access. Flimsy door and window locks can often be forced open quickly and quietly. Homes with ladders, crates or trees near second-story windows offer burglars an easy climbing path inside.
Valuables in plain sight
A house filled with visible high-end electronics, expensive furnishings and artwork signals valuables worth stealing. Burglars may peer through front windows to peruse visible possessions and determine worthwhile targets.
No alarm system
Homes without a visible security system or alarm company yard sign tend to be more desirable targets. With no visible alarm system, burglars do not have to worry about triggering sirens and attracting attention.
Certain neighborhoods and regions see higher rates of burglaries. Urban areas tend to have more burglaries than rural areas. Within cities, burglars target areas with older homes often lacking modern security measures.
How do burglars break into homes?
Gaining entry into a home is a burglar’s top priority. Here are the most common entry methods criminals use:
Shattering a rear or side window out of sight from the street is a quick way inside for burglars. They often break a small hole in the glass and reach through to unlock windows and sliding glass doors.
Lock picking tools can spring simple pin and tumbler locks on doors and windows. Burglars insert thin pieces of metal into the lock mechanism and apply tension until they align the internal pins to unlock it.
Prying Open Windows and Doors
Crowbars and screwdrivers can pry up locked windows and split open door frames. Burglars look for older windows and doors that are rotted or warped and require less force to push open.
Breaking Door Glass
Wrapping a shirt around their arm, burglars can punch through front or back door side windows to reach inside and unlock the door. Breaking glass nearby can also help them reach through to unlock windows.
Finding Unlocked Entry Points
Many burglars first check for unlocked windows and doors before attempting forceful entry. Surprisingly, a high number of break-ins occur through unlocked first floor windows and doors.
Do burglars target certain valuables?
Once inside homes, burglars selectively target small expensive items easy to resell for cash. Here are some of the valuables most coveted by burglars:
- Small electronics – phones, tablets, laptops
- Precious metals – gold, silver
- Designer clothes and handbags
- Prescription drugs
Cash, jewelry, electronics and firearms commonly top burglars’ wish lists. Their portability makes them easy to steal and hard to recover. Designer goods, artwork and precious metals also fetch high resale prices from thieves.
Which rooms do burglars target inside homes?
Once inside, burglars head straight to the rooms most likely to contain valuables to steal. Here are the top rooms targeted inside homes:
As the largest bedroom, the master often contains fine jewelry, cash and prescription drugs inside dressers and nightstands. Large walk-in closets may also hold sought-after designer clothing and accessories.
Home offices contain computers, tablets, other electronics and personal information that burglars find lucrative. Desks, cabinets and bookshelves are hot spots to uncover small expensive items.
Living and Family Rooms
Living areas filled with entertainment centers and electronics attract burglars seeking televisions, game consoles, speakers and other systems to steal. Coffee tables and end tables are checked for car keys, wallets and other valuables.
Kitchens contain handbags, wallets and car keys that homeowners drop when carrying in groceries. Burglars check countertops, tables and pantries where these items tend to accumulate.
Medicine cabinets contain prescription drugs that some burglars specifically target to steal. Expensive cosmetics and hair appliances may also entice female burglars.
What times are homeowners most likely to be home?
In addition to targeting times when homes are empty, burglars also avoid the times homeowners are most likely to be present. Here are periods with the highest home occupancy that burglars tend to avoid:
- Early mornings before 9 a.m.
- Late afternoons after 5 p.m.
- Evenings after dinner around 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
- Overnight hours after 10 p.m.
- Weekends when not running errands
Mornings, evenings and late nights see peak home occupancy from homeowners getting ready for work, returning home, eating dinner, and getting ready for bed. Weekends find more people staying home and off work.
How long do burglars spend inside homes?
Once inside, burglars want to grab valuables and flee quickly before getting caught. Here are average durations for their time inside homes:
- Planned burglary – 8 to 12 minutes
- Spontaneous burglary – under 5 minutes
In planned break-ins with homes staked out in advance, burglars often extend their stay to between 8 and 12 minutes ransacking rooms. With spontaneous daytime burglaries, they typically spend fewer than 5 minutes rushing to grab nearby valuables.
What times do homeowners catch burglars in the act?
While less common, some burglaries are interrupted by homeowners returning home. Here are the time periods when burglars are most likely to get caught red-handed:
- Midday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Kids home for lunch break
- Mid-afternoon 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Parents return home from work
- Evenings 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. – Families home preparing dinner
- Late evenings 10 p.m. to midnight – Homeowners getting ready for bed
Despite targeting daytime hours with lower occupancy, interruptions spike around typical workday breaks, dinner times and bedtimes when homeowners unexpectedly return.
Actions homeowners take when catching burglars
Encountering a burglar can be a terrifying experience. However, homeowners do have options when confronting an intruder in the act. Common reactions include:
- Yelling at the intruder to leave
- Threatening to call police
- Immediately calling 911
- Arming themselves with a weapon
- Hiding and waiting for police
- Fleeing the home for safety
While some may arm themselves or yell at the intruder, directly confronting a burglar can be extremely dangerous. Many experts advise hiding, fleeing the home or immediately calling 911 instead of engaging.
Preventative measures against break-ins
Knowing peak burglary times can guide homeowners on extra precautions. Here are some tips to secure homes against break-ins:
Lock all doors and windows
Double checking locks should become part of a daily routine. Approximately 34% of break-ins occur through unlocked entry points.
Install secure deadbolt locks
Upgrade locks to high-quality deadbolts with reinforced strike plates to resist jimmying attempts.
Secure sliding doors and windows
Insert pins or cut a broom handle to wedge into sliding door and window tracks to prevent lifting open.
Install motion sensor lights
Strategically place motion lights to illuminate darkened areas and alert homeowners to activity.
Trim bushes and trees
Trim back vegetation blocking views of doors and windows. Eliminate overgrown climbing aids burglars can use.
Invest in a home security system
Monitored systems with door and window sensors deter break-ins and alert homeowners and authorities to intruders.
Use lamp timers during vacations
Use electric timers to automate interior and exterior lighting on varying schedules to mimic occupancy.
Stop mail and newspaper delivery
Halt deliveries or ask a neighbor to pick them up to prevent pile-ups signaling an empty house.
Park a car in the driveway
Make the home appear occupied by keeping a vehicle parked in front.
Understanding burglars’ tactics and schedules helps homeowners remain vigilant during peak risks times. While break-ins can happen any time of day, the majority occur on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when homes are unoccupied. Implementing targeted security measures can effectively deter burglars and prevent becoming the next victim.