U.S. Burglary Statistics: 8 Takeaways from the Latest Data

The results are in for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s 2018 Crime in the United States report, and it’s a mixed bag, depending on where you live but a marked decrease in home burglaries was once again established. 

In 2018, there was one burglary every 26.2 seconds in the U.S. with property crimes happening every 4.4 seconds. These burglaries were a part of the estimated 7.2 million property crimes in the nation, incurring about $16.4 billion in collective losses. While an impressive sum, this is a marked decrease from recent years with a 6.3% decrease from 2017 and a whopping 22.9% decrease from 2009 estimates.

“The FBI 2018 burglary crime statistics continue the long 5-year downward trend,” observes Nora V. Demleitner, Professor of Law for Washington and Lee University in Virginia. “The news is especially good for private residences where the drops have been substantial, including in the feared at-night burglary category. The trend on non-residential businesses has been less straight, but 2018 shows a drop there, too. For burglars, non-residential buildings prove more lucrative on average.” 

Overview of key statistics

FBI UCR 2018 Burglary Statistics

Total crimes
Changes from 2018
Percentage of property crimes
Estimated property loss
Estimated property loss per person
1,230,149
-11.9%
17.1%
$3.4 billion
$2,799

Burglaries are a form of property crime, sharing its classification with other crimes such as larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. While larceny-theft accounted for 72.5% of all 2018 property crimes, burglary accounted for 17.1% and motor vehicle theft for 10.4%.

Of 2018 burglaries, crimes are categorized according to the following:

  • 56.7% involving forcible entry
  • 36.7%  were unlawful entries
  • 6.6% were attempted forcible entry.

Of the burglaries reported, more than 65% occurred within residential properties.


Decrease in Property Crimes

According to the UCR Program, there are three subcategories for burglary: forcible entry, unlawful entry where no force is used, and attempted forcible entry.

2018 brought an estimated 1,230,149 burglaries, down 11.9% from the year before. That is 28.2% less than 2014 numbers and more than 44% less than 2009 estimates. 

“Burglary has been decreasing at a record amount for decades, per the FBI and the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics,” explains Leonard A. Sipes, Jr., former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Clearinghouse and the former Director of Information Services for the National Crime Prevention Council. “This finding includes all property crime, with the possible exception of auto theft.”

Nowhere is that more prominent than in the South.


Burglaries Are More Prominent in the South

The South accounts for 42.2% of the country’s property crime.  Additionally, the South has the most violent crimes and murders in the country, with 40.5% and 46.2%, respectively. 

Region
Population
Burglary
Percentage of total property crime
Northeast
17.2%
8.8.%
11.2%
Midwest
20.9%
19.2%
19.1%
South
38.1%
44.6%
42.2%
West
23.8%
27.4%
27.5%
U.S. total
100.0%
100.0%
100%

The South has the largest population in the nation, so it’s not a huge surprise that it tops all categories in property crime. It has more than double the amount of residents that you find in the Northeast, accounting for the major increases between the two regions. 

The South holds many of the country’s poorest states, creating a perfect breeding ground for burglary and theft. The region does have a long association with violence. More residents here believe in capital punishment, and studies show that Southern men are more prone to physical violence as a means of solving conflict in what researchers call “a culture of honor.”

It’s no surprise why the South consistently ranks the highest in the FBI’s UCRs each year. 


Less Burglaries but not in Cities 

2018 brought a total estimated rate of property crime of 2,199.5 per 100,000 residents. This is down 6.9% from 2017, 14.6% less than 2014 and more than 27% less than 2009 data. 

More specifically, burglaries experienced a decrease across all types of counties and areas.

Changes in Estimated Burglaries from 2017-2018

Forcible Entry, Percentage change 2017-2018
Unlawful Entry, Percentage change 2017-2018
Attempted Forcible Entry, Percentage change 2017-2018
Metropolitan Counties
-15.1%
-13.0%
-10.3%
Non-Metropolitan Counties
-14.8%
-12.7%
-13.7%
Suburban Areas
-15.0%
-14.1%
-11.3%

Burglary numbers are surprisingly low when you consider high-population states like New York, Texas, Arizona and Illinois. Despite millions of residents, these states fail to surpass even 20,000 burglaries each year. That makes for even safer communities.

City
Population
Number of Burglaries
New York, NY
8.5 million
10,837
Houston, TX
2.3 million
16,317
San Antonio, TX
1.5 million
9,118
Phoenix, AZ
1.6 million
10,479
Chicago, IL
2.7
11,686

Suburban Areas Had More Decrease

Fewer inhabitants, more families and more stable incomes are all reasons why suburban areas can be much quieter than metropolitan areas when it comes to burglaries.

The FBI considers suburban areas to be those Metropolitan Statistical Areas with fewer than 50,000 residents. These areas were shown to experience fewer burglaries than in other areas.

Population group
Burglaries from 2018-2019
1,000,000 and over
-7.6%
500,000-999,999
-8.2%
250,000-499,999
-9.1%
100,000-249,999
-12.6%
50,000-99,999
-10.7%
25,000-49,999
-10.8%
10,000-24,999
-15.0%
Under 10,000
-14.1%

This could be for a few reasons. There are fewer inhabitants, so it is harder for criminals to hide in plain sight. With more families living in the suburbs, there are also more people at home throughout the day and night, leaving homes less susceptible. The suburbs are also known for their upscale, quiet communities. The people who live here make decent incomes and therefore are more likely to have security systems, simply because they can afford them and they have families to protect.

“Burglary is also influenced by the number of homeowners taking precautions and purchasing security equipment,” says Sipes, Jr who is also the owner of the Crime in America site. “There has been an explosion of rather inexpensive but effective (i.e., digital cameras) security devices during the last decade. We have known for decades (per surveys) that burglars look for easy opportunities and go elsewhere if a home is protected.”

[ Read: Best Cheap Home Security Systems of 2020 ]


Unlocked Doors Were Main Points of Access for Many Burglars 

When burglars want access to your home, they will utilize any means possible to gain entry, but they will always start with the easiest: your front door.

“Most burglars go through unlocked or open doors and windows (an easy opportunity),” says Sipes, Jr. 

Unlocked doors have long been considered a home’s weakness, a popular source of entry that criminals like to target. It happens all too often – homeowners and their housemates simply forget to lock their doors. That one time is enough for a burglar to strike.

Burglars don’t always use the front door, either. If they cannot open one day, they will try another and another, checking windows as necessary until they gain entry. 

Sipes explains this is why “homeowners are investing more in better quality (i.e., easy to lock) doors and windows.” 

[Read: The Best Door and Window Sensors ]


Most Burglaries Occurred During the Day

While burglary numbers are down, many homeowners may be surprised to discover that the majority of property crimes actually occur during the day and not at night as popularly believed.

While the most robberies occured on streets or highways, the most burglaries occurred in private residences, accounting for a total of 65.5% of all burglaries. That means of 1,047,388 burglaries, 685,766 of these homes were hit during the day.

Type of crime
Total number of crimes
Change from 2017
Residence Night
218,028
-10.7%
Residence Day
346,312
-14.2%

Burglaries occur more frequently during the daytime because it is far easier for criminals to blend into daytime activity. The quiet of night will expose an intruder far faster than a busy afternoon would when the streets are filled with vendors and the sidewalks with pedestrians. Neighbors are less likely to question those who move confidently about your property, because they could easily be there to provide a service.

Homeowners are also far more likely to leave their doors unlocked while they run a quick errand or pick up the kids from the school. In those few precious minutes, a burglary can occur.


New Mexico Tops Highest Burglary Rate

It may seem surprising to find New Mexico at the top of the list for 2018 burglaries, but it is actually home to the second-most violent city in America: Albuquerque. While the national average is 22.0 incidents per 1000 nationwide, New Mexico has 34.2 average in burglaries. There are a total of sixteen cities that fall below the state’s property crime rate.  

Fewer people in New Mexico also have security systems; while 23% of the country uses no form of security, there are even fewer secured homes in New Mexico, accounting for about 29% of New Mexico residents.

It has become somewhat of a sore point for New Mexico, who initially reported decreases in state crime. Instead, the FBI report shows that New Mexico has the highest crime rate and the second-highest violent crime rate.

Sante Fe Mayor Alan Webber blames the increases on drugs, telling the Sante Fe Reporter, “I think what we’re seeing is, for the most part, the community is relatively safe and there are crimes against property that are higher than they were as we deal with drug-related issues.” 

It’s something he and his colleagues continue to work on as they strive for a safer New Mexico.


5 States With Lowest Burglaries

Many of the country’s smaller, less inhabited states boast modest stats for annual burglaries. Iowa, Vermont, Wyoming, Washington, D.C. and New Hampshire all fail to break 2,000 for impressively low totals. There is no doubt that both size and population contribute to these safer communities. 

State
Burglary State Total
Iowa
1,127
Vermont
1,467
Wyoming
1,525
Washington, D.C.
1,788
New Hampshire
1,847

The Bottom Line 

The FBI’s 2018 report came as a welcome surprise to many Americans who were worried about their home safety.   

Professor Demleitner sees even more progress to come. “We should expect the 2020 statistics to show an even more dramatic drop on residential burglaries as so many of us are home more. Businesses, many empty, will be hit harder.”

After all, she says, “Burglars follow larger trends, too.”

Photo by Westend61/GettyImages


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Contributing Writer

Lena Borrelli

Lena Borrelli is a freelance journalist who has covered home security, safety, and other topics for Safety.com, TIME, Microsoft News, ADT, and Home Advisor.