Residential burglaries decrease, Criminal Justice study finds

Despite poor economic conditions and high unemployment, residential burglary in the United States has decreased, according to Stewart J. D’Alessio, professor in FIU’s Department of Criminal Justice.

“There’s controversy in the literature as to whether unemployment affects property crime,” D’Alessio said. “Some researchers claim that it does, whereas others argue that it doesn’t. I wanted to investigate this controversy further."

The study, Unemployment, Guardianship, and Weekday Residential Burglary, was co-authored with Lisa Stolzenberg and David Eitle.

“If someone breaks into your home to steal from you when you’re not there, it’s a burglary. If someone enters your home to steal from you while you’re in there, that’s a robbery,” D’Alessio said. “We found that increased guardianship engendered by more unemployed individuals being home during the day resulted in fewer burglaries. We also checked to make sure there wasn’t a higher rate of robberies, which there wasn’t.”

The study analyzes data from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) from 10 states: Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Because more than 60 percent of residential burglaries in the U.S. occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., the researchers evaluated whether individuals staying at home as a result of being unemployed was responsible for the decrease in residential burglary.

While daytime burglaries declined, D’Alessio’s study found that the unemployment rate had little effect on evening, nighttime and weekend residential burglaries.

“What we can learn from these findings is that, contrary to popular belief, there doesn’t seem to be an increase in motivation to commit burglaries during tough economic times,” D’Alessio said. “There’s a lot of different crime prevention strategies we can use, such as increased guardianship, alarms and surveillance cameras, to reduce the occurrence of these crimes.”