A detailed analysis of the 1,639,000 burglaries on domestic properties in England and Wales during 1997 has revealed the previously unheralded role of women in house-breaking.
Of the burglaries where details of the offender were known (41 per cent of break-ins), six per cent of the burglars were women acting alone.
But these female thieves accounted for a disproportionately high nine per cent of successful burglaries, which totalled 878,000 in the year.
They were responsible for only one per cent of attempted but failed burglaries, of which there were 761,000 in 1997.
Although burglary is invariably regarded as a crime committed by strangers, victims of burglaries where the details of the offender were known said that they knew the person well in 34 per cent of cases and recognised their face in a further 17 per cent.
The Home office report, Burglary of Domestic Dwellings, reveals that the highest proportion of bungled burglaries are carried out by schoolchildren, who fail to gain entry to property in the majority of their attempted break-ins.The report was based on answers given to researchers for the 1998 British Crime Survey.
The report shows that home security measures are having a marked impact on reducing the numbers of successful burglaries. In nearly half of all attempted break-ins in 1997, the criminals failed to gain access to the property.
The Home Office minister Paul Boateng said that the research showed that "the simplest home security measures can have a significant impact on our chances of being burgled".
"By reducing the number of easy targets we can have a dramatic effect on crime. But, he said: "Despite recent reductions, England and Wales has one of the worst records on burglary in the industrialised world." He said the Government was investing pounds 50m over the next three years on an anti-burglary initiative in areas with high crime rates.
The research revealed that Asian families are more likely to be burglary victims than other ethnic groups.
Also vulnerable are homes where the head of the household is between 16 and 24, single parent families, and those living in detached houses or inner-city areas.
Ownership of home security devices has increased dramatically over the last six years and 24 per cent of homes now have burglar alarms, with 48 per cent having security lights.
Some 48 per cent of burglars entered the property they robbed from the rear but 42 per cent broke in at the front of the dwelling, with 70 per cent of all successful break-ins being made through a door.
Most burglaries occur when the offender forces their way in. A lock on a door or a window is forced in 37 per cent of break-ins and a window is broken in 24 per cent of such crimes.
But in almost a quarter (22 per cent) of cases the criminal is able to gain entry to the property through an unlocked door or open window.
In six per cent of cases, access is gained to the house on a false pretence.Reuse content