Crimes of Opportunity Increase with Current Economic Downturn

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Security experts from Signal 88 Security, Inc. recommend that homeowners and businesses create crime prevention checklists.

Signal 88 Security has more than 70 franchises in 30+ states.

We are in the midst of an economic down cycle with people losing jobs and their homes, and this leads to more home invasions and burglaries, often committed by first-time offenders,” said Signal 88 CEO Reed Nyffeler.

While the national crime rate has declined for several years, an increase in crimes of opportunity and desperation is more prevalent in communities around the country, according to Signal 88 Security, Inc.

Experts from Signal 88 point to the sluggish economy, poor jobs outlook and overall down mood of the nation for the increase in crimes of opportunity such as home burglaries, business break-ins and construction site raids. In one community, a business that manufactures fire trucks had a new truck stripped of its copper by thieves.

“Crimes of opportunity go up and down inversely with the economy,” said Reed Nyffeler, CEO of Signal 88 Security, Inc. “We are in the midst of an economic down cycle with people losing jobs and their homes, and this leads to more home invasions and burglaries, often committed by first-time offenders.”
A recent study from the Pew Research Center confirm that dissatisfaction in the U.S. as a result of the economic downturn is widespread and on an uptick compared to just a few years ago. At the end of 2011, 78 percent of the U.S. was dissatisfied with national conditions, and only 8 percent felt the economy was either excellent or good.

Pew’s analysis confirms the economic fix that many people find themselves in, with real median income falling from $55,309 in 2007 to $49,909 in 2011 and the average home price decreasing from $316,800 in 2007 to $242,300 in 2011. Nearly half of unemployed workers (43 percent) are out of work for more than 26 weeks.

Criminals are turning to crimes of opportunity, such as robbing a home while the family is attending a funeral, according to Nyffeler. He recommends that people get to know their neighbors so they can keep an eye out for each other’s property, especially during vulnerable times such as a loved one’s death – when the obituary lets everyone know when they are going to be away from their home.

Thieves of opportunity are on the hunt for easy targets. These include garages that are left open, houses that have dark yards and hiding places, vacant apartment units, and businesses with easy access to the roof or unsecured property that is left outside. Criminals prefer small but valuable items such as tools, lawn mowers, jewelry, cash and electronics.

Nyffeler recommends that homeowners keep their bushes trimmed low to eliminate hiding spots near windows, install exterior motion lights, leave a light and radio on inside the home when they are gone, and have a trusted neighbor pick up the mail and newspaper when they are out of town for extended periods of time.

For business owners looking to protect their properties, barriers to criminal activity include loud alarm systems that sound outside the building, motion detection lights on the exterior that turn on at dusk, and reinforced doors to prevent smash-and-grab robberies.

Nyffeler said it is especially important to keep the building clear of any objects, such as moveable dumpsters, that could make it easy for thieves to get on the roof. Criminals often prefer entering a business from the topside because most alarm systems are not configured to detect movement on the roof.

Other criminal or disruptive behavior, related to the high number of young people who are unemployed, is also on the rise, according to Nyffeler. This activity includes loitering, vandalism, assault and squatting in vacant apartment units.

“The key to protecting your home and business location is to create at least two or three barriers or deterrents that make it more difficult for the would-be criminal, so they decide the risk isn’t worth the reward,” said Nyffeler.

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Gina Pappas
Albers Communications Group
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