New Survey: Burglars Use Social Media to Plan Crimes

By Kelsey Blair 

Wanting to escape the fall weather for an impromptu vacation to a tropical destination? Great, but whatever you do, don’t tweet about it. A new UK survey reveals that criminals are using social media to plan burglaries.

A United Kingdom survey of 50 convicted burglars found that the burglary industry – like every other industry – is adapting to use new technology. The survey was completed by the Survey Shop on behalf of Friedland UK’s Home Security Week 2011. The survey took place between August 5th to August 23rd

According to the survey, 78% of burglars reported that they believed social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Four Square are useful tools for thieves targeting specific properties while 74% reported that Google Street View was playing a role in home thefts.

The study notes that according to the burglars, a home robbery takes just over ten minutes to complete, and that it generally takes only two minutes to break into a house with no visible security. Further, the act of burgling remains profitable. On average, burglaries result in gains of roughly 500 British Pounds, taken mostly from cash, jewellery and electronics.

According to Security Expert Jonathan Lim in an interview with Sky News it’s clear that “Burglars are analysing what’s going on. They can see people’s status updates, with people on Twitter saying ‘I’m away on holiday having a great time’. If they know where you live it’s like an open invitation.” This sentiment is further supported by former burglar Richard Taylor, who in the same article, notes that, “We’re living in the age of the digital criminal and people are taking advantage of social media to access information about would-be victims.”We’ll tell them even when we’re going away on holidays. We will let them know that we’re not in. We’re inviting them… round to our house.” Not only that, but half of burglars say they survey a homeowner’s routine before committing a crime.

Jonathan Lim, Security Expert at Friedland, notes the importance of these discoveries: “The research has granted us access to an elusive group in society and assisted us in learning more about the habits of today’s burglars. The findings have broken down some of the illusions commonly associated with burglaries; with four out of five (80%) revealing burglary was not opportunistic, instead returning to a property a number of times before breaking in. We know that by taking simple measures, including cutting back trees and shrubs to remove potential hiding places and installing simple alarm systems priced from just £100 are all good, cost-effective deterrents that all homeowners can implement to remove their home from the target list.”

As always, the take home lesson is not that we should be frightened to leave our homes, but that we need to apply common sense to social media posting when doing so. If you’re going on vacation, do not announce your departure and arrival times on Twitter. Be careful what you post on other people’s Facebook walls. And, for Pete’s sake, excercsie caution when using Four Square.