1.3 million burglary victims move house

86 per cent of burglars said if they saw or heard an occupant of a property they would try to leave without meeting or confronting them.
86 per cent of burglars said if they saw or heard an occupant of a property they would try to leave without meeting or confronting them.

New research from Churchill Home Insurance reveals the severe impact burglary can have on people’s lives and long-term mental health.

More than a million people who have been burgled in the UK felt so unsafe in the property afterwards that they moved house as a result.

Beyond the cost of the burglary, it also cost them thousands in stamp duty, estate agent and conveyancing fees because they no longer felt safe in their own home.

Victims of burglary have also suffered physiological conditions including sleep deprivation (25 per cent) and illness (eight per cent). They have also experienced severe psychological trauma, with some victims losing self confidence and needing counselling (six per cent) to cope with the emotional impact of the incident. More than one in ten (11 per cent) victims couldn’t be home alone after their home was broken into.

When asked about the worst aspect of being burgled, the knowledge that someone had been in the home came out on top for nearly half (45 per cent) of burglary victims. For others, the shock (32 per cent), the feeling of violation (30 per cent) and vulnerability (24 per cent) were the worst after effects of being burgled.

It takes victims, on average, three days before things feel more or less back to normal, however, for a fifth (21 per cent) they didn’t feel this way for a month and for eight per cent, this feeling took six months. Worryingly, one in ten (11 per cent) say things never returned to normal.

The reality is that while householders feel the emotional impact of the crime, burglars see properties just as a source of income without understanding the full psychological impacts of their crime. The majority of burglars have no desire to risk an encounter with a householder. Research conducted among burglars by the University of Portsmouth’s Psychology Department3 reveals how reluctant burglars are to meet their victims. Of the experienced burglars interviewed, 86 per cent reported that, if they saw or heard a victim during the commission of a burglary, they would try to leave without meeting or confronting them. In fact, three quarters of the burglars had abandoned burglaries because they had heard an occupant in the house or returning to the home, in order to avoid confrontation.

Almost half (46 per cent) of burglars stated clearly that they knew of the householder’s increased right to protect their property which came into force in 20134. Two thirds of burglars, however, said the change to the law had made little difference to the way they approached the burglary, as they were already very cautious about meeting victims.

Those who were in the property when it was burgled found it harder to be alone in their home afterwards than those who were not in (17 per cent compared to five per cent) and were more likely to take medication to deal with anxiety or depression (10 per cent compared to three per cent).

Dr Claire Nee, Psychologist at the University of Portsmouth said: “Being a victim of burglary is a traumatic experience for anyone and for some it can have a lasting emotional impact. The thought of someone in our home, our safe place, looking through our personal things can leave us feeling violated and vulnerable. The important thing for anyone who has been a victim to remember is that they are not on the burglar’s agenda. The burglar targets a property to enter and exit as quickly as possible with a reasonable gain and actively wants to avoid meeting the homeowner.”

To help victims deal with the impact of being burgled, Churchill Home Insurance offers a 24/7 burglary response. The service means, day or night, Churchill’s burglary response team is available to make the property secure after it has been broken into5. Following a break in, Churchill will send an engineer to replace all damaged locks with a British standard lock and temporarily secure damaged windows and doors.

Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance said: “The worst part of being burgled is the knowledge that someone has been in our home and looked through our personal, sentimental possessions. While we can’t remove this knowledge, we can help customers feel safe again by ensuring that broken windows and doors are secured and damaged locks are replaced5. No one should feel unsafe in their own home as a result of someone else’s actions.”

Those who were not in the property reported more items being destroyed and work needing to be done in the property as a result of a break in than those who were not in at the time (32 per cent vs 18 per cent). A quarter (24 per cent) said the burglar defiled, defaced or damaged items of a sentimental value to them that were not stolen.