Burglaries are on the up. We had an idea this was happening in part because the AA provides home insurance so we see a lot of it first hand in terms of claims. But there are all sorts of other data sets, including Garda and CSO statistics, that tell the same story.
It turns out that your typical burglar is an equal-opportunities scumbag in that he can turn up anywhere. As you would expect, there appears to be a higher incidence of the crime in the busier population centres. Dublin is a blackspot, especially in the western city. Generally speaking the more rural a county the fewer burglaries it will have.
But an interesting pattern is that there are more burglaries in commuting counties than elsewhere. That trend turned up in an AA poll when we asked more than 15,000 Irish people whether they had ever been victims. Our findings showed that the problem seemed to be disproportionately bad in Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow.
We were intrigued, so we looked also at Garda information and found the same pattern there. The fact that it is happening seems clear, but the reason why is debatable.
To me it makes sense. If you are a no-good low life looking for someone to rob, then you may well decide the commuter belt will provide rich pickings. In a quiet estate in the mid-morning it is very likely that an empty house will stay empty. It is likely that both partners are at work 50 kilometres away so the coast is relatively clear.
What is more, these people will often check out an estate for a few mornings first and will have a pretty clear idea of who is gone from early morning and will not be home for 10 hours.
It is certainly something to be aware of if you live in a commuter area. It may be worth having a look at your security to see if you can beef it up. I’ve been a victim myself, more than once, and as the cliché goes it really is a nasty crime. It brings a sense of violation and you feel less secure in your own home.
I do not like giving people advice that costs money, but a monitored alarm system is worthwhile. It does provide a deterrent effect. It may not make your home totally secure, but it does at least tell potential thieves that you are not an easy target. It is also reassuring to know that if anything does happen at home you will know about it.
Good locks and doors are a sensible precaution and so too are good neighbours. Modern housing estates can often be quite anonymous places. You may not know the people across the road beyond a nodding hello when you see them. Schemes like neighbourhood watch can be a really helpful protection.
Mind you, sometimes we are just too trusting. In the AA research in 14 per cent of cases the burglar gained access through an open door or window. In a classic case we had an elderly lady who was pottering around her back garden during the nice weather. The back door of the house was unlocked and she was robbed without realising it while she was enjoying the sun. A worthwhile warning to us all.
If you are burgled you should be fully covered by normal home insurance, but that may not be true for high value items. Jewellery, laptops or tablets, iPhones, or significant amounts of cash may need to be listed separately on your policy to be covered.
We also warned last year about burglars targeting personal data. A lot of us may have an iPad or something similar that it is not properly protected. So when the evil swine who nicked it fires it up he may have immediate access to personal material of all kinds - a slightly scary thought.
There are people who have neat little files called ‘passwords’ that contain bank account, Facebook login, email and other details that could cause chaos. Sadly, no one’s home is a castle and we do have to think about protection after a burglary as well as before.