Evaluating impact and effectiveness of burglar alarms

AN INNOVATIVE and fast-paced research project led by the University of Huddersfield has been awarded a coveted grant from the UK’s Home Office to look at the effectiveness of burglar alarms in reducing residential burglary.

The three-month project is being led by Professor Rachel Armitage from the University’s School of Human and Health Sciences and will be jointly delivered with Professor Andromachi Tseloni and Dr James Hunter from Nottingham Trent University. The research will focus on the two police force areas of West Yorkshire and Humberside.

According to Professor Armitage, who is a leading authority in the field of crime prevention and designing-out-crime, the project will help to clarify the effectiveness of burglar alarms in reducing residential burglary.

Existing research has revealed contradictory findings on whether burglar alarms act as a deterrent to burglars but without conclusive findings argues Professor Armitage, it is difficult to propose burglar alarms as an effective crime prevention measure.

surveillance equipment

A member of the University’s Applied Criminology and Policing Centre (ACPC), Professor Armitage founded the highly-successful and multi-disciplinary Secure Societies Institute (SSI) and has delivered research projects for clients including the European Commission, Youth Justice Board, Police Crime Prevention Initiatives Limited as well as many local authorities and police forces.

This particular project involves three components and will initially feature a team of researchers analysing via Google Street View, thousands of houses, from different types of streets, located across Humberside and West Yorkshire

Each researcher has received training on how to use Google Street View as an information resource and will obtain data on individual homes including whether there is a burglar alarm present, if there is what is the brand, how old does it look, as well as noting other design features that could be associated with burglary risk.

Google street view

Using police recorded crime data, the team will then assess whether the presence of a burglar alarm has an impact on burglaries experienced and if the presence of other design features influences this risk.

The third and final strand of the project will comprise of Police Community Support Officers visiting properties across the two police forces to conduct a survey with the residents. The survey will focus on collecting details on the burglar alarm type, its age and usage as well as details on burglaries that have taken place at these properties.

This element of the project will delve into the finer details of burglar alarm effectiveness and assess, not just the presence of an alarm, but also the extent to which different brands and models impact burglar decision-making.

“In addition to identifying the impact of burglar alarms,” said Professor Armitage, “our analysis will also identify the risk, as well as the protective characteristics of additional factors relating to dwellings, streets and neighbourhoods that could be informative to crime reduction strategies and burglary reduction advice.”

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