Facts and figures

Residential break and enter is one of the most common crimes experienced in NSW. Break and enter is an offence that is a significant problem for households and results in substantial costs to both the community and the NSW Government. Unlike many offences, break and enter has a high reporting rate, with three in four victims reporting the incident to the police.

    Break and enter trends

    Residential break and enter offences have been declining every year for the past 11 years. Since the peak in 2000, the number of break and enter offences in NSW has dropped by more than half, at an average annual rate of 6.7 per cent. However, residential break and enter remains one of the most common serious crimes in NSW.

    When it happens

    Most residential break and enter incidents happen during the day, with only about one third of offences happening after 6pm. More than half of all break and enter incidents happen between 6 am and 6 pm from Monday to Friday, while occupants of homes are typically out. Very few incidents happen between 9 pm and 6 am, as residents are usually home at this time.

    Almost all break and enters occur when the home is unoccupied. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, the offenders did not confront anyone in 93 per cent of incidents. Interviews with offenders consistently show that by far the biggest deterrent to breaking into a home is if someone is there.

    Robbery in the home (where someone breaks in to an occupied home and uses violence or the threat of violence) is even more uncommon. A study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found that the odds of being a victim of robbery in the home in 1995 were about one in 30,000.

    Residential break and enter is a slightly seasonal crime, with more offences taking place in holiday periods in January, March, and May. This means it is particularly important to be prepared before taking long holidays.

    Where it happens

    Police data on the locations of break and enter offences can be compared with census information on what types of homes are most common to see what types are at higher risk of being broken into. Residents of detached houses and semi-detached houses, terraces and townhouses report being broken into consistent with their prevalence among all dwelling types. Residents of apartments are less likely to be victims (particularly large blocks of units), with all other types of dwellings representing a larger risk.

    Break and enter offences tend to be concentrated in ‘hot-spots’. To see patterns of crime around the area in which you live, see the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

    Motivation of offenders

    Most offenders break into homes to get money to buy drugs. In interviews with offenders, about two thirds stated that they offend solely to get money to buy drugs, with about a quarter needing money for other things (for example, to support themselves or because they were unemployed). About 85 per cent of offenders regularly take drugs, with almost all of those regularly taking heroin, amphetamines, or both.

    What gets stolen

    Offenders are most interested in goods that are easy to carry and have a lot of reselling value. This means that large electronics, such as televisions and home entertainment systems, are a lot less likely to be stolen than in the past. According to a report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the most popular items stolen from homes in 2010 were cash, laptops, jewellery, personal electronics such as cameras and phones, and identification documents.

    Many of the most commonly stolen goods contain information that could be used to commit other sorts of crime, such as fraud or identity theft.

    Cost of break and enter

    According to data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the average value of goods stolen in break and enter offences in 2010 was $2,000. In addition to the value of stolen goods, residential break and enter costs NSW taxpayer a significant amount. The average cost to courts and prisons is about $26,000 per person charged with break and enter. Research shows that the preventing break and enter offences results in benefits to society of about $13,000 per prevented offence. The total cost of break and enter to NSW is between $150–500 million per year.