There’s no getting around it—crime happens. More specifically, property crime happens. That’s why it’s best to take steps to limit your risk of becoming a victim of theft or burglary.
If you’re an older adult, this is what you need to know about property crime, as well as some easy-to-follow prevention tips.
Crime in the United States: The Statistics
It might surprise you to learn that both property crime and violent crime rates have fallen in the past two decades in the United States. It might not feel like it, but they’ve both dropped significantly from where they were in the 1990s.
In an article on crime in the U.S. for Pew Research Center, John Gramlich laid out five facts about crime you might not be familiar with:
- Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century. Using statistics from the FBI’s annual report, Gramlich pointed out that the violent crime rate fell by 48% between 1993 and 2016.
- Property crime has declined significantly over the long term. According to FBI data, property crime in the U.S. has also fallen by 48% from 1993 to 2016.
- Public perceptions about crime in the U.S. often don’t align with the data. “Opinion surveys regularly find that Americans believe crime is up nationally, even when the data show it is down,” Gramlich said.
- There are large geographic variations in crime rates. Likely this won’t come as a surprise to most. Although nationwide crime rates have decreased, it varies from city to city—and state to state. For example, Gramlich explained that “in 2016, there were more than 600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Tennessee. By contrast, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont had rates below 200 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.”
- Most crimes are not reported to police, and most reported crimes are not solved. This is especially true for property crime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “only about a third (36%) was reported.” Why? Because people either felt that reporting it wouldn’t help or that it was too trivial, BJS found.
Related: Be Aware of These Senior Scams
Neighborhood Crime Prevention Tips
Apart from violent crime, property crime is one of the most common types of crime Americans fall victim to. In 2016, the BJS found that “there were an estimated 15.9 million property victimizations” and that “an estimated 8.8% of households experienced at least one property victimization.”
So, how do you keep from being a statistic?
When it comes to preventing property crime, most of it is common sense. Always lock your doors, be wary of strangers on your doorstep trying to sell something, and don’t post on social media that you’ll be on vacation for two weeks (this lets your friends know you’ll be out of town, but it also alerts potential burglars).
It never hurts to invest in a home security system. You can also rely on your neighbors to keep an eye out for trouble. If your neighborhood doesn’t have an official watch group, you can start one yourself or simply get to know your neighbors. That makes it easier to notice strange or suspicious persons.
- Check the latest tech. AARP advises that you stay on top of tech trends for home safety. There are a lot of cool new security and surveillance systems out there (read below for examples!)
- Forget the hide-a-key. Burglars are professionals at what they do—they know where to check for spare keys. Don’t hide a key outside your house. Instead, AARP recommends that you leave one with a trusted friend or family member.
- Be smart on social media. Again, don’t post that you’re going on vacation or add pictures from the beach. Friends might not be the only people seeing those posts.
- One man’s trash… Don’t leave big boxes like the one from your new flat screen TV out on the curb. This is a tip off to would-be burglars that you’ve made a big purchase. Take them straight to the recycling plant or cut them up, AARP says.
- Ask for a reference. AARP suggests that you always get references before hiring someone new.
- Keep your mail confidential. It’s a federal crime to open someone else’s mail. However, that might not be enough to stop a determined criminal. If you don’t have a locking mailbox, you might want to consider one.
- Stay on top of yard work. This may seem like the least important thing on your safety to do list, but make sure your lawn care service is keeping your shrubbery well-trimmed. AARP points out that this helps reduce cover for thieves.
- Adopt a fake dog. If you don’t have a dog, you can always make burglars think twice with a dog bowl by the front door or a CD of dog barks turned on when you leave for a few hours.
- Call the police. As mentioned above, not everyone reports crime to the authorities. But you should always call if you think a crime has been committed. Additionally, some departments offer things like home checks when you’re out of town for extra security.
- Know your neighbors. Rely on the community around you to help keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
Of course, there’s no need to panic—property crime isn’t a given for older adults. However, it never hurts to be prepared. By using the above tips, you can help decrease your risk of becoming a victim of property crime.
Related: Home Safety Tips for Older Adults
Home Security Tools for Older Adults
If you know what to look for, technology can be a big help in home security. If you’re interested in beefing up your home’s security, SeniorHomes.com outlines 4 types of home safety tech gadgets:
- Video doorbells. Did you know you can have a camera at your front door to see who’s knocking through a mobile app?
- Smart garage door systems. Worried you forgot to close your garage door? There are smart garage door systems that let you close and open the door with the tap of a finger in an app on your smartphone.
- Smart sensors. Nowadays, most home security systems include smart sensors and cameras. If you upgrade to a new home security kit, you can expect to have some new gadgets designed to keep your home safe.
- Smart speakers. Things like the Amazon Echo or Google Home gadgets are like miniature personal assistants. There’s a lot they can do, but when it comes to home security, features like voice-activated calling can help in the event of an emergency (or fall).
Secure, Burden-Free Senior Living in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Senior living communities provide an extra level of security. When you live in a retirement community, security concerns are taken care of for you. You don’t have to worry about home security systems, finding a safe place for spare keys, making sure your trash is properly disposed of, and so on.
At Sugar Hill, we take security seriously. Along with services such as maintenance and exterior upkeep, residents also enjoy a 24-hour emergency monitoring system. And because we’re a cooperative living community, everybody has a vested interest in making sure safety is a top priority. Looking out for neighbors is just one of the social benefits of a co-op.
Interested in living at Sugar Hill? Check out our available homes here.