What burglars want most from your home

The top items stolen in burglaries has changed in a decade. Here’s what thieves are looking for now.

Burglaries have been happening since we invented places to keep our belongings, kicking off a cat-and-mouse game that has seen the development of more secure locks and better alarms, screens and other devices designed to keep criminals at bay. But while the best way to minimise theft is still locking your doors and windows, the items that burglars are most interested in have changed over time. Whereas a decade ago DVD players were among the most stolen items, more recently burglars have been looking for mobile phones and tablets.

According to Dr Rick Brown, Deputy Director of Research at the Australian Institute of Criminology, “there’s an acronym used within criminology – CRAVED, which stands for concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable and disposable. Those are the features of the items that tend to be stolen as hot products in the market.”

Here are the top things burglars are keeping an eye out for when they gain access to your home – things that are easy to carry and easy to sell.

Cash

Cash is still the king, even as most of us are increasingly shifting to using cards for payment. Cash is often the first thing a burglar will look for, especially in a purse or handbag. “The key thing that remains similar year to year,” explains Dr Brown, “is that it’s about stealing things that are ‘liquid’, meaning cash itself or things that can easily be turned into cash.”

Laptops

“Some electrical items now tend to be lower down the list,” says Dr Brown, “either because they’re increasingly getting too large to steal – as in the case of televisions – or the price of them has come down so much that they tend to be less favoured.” But don’t be fooled. While it’s a pain to lug a desktop computer, a portable PC like a laptop or even a tablet is the perfect size and weight for a speedy getaway. In the past, such items would be sold at pawn shops or off the back of a truck but these days, the market is larger online.

Jewellery

Portable, valuable and easy to steal, jewellery is a great option for a thief looking to quickly turn gold into cash (silver and precious stones are also high on the hit list). But as is the case with other burglaries, a bit of prevention goes a long way. “My number-one tip would be to make sure doors and windows are secure,” Dr Brown says, “This prevents those walk-in burglaries, which account for a significant proportion of burglary offences.”

Car keys

In the past, high-end cameras have been a preferred target thanks to expensive lenses and accessories, but now it seems opportunistic thieves have their eye on something new. “There has been a trend towards the theft of car keys because of the difficulties in stealing cars without the keys,” Dr Brown says, “It’s not yet at a level that puts it in the top five but it’s one of those issues that’s rising.”

Mobile phones

In 2001, mobile phones were ranked the seventh-most popular target for thieves in NSW. By 2010, they’d jumped to fourth place, taken in 15 per cent of burglaries. The message here is, don’t leave your phone lying around. But if it is taken, having a “find my phone” app activated might help you track down the thief via GPS.