Are You Safe In Your Home?


How safe are you in your home from burglary and violent crime?

What about places near your home or the residence of another?

What is the probability of victimization by people you know?


 Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Aspiring drummer.


I’m the former senior specialist for crime prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the former director of information services for the National Crime Prevention Council.

I have been quoted by an array of national publications about crime and prevention, including a series of books from The Reader’s Digest.

See my article on crime prevention at Crime in America.


This article came from a discussion about burglaries and the probability of being victimized by people you know. I expanded the focus to include violent crime.

To me, it’s about the well being of your family.

The fundamental questions are, “How safe are you in your own home or neighborhood or the homes of others?” Will you be victimized by strangers or someone you know?

Feelings of safety are principally driven by crimes committed by strangers.  But there is an amazing array of violent and property crimes where we know the offender.

Once you come to grips with the fact that in private places, only 23% of violent victimizations were committed by strangers, including about 9% of violent victimizations that occurred in the victim’s home, then you begin to understand the dynamics of non-stranger criminality.

Most crimes in private places involve people you know.


Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, 30 percent of burglaries of occupied residences involved a known offender, 24 percent were strangers and the rest were unknown.

But whether occupied or unoccupied, I suspect that people you either know well or tangentially play a role in a large percentage of burglaries.

Burglaries are often committed by someone you know, however slightly.

The people showing up at your open house, delivery people, movers, contractors, and many others have an opportunity to see if your house is appropriate for a burglary.

NRA member or hunter? Then you have a gun worth stealing. Ordering prescription medications by home delivery?  That’s tempting. Telling movers you are going to be away for the next two weeks on business? Then people who know what you have and what can be quickly converted into cash or easy points of entry can evaluate you for a burglary.

We tell people that we will be away from our homes via social media all the time. Relatives or known acquaintances could be your burglars (see chart above).

I’m not asking for you to be paranoid, just understand that the kid across the street knows when you are home and when you are away. He knows you don’t have a dog. He may have been inside your home and noticed a lack of cameras or your tendency to leave windows unlocked.

It’s happened to me. A contractor came to our house for an estimate. We exchanged pleasantries and personal information. He was convicted months later of a series of burglaries in two states.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Stranger VS Non-Stranger Violence In Private Places

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a larger percentage of violent crime in public places was committed by strangers than in private places. Strangers committed 62% of violent victimizations that occurred in public places. That still leaves a lot of victims attacked by people they know.

As stated, in private places, strangers committed about 23% of violent victimizations.

Look at the table below as to strangers and violent crime in or near your home and in the homes of others. That’s a lot of violence involving people you know.


There is a large percentage of non-stranger violence happening in or near your home or the residences of others.

As to burglaries, there are many unknown offenders yet when known, they accounted for almost 30 percent of burglars in occupied dwellings.

My guess is that the number is much higher than 30 percent for occupied and unoccupied homes.

But note the percentage of violent crimes “in” or “near” a residence and “in” or “near” the homes of others committed by non-strangers;  it’s a factor you need to take into consideration.


Personal and household crime prevention doesn’t take a lot of effort. Most burglaries are committed by unskilled offenders who are looking for cash, credit cards, drugs, and guns. It doesn’t take a lot to defeat them, Crime in America.

We’ve been saying for years that violent crime in homes and private places is common. Once you invite someone into your house, or when you go into the residence of another, nefarious people have increased control. This especially applies to sexual assault.

Throw all the parties you want, be gracious towards others, invite people into your home, but exercise caution and common sense if you don’t know the person well.

I’m not preaching fear, I’m advocating prevention.

Just being with another person you trust dramatically lowers the chances for violent victimization wherever you are.

As to your house, ask your local police department for a security survey. Make sure you have the best possible doors and windows. Use your locks (a lot of people don’t). Cameras and recordings are cheap insurance. Alarms, dogs and a lived-in look when away will dramatically cut your chances for break-ins.

For more on household and personal crime prevention, see Crime in America.


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