Insights on Commercial-Property Theft from the Thieves Who Did It

Why Burglars Steal from Your Business or Commercial Property Site

If you’re a commercial/business/industrial property owner who’s been the victim of a burglary, you might have asked yourself, “Why would the thieves target my business?” It’s an excellent question — so much so, we figured the best answers might come from the very people who committed the crimes.

So, we asked them.

Thanks to a survey conducted by the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, we discovered the decision-making processes of hundreds of incarcerated burglars across three states (North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio).

Some of their responses will seem obvious. But other answers may “shock” you.

“I commit burglary mainly because I look awesome in black.”What You and Your Commercial-Property Facility Should Know about Burglars

According to the survey of 422 convicted felons of burglary, convicted felons of burglary, the majority of respondents were seasoned offenders, meaning that they’ve been arrested for robberies and other crimes in the past. On average, these thieves had previously been arrested 13 times, but a few of them had more than 100 arrests on their rap sheets.

The Reasons to Steal are Powered by Present Needs

But why do they steal? The survey asked that exact question — to name the top reasons why they engaged in the thievery and how they spent any income earned from it.


KEY TAKEAWAY: Drugs are bad. And did you notice that nearly 4% of the reasons they committed burglary were for the thrill of it?

The Solutions to Protecting Your Property are in Knowing the ‘How’

So, now we know WHY most thieves steal from commercial properties (drugs). Let’s spend some time talking about HOW they go about doing it.

We strongly urge you not to drink coffee while sitting amid co-workers as you read this section. The odds are good you’ll have a spit take before we’re done.

Remember, the data we’re sharing is based on a survey of more than 400 convicted burglars. About 31% of them engaged in at least one commercial burglary in the year before their arrest.

But the researchers who conducted the survey determined that this number is LOW, mainly due to the large number of felons who responded to the question with answers such as “more than I can count” or “too many to remember.”

About 28% of burglars typically worked alone, and approximately the same number reported never burglarizing alone. Among those who worked with others, most engaged in robberies with friends, spouses, and/or significant others.

Finally, about 60% of the thieves reporting engaging in more than one theft in a single day or night, with about 10% reporting doing so often or always.


Burglar best practices: pace yourself and don’t overdo it.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Criminals can be lazy.  Don’t be an easy target.

Burglars Have a System Regardless of the Industry Type They’re Stealing From

So, what factors influence a burglar’s decision to break into your place of business?

According to the ones who were caught: perimeter fencing (like a solar-powered electric fence), alarms, outdoor video cameras, and other forms of surveillance are primary deterrents for burglars.

In addition, the presence of workers (or noises indicating that someone was there), visible police officers, neighbors, and other people nearby very often deterred potential offenders from a specific location.


Send Burglars a Clear Message. Every time. 

Here’s one point we found interesting: about 63% of the respondents indicated that they considered whether security personnel or police would respond if a warehouse alarm was triggered. The vast majority of them feared a police response more than a security response.

Also, about half the burglars knew about the response lag associated with alarm calls, meaning they were aware that detection alarms often need to be verified prior to police actually responding.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If you make it obvious to thieves that stealing from your business will be difficult, they’ll usually move on down the road to easier pickings.

How Burglars Get Inside Your Business
Let’s suppose a would-be thief encounters a business property with little or no security measures in place. How do they go about getting inside? Here’s what we know:

  • Most of them reported forcing open windows or doors.
  • About one in five reported cutting telephone wires and/or alarm wires ahead of time.
  • One in eight burglars reported carrying lock-picking tools.
  • Nearly 25% disguised themselves in some way prior to the burglary.
  • Most burglaries were quick (less than 10 minutes).
  • Nearly all preferred early-morning and late-night capers for obvious reasons.


Burglars have tools, clothes, and timetables to help them do their jobs. What tools will you use to stop them?

Most professional burglar disguises look nothing like this.

The Moral of the Blog
Now that we’ve heard from hundreds of burglars on why, when, and how they steal from commercial properties, here’s a summary of the main points we hope you’ll take away:

  • Burglars come in all shapes and sizes, but their behavior is somewhat predictable.
  • Burglars look for easy marks, so don’t be one.
  • Most burglars work alone (as well as in groups).

Finally, if you learned something of value today, please share this blog with someone you know. And thanks for reading!


AMAROK™ is a full-perimeter security company based in Columbia, South Carolina, that provides commercial security services throughout the United States and Canada. Specializing in electric fencing and perimeter security systems for commercial properties, AMAROK also provides supplemental surveillance solutions, including cameras, lights, and alarms. Together, these business security services form the ultimate crime prevention solution for any business.