1.3 million burglary victims move house

28th October 2016

  • 1.3 million victims of burglary in the UK moved house afterwards
  • 11 per cent of burglary victims can’t be home alone
  • 86 per cent of burglars said if they saw or heard an occupant of a property they would try to leave without meeting or confronting them
  • 75 per cent of burglars have abandoned burglaries to avoid meeting the occupant

New research from Churchill Home Insurance1 reveals the severe impact burglary can have on people’s lives and long-term mental health. More than a million2 people who have been burgled in the UK felt so unsafe in the property afterwards that they moved house as a result. Beyond the cost of the burglary, it also cost them thousands in stamp duty, estate agent and conveyancing fees because they no longer felt safe in their own home.

Victims of burglary have also suffered physiological conditions including sleep deprivation (25 per cent) and illness (8 per cent). They have also experienced severe psychological trauma, with some victims losing self confidence and needing counselling (6 per cent) to cope with the emotional impact of the incident. More than one in ten (11 per cent) victims couldn’t be home alone after their home was broken into.

Table one: The impact of burglary on victims

Concern Percentage
I found it hard to sleep 25%
I moved house 13%
It caused me to lose confidence in myself 12%
I could not be alone in the property 11%
I became ill 8%
I struggled to concentrate at work 8%
I had to take medication to deal with anxiety and/or depression 7%
I had counselling 6%
I had to take medication to help me sleep 6%
I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 5%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance 2016

When asked about the worst aspect of being burgled, the knowledge that someone had been in the home came out on top for nearly half (45 per cent) of burglary victims. For others, the shock (32 per cent), the feeling of violation (30 per cent) and vulnerability (24 per cent) were the worst after effects of being burgled.

Table two: The worst aspects of being burgled

Concern Percentage No one was in I was in
The knowledge that someone had been in my home 45% 56% 34%
The initial shock 32% 27% 34%
I felt violated 30% 32% 30%
Losing articles of sentimental value 29% 33% 26%
Losing my valuables 26% 33% 20%
The feeling of vulnerability 24% 21% 29%
The stress 12% 10% 13%
The fear of being alone in the property afterwards 11% 9% 13%
The sleep deprivation 8% 4% 12%
Being physically injured 2% 1% 3%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance 2016

It takes victims, on average, three days before things feel more or less back to normal, however, for a fifth (21 per cent) they didn’t feel this way for a month and for 8 per cent, this feeling took six months. Worryingly, one in ten (11 per cent) say things never returned to normal.

The reality is that while householders feel the emotional impact of the crime, burglars see properties just as a source of income without understanding the full psychological impacts of their crime. The majority of burglars have no desire to risk an encounter with a householder. Research conducted among burglars by the University of Portsmouth’s Psychology Department3 reveals how reluctant burglars are to meet their victims. Of the experienced burglars interviewed, 86 per cent reported that, if they saw or heard a victim during the commission of a burglary, they would try to leave without meeting or confronting them. In fact, three quarters of the burglars had abandoned burglaries because they had heard an occupant in the house or returning to the home, in order to avoid confrontation.

Almost half (46 per cent) of burglars stated clearly that they knew of the householder’s increased right to protect their property which came into force in 20134. Two thirds of burglars, however, said the change to the law had made little difference to the way they approached the burglary, as they were already very cautious about meeting victims.

Those who were in the property when it was burgled found it harder to be alone in their home afterwards than those who were not in (17 per cent compared to 5 per cent) and were more likely to take medication to deal with anxiety or depression (10 per cent compared to 3 per cent).

Dr Claire Nee, Psychologist at the University of Portsmouth said: “Being a victim of burglary is a traumatic experience for anyone and for some it can have a lasting emotional impact. The thought of someone in our home, our safe place, looking through our personal things can leave us feeling violated and vulnerable. The important thing for anyone who has been a victim to remember is that they are not on the burglar’s agenda. The burglar targets a property to enter and exit as quickly as possible with a reasonable gain and actively wants to avoid meeting the homeowner.”

To help victims deal with the impact of being burgled, Churchill Home Insurance offers a 24/7 burglary response. The service means, day or night, Churchill’s burglary response team is available to make the property secure after it has been broken into5. Following a break in, Churchill will send an engineer to replace all damaged locks with a British standard lock and temporarily secure damaged windows and doors.

Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance said: “The worst part of being burgled is the knowledge that someone has been in our home and looked through our personal, sentimental possessions. While we can’t remove this knowledge, we can help customers feel safe again by ensuring that broken windows and doors are secured and damaged locks are replaced5. No one should feel unsafe in their own home as a result of someone else’s actions.”

Those who were not in the property reported more items being destroyed and work needing to be done in the property as a result of a break in than those who were not in at the time (32 per cent vs 18 per cent). A quarter (24 per cent) said the burglar defiled, defaced or damaged items of a sentimental value to them that were not stolen.

1 Research conducted by Opinium amongst a representative sample of 2,000 adults completed between 7-11 October 2016

2 1,334,815 figure based on 13% of people who have been burgled (10,216,461), 20% of population (51,339,000)

3 Research conducted among 81 burglars by Claire Nee on behalf of The International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology at the University of Portsmouth

4 https://www.cps.gov.uk/publications

5 Churchill’s 24/7 burglary response ensures that day or night an engineer will be available to temporarily secure damaged windows and doors. Excludes Highlands and Islands. Policy and Cover limits apply. Underwritten by UK Insurance Ltd.

For further information please contact:

Claire Foster
Churchill PR Manager

Antonia Green
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
0207 282 2967


Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK’s leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Churchill products or get a quote by calling 0300 200300 or visiting www.churchill.com

University of Portsmouth

The University of Portsmouth has a strong reputation for teaching excellence and for staff and student satisfaction, alongside internationally excellent research strengths. Situated at the heart of a historic waterfront city, the University contributes significantly to economic regeneration in the city and the region, raising aspirations and encouraging future generations to benefit from higher education. It is ranked in the top 500 universities in the world in the most recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings published in 2015 and is one of the top ten modern universities in the UK, according to The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

Dr Claire Nee, Reader in Forensic Psychology

Dr Nee is the Director of the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology, which brings together considerable expertise in detecting deception, child witnesses, investigative interviewing, offending behaviour, eye-witness memory and false memory syndrome with other external collaborators of world renowned reputation.​ ​ Dr Nee’s research focuses on the decision-making and emotions of the burglar leading up to the event and at the scene of the crime. She uses a variety of methods including virtual reality simulations and eye-tracking​.