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"We didn't hear a thing:" Many home invasions in Australia look like this.

“To get the locksmith in to change the locks you have to pay them upfront, but you don’t have a wallet….and you can’t leave the house because you can’t lock it…

“And you have to get a new driver’s licence so that you can go to the bank and even get cash.”

This is the reality of what ‘home invasion’ looks like for many Australian victims. It’s annoying and unsettling, but generally not overly dangerous.

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It is a topic and a phrase that is big on the news agenda right now, as the country watches the story of the Sydney dad who may or may not be charged over the death of an intruder who died in his house.

Home invasion is a term used in the popular sense, not the legal sense. Often because it sounds a lot more scary to refer to a “home invasion” over a “robbery” or “break and enter at a premise.”

In 2017 there were 176 153 victims of home robberies in Australia… which sounds like a lot. But if you dig deeper into the NSW Bureau of Crime statistics as an example you’ll find that there were 351 incidents of ‘break and enter dwelling’ per 100,000 people in 2018, and only 4.7 incidents of “robberies of a residential dwelling” per 100,000 people.

To explain –  the top figure represents non violent burglaries, whereas the bottom figure is ones that might have involved force or a weapon.

As you can see, the latter is quite rare.

Here is an example of what a home burglary in Australia is far more likely to look like;

Emily Khalfan and her husband were robbed while they slept, they didn’t hear a thing.

“My husband had been up and down, in and out of the house all day. I believe someone was watching him. We lived in an open gully and you could see from one end to the other,” Emily told Mamamia.

“We went to bed quite late after watching a movie, probably about 1am. The next morning I got up early at about six, went into the lounge room and noticed the TV was gone and all the rugs were moved,” she said.

Emily, half asleep, yelled out to her husband: “Why did you pack up the TV last night?”

“Huh?!” he replied.

Then she realised…”Oh my god, we’ve been burgled!”

“Most people will never see the perpetrators, that’s their goal – they come under the cover of darkness, when you’re on holidays, or out for the weekend,” Dr Garner Clancey told Mamamia.

Dr Clancy is a former crime prevention consultant and senior lecturer for the University of Sydney.

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“My understanding, is that most of the time they’re targeted. They are usually connected to organised criminal activity where they know the person they are offending against because they are a valuable target – they have drugs, money that kind of thing,” explained Dr Clancy.

For the run of the mill opportune burglary there is a lot less thought put in.

“They don’t spend energy planning, but they do look at patterns of behaviour in the area they are hunting in,” he said.

Kim Kardashian was the victim of a very serious and terrifying burglary. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

The Khalfans had been visibly moving in and out, they had limited security, and thanks to their busy day – they left the front door unlocked.

“They took all of our electronics, my handbag, our wallets, keys – everything – in such a small window of time,” said Emily.

What happened next was just plain…frustrating.

Emily had to take the day off work to deal with forensics, she had to call her parents over to pay the locksmith and she had to get them to drive her to get a new driver’s licence – no keys remember.

They then had to deal with insurance, thankfully they had a really good plan and they got pretty much everything back.

But it was the little things that were a pain.

“We realised months later there was a bottle of nice perfume in my handbag, you forget what you had – I mean they’re only things, but it’s still money,” said Emily.

Yes there are horrific stories of home invasion and burglary that end in rape, murder or both. You just have to flick on the news to see them.

But as Dr Clancy says, crime has dramatically dropped across all categories in Australia, and the crime that does happen most of the time doesn’t look like the above.

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Homicide is at its lowest rate in NSW in 40 years, and has halved in the past 20 alone.

In 2018, Australia recorded the lowest number of burglaries since 2010.

Dr Clancy thinks the robbery rates are so low because there has been a shift in the opportunity and reward that comes with the offence.

“Stuff in your home isn’t as valuable anymore, you can buy a huge TV for $500. The second hand goods market has diminished and while cash and jewellery are the main things left to steal – most of us don’t do cash anymore,” he told Mamamia.

You’re also more likely to face jail time.

“If you break into a home, and that’s your gig – but you leave fingerprints. There’s more a risk you’ll be linked to other offences. That wasn’t a thing before,” said Dr Clancy.

As Dr Clancy explains the reason we get the feeling we are “unsafe” all the time, has a lot to do with the news cycle.

“We’ve lost sight of actually how safe we are, and how pretty simple measures would deter would be offenders, and that they DON’T escalate and get weapons.

“Reporting in the news, if someone gets shot – we hear about it. But in the grand scheme of things, and if you compare the crime rates against how much our population is growing, it’s not that high,” he explained.

Nicole Green can attest to that.

She told Mamamia, that in the years she lived in South Africa she was involved in numerous robberies.

Men standing at her backdoor trying to break it in, a man standing in the hallway holding a TV he’d just stolen, and coming home to an intruder looking in her fridge.

“It’s the reason we moved to Australia, where I feel so unbelievably safe,” she said.

Dr Clancy says it’s very simple to deter a home burglar.

“They are criminals of opportunity, so so much of it comes down to opportunity reductions,” he said.

“Get some sensor lights, dead-locks and difficult to penetrate windows – that’s all low cost.

“You don’t have to build a fortress, you just have to deter them for a few minutes and they won’t bother trying,” he explained.

“I have spent a bunch of years telling people yes – it doesn’t make your like better if you’re a victim. But the truth is, there are less victims,” he told Mamamia.

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