Media Briefings

Cutting Crime Through Built-In Home Security: Evidence From The Netherlands

  • Published Date: May 2011


Using burglar-proof windows and doors in new residential construction makes homes 25%
less likely to be burgled than comparable new homes without those features. That is the
central finding of research by Ben Vollaard and Professor Jan van Ours, published in the
May 2011 issue of the Economic Journal.
Their study analyses the impact of a regulation introduced in the Netherlands just over a
decade ago, which made burglar-proof windows and doors obligatory in new residential
construction. Since the new building code came into effect in 1999, at least 10,000
burglaries have been prevented. The authors conclude that regulation of built-in home
security has proved to be a highly effective way of preventing burglary.
The greater home security successfully closed off easy opportunities for theft. Vollaard and
Van Ours do not find evidence that burglars shifted their attention to older, less-protected
homes in older neighbourhoods. Nor is there any evidence that burglary has been replaced
by other crimes such as bicycle theft or theft from cars. The researchers conclude that the
regulation was successful in reducing the overall crime rate.
The costs of the intervention amount to roughly £380 (€430) per home, which is lower than
the benefits in terms of reduced crime. As such, the regulation of built-in security provides a
promising alternative to more commonly used policies such as increasing police strength or
enhancing prison sentences. The study shows how crime can be reduced without the
intervention of one school attendance officer, police officer or corrections officer.
Several countries have experience of constructing new homes with built-in security
measures, with the British ‘Secured by Design’ programme being one of the most widely
known initiatives. No country has gone as far as the Netherlands, which made the
application of burglar-proof windows and doors in new residential construction obligatory as
of 1 January 1999.
The Dutch Building Code was changed accordingly. The law prescribes which parts of the
home need to be fitted with secured doors and windows, excluding those that cannot easily
be reached by burglars.
Using data from the Dutch National Victimisation Survey, the authors find that homes built
just after the change in the regulation are significantly less likely to be burgled than homes
built just before the change in the regulation. In their comparison, they account for possible
differences between the two groups of homes, including type of home, type of
neighbourhood and other security measures used by occupants.
Until now, there was little hard evidence on the effectiveness of built-in home security. In
general, homes that are more likely to be burgled are also more likely to have high-quality
security measures, making it hard to establish the effect of the measures. In their analysis,
Vollaard and Van Ours exploit the unique situation of regulated use of built-in home
security, where the use of the security measures in a home is completely independent from
the likelihood of a burglary in that home. They find that the annual rate of victimisation of
burglary dropped from 1.1% in homes built before the regulatory change to 0.8% in homes
built after the regulatory change.
ENDS
Notes for editors: ‘Does Regulation of Built-in Security Reduce Crime? Evidence from a
Natural Experiment’ by Ben Vollaard and Jan van Ours is published in the May 2011 issue
of the Economic Journal.
The authors are at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.
For further information: contact Ben Vollaard on +31-6-41604444 (email:
b.a.vollaard@uvt.nl); or Romesh Vaitilingam on +44-7768-661095 (email:
romesh@vaitilingam.com).