Why burglars target new housing estates for break-ins

wide shot of houses in a suburb

RACV Staff

Posted February 09, 2023

Vacant lots, lax security and houses full of brand-new goods: it's easy to see why burglars like new housing estates for all the wrong reasons.

New housing estates are full of modern, beautifully-designed homes on quiet streets. Wandering through one, you can almost see new futures beginning here, where families have invested not only their money, but also their dreams.

But new estates sometimes aren't as idyllic as they seem. Thieves and burglars are drawn to new housing estates too, seeing them as tempting targets full of new possessions and lax security. Neighbourhood Watch estimates that 1 per cent of a new home's cost is made up from theft from construction sites across Victoria: a cost that the industry often passes onto purchasers.

RACV Security Operations Manager - Home Security Dean Rossi says there are a number of elements in new housing estates that entice criminals, including lax security and high-value theft targets.

two story house with white paint and wooden doors

Newly built homes often lack locks, fences and security doors. Image: Getty

Why new housing estates are a burglary hot spot

High-value targets

Burglars are spoiled for choice when it comes to theft targets on new housing estates. “The obvious attraction is the flow of new people moving in, usually with lots of new stuff,” Rossi says. “LCD TVs, laptops, electronics: all the things that are attractive to thieves.” White goods, air conditioning units, spas, hot water systems, and kitchen appliances are also top targets.

Some people make it too easy by leaving out the boxes that their new TVs and appliances were delivered in. “You’re advertising what you’ve got, so don’t put your boxes out the front,” says Rossi. “Cut them into pieces and put them in the recycling bin.”

Thieves aren't just looking for electronics and appliances, either: bricks, copper wiring and other building supplies are all high-value targets on building sites. Timber, slate roofting tiles, electrical cable and wiring, trade tools are other items most often stolen from building sites, according to Neighbourhood Watch.

Limited security

"Often when you first move into a new-built home, locks and fences and security doors have not yet been added," Rossi says. "It’s very unlikely when someone moves into a brand-new home that it’s going to have all the necessary window locks, alarm systems and other burglary deterrents.”

It’s human nature, but all too often people don’t upgrade their home security until they’ve been victims of a break-in or have heard of one nearby. Rossi says updating home and contents insurance is also often left by the wayside until people move in, which leaves you vulnerable if break-ins occur during the building stage.

Rossi advises to upgrade your security on your brand-new home as soon as you can to deter opportunistic criminals, especially around common entry points like your garage. “Ensure your new home has proper deadlocks to Australian standards as well as window locks," he says. "Make sure the house looks lived in and invest in visible signs of security. Display an alarm system, or other home security measures that can be seen from the street. That way, a potential thief walking past says, ‘I’m not bothering there, I’m moving on’.”

Neighbourhood Watch also advises installing sensor lights from the start of the build, along with prominently-displayed after-hour contact details so that neighbours or police can immediately contact the builder and homeowner if something occurs. You can also request your builder to use additional security measures like extra-long screws on all door hinges, so they can't be kicked out at the frame.


new housing estate with double-storey houses facing a new road

New housing estates are a top target for burglars. Image: Getty

Lots of windows and doors

There are several common vulnerabilities in new estates, according to Rossi.

“What struck us the most was that the houses were close to the street, with big windows and glass on each side of the main door," Rossi says. "You could quite easily see into the family rooms, including all the furniture and gadgets on display.”

In addition, particularly on the newest developments, new builds are often surrounded by vacant lots. Local residents nearby have not had the time yet to form relationships with their neighbours, so there is less mutual looking out for each other.

Finally, housing estates are rife with moving trucks. "An opportunistic thief could simply sit across the street, watch everything being unloaded from the moving trucks, and take their pick of the crop," Rossi says.

Use the free website How Safe Is My Place? to identify your brand-new home's weak points, so you can take the appropriate security measures.

It's easy for thieves to blend in 

New housing estates are full of tradies working on constructing and fitting out brand-new builds. Often thieves can be hidden in plain sight among the many sparkies, chippies, plumbers and painters. "A thief can be perceived as a tradie on new housing estates," Rossi says. "They’re less likely to look out of place than in more established areas."

In fact, some thefts occur before the house is occupied, with hot-water services and appliances stolen, while some thieves are apparently using angle grinders to get into houses. "That makes sense," says Rossi. "You hear an angle grinder going and you think the neighbour’s doing some work. Doesn’t sound out of place, especially compared to a hammer smashing glass."

Neighbourhood Watch recommends both builders and owners introducing themselves to any local residents. Neighbours can then more easily identify strange persons and suspicious behaviour. You should also keep an eye out for people loitering around the site after other workers have left, equipment noise like angle grinders coming from the site outside construction hours, and strange vehicles regularly driving around the area.


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