In 2014, the FBI reported there were more than 8.2 million property crimes (including burglary) in the U.S. In fact, one burglary occurs every 18 seconds.

Given this, we asked 2,031 people to imagine their house being broken into and what their primary response would be (See our tips to reduce likelihood of a burglar choosing your home). We asked what security measures they would put in place to protect themselves, how likely they would be to wait for the police, and which items in their home they would be willing to die for to protect. Continue reading to see what we uncovered.

Truly Invaluable Possessions

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Saying there are things you might be willing to die for can sometimes imply a joking sentiment. For instance, “I’d die for a latte right now,” or “I’d die to be on vacation instead of working today.” But when we asked our participants what they’d be willing to die for in the event of a home burglary – their answers were very serious.

Almost 64 percent of respondents told us they would die for their computers. Considering the advent of a digital age where so many memories are stored and saved digitally, protecting their computers seemed to be at the front of our survey takers’ minds. According to another study, 39 percent of the U.S. population fails to back up their computers at all, and only 19 percent back up their computers once a year. Thus, computers, which may have the only pictures of your children’s births or the video copies of your wedding, may be worth fighting – and possibly dying – for.

Our research found that more than half of those surveyed were also willing to die protecting their pets. Like the sentimental attachment to digital memories that may be irreplaceable, our pets play a significant role in our life. Therefore, participants felt protecting them from harmful situations was worth putting their life on the line.  

Other common items respondents felt were worth dying for included vehicles (almost 57 percent), cash (40 percent), and a child’s sentimental toys and keepsakes (40 percent). Regardless of the sacrifice, these physical items had so much emotional value (or actual value) that people told us they would die to protect or preserve them.

Geographical Responses to a Break-In

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It may be difficult to fully comprehend what it means to be the subject of a home burglary, particularly one that you might witness.

We asked participants to imagine responding to an intruder in their home and how likely they would be to take matters into their own hands versus trusting the police to handle the situation.

In parts of the country like Arizona, New York, and Massachusetts, respondents told us they were more likely to wait for the police than try to fend off their attackers themselves.

Residents in states like Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Montana, however, told us just the opposite – they would rather take matters into their own hands than wait for law enforcement to arrive.

How to Protect Yourself

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Defending yourself in the event of a dangerous or violent situation isn’t something anyone wants to think about, but should the event occur, we asked over 2,000 people how they would protect themselves if forced to do so.

Almost 62 percent of people told us they keep a weapon in their home to protect themselves or their family. Almost 28 percent told us they go so far as to keep a weapon with them in public. The question of gun ownership deterring violence in the U.S. continues to draw debate, but that doesn’t stop many of those we spoke to from admitting to owning a gun to keep themselves safe.

Despite learning that many own guns for protection, very few (less than 19 percent) regularly practice at a gun range. Others acknowledged taking self-defense courses (27 percent) to be able to fight back in the event of a personal attack, and 26 percent keep a weapon in their car to defend themselves from an attack outside of their home.

What Would You Do?

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When it came to protecting their most valuable possessions, most participants’ primary instinct was to call the police while hiding or leaving the house. While these respondents put their trust in local law enforcement, 24 percent would physically attack their assailant to drive them away. Additionally, 18 percent would try to kill the burglar to protect the things (and people) that matter most to them.

However, less than 10 percent of respondents would take less aggressive actions like screaming at the burglar, threatening them physically, or doing nothing and hiding. Of the less than 3 percent who responded with “Other,” one respondent admitted they would pray, while another said she would “let my husband shoot him … my aim stinks.”

Generational Possessions

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Across different generations, we found that certain items had more emotional value for some than they did for others. However, when we asked baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials the top five items they would grab in the event of a robbery, they agreed on some of their most important possessions.

For all three generations, the first item any of them imagined grabbing before running to safety was their computer. Regardless of age, protecting the digital information stored inside was the most important decision they could make in a moment of crisis. Unfortunately, studies have shown that computers are among the most commonly stolen items during a burglary. The generations also agreed that protecting their vehicles was a top priority, as well as making sure their pets were safe before running to safety.

Millennials and Gen Xers additionally told us their cellphones were on their top five list of items they would grab before running from a burglary. Like computers, our cellphones can have sensitive and sentimental information on them that can be difficult (or impossible) to replace if lost. Like computers, they are also among the most frequently stolen items during a robbery.

Baby boomers and Gen Xers told us they would grab their children’s sentimental toys and keepsakes before leaving their home, and millennials and baby boomers each told us they would grab their wallets before running to safety.   

Common Concerns With Security Systems

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While an alarm system can help prevent the need for any of these drastic actions (by deterring the thieves themselves), we asked people what their top reasons were for not owning a security system.

When ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, the most common reason for not owning an alarm system was that people were so uncomfortable with the idea of a break-in they didn’t even want to think about it. The second most common reason for not having a security system in place was not having the time to purchase one.

Some also told us they genuinely weren’t concerned about having items stolen from their home, and that a security system wouldn’t make their home any safer. Despite these perceptions, research has shown that alarm systems not only intimidate robbers, but they can reduce the rates of crimes entirely.

Among the least common reasons for not having a security system, respondents said they weren’t worried about having items stolen from their home, and others said the systems were too expensive.

Perceptions of Safety

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While there may not be a price you can put on safety in your home or neighborhood, we asked participants to rank the safety of their community and if they have a security system.

Most told us that regardless of having a home security system, they felt moderately safe in their neighborhood. Of those, more than 36 percent have an in-home alarm system compared to almost 64 percent who don’t. While fewer told us they felt extremely safe where they lived, almost 32 percent of those feeling the most comfortable in their neighborhood told us they also had an alarm system.

The Value of Safety

Based on the more than 2,000 people surveyed, our research shows that people are willing to die to protect their computers, as well as other possessions like their cars and pets. And even though research has shown that the emotional aftermath of a break-in can have long-lasting effects, when it comes to protecting our property, there’s almost nothing we wouldn’t do to keep it safe.

Methodology

Burglary and security related data was obtained by surveying 2,031 homeowners regarding their personal home security practices.

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