This article was posted on Sunday, Sep 01, 2019

For the property thief, the decision to commit a crime on an apartment property is a risk versus reward exercise. The risk of committing this crime is the chance of getting caught, losing the property, and possibly their freedom.

The Risk

Understanding crime motivation is the key to designing a security plan. How do criminals view crime opportunity at an apartment community? Does the level of criminal motivation make a difference in deterrence?

The Escape

Many property thieves will view the lack of suitable escape routes on an apartment community as a trap and will simply choose another property to victimize.

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The Reward

The reward is the perceived benefit obtained upon successful completion of the crime. A good apartment security plan will address this concept by using crime prevention measures that will increase the perpetrator’s perception of being caught (risk) while diminishing the perceived value of their target (reward).

Size Matters

Criminals prefer large apartment complexes where they can feel invisible because everyone appears to be a stranger. It’s difficult to know all your neighbors and guests with the frequent resident turnover. Burglars and thieves have told me that they can walk about as if they lived there and become familiar with the property and potential targets. As long as they don’t look or act suspicious nobody ever questions their presence on the property.

Criminal Mindset

Property criminals view an apartment community differently than a new resident prospect looking for a place to live.

For property thieves, it’s more like going shopping and looking at the various items available to steal. They have a choice where and when they will commit a crime. If the thieves don’t like the merchandise or the shopping experience at your property, they will go elsewhere.

For them, the available targets equate to money. The things they steal can be converted to money or can be used so they don’t have to spend their money. Property crimes are usually one of stealth, where the criminal does not want a confrontation or be identified.

However, it is possible that the property crime may become violent if the opportunity presents itself or if surprised, cornered, or captured.

Those arrested for property crimes and usually male and between 18-21 years old.

The studies show that most property criminals live nearby their target areas and are familiar with the neighborhood. It is an important comfort factor for them to know the terrain and all the potential escape routes.

They will usually work the property on foot unless they need a vehicle to transport the stolen merchandise. Sometimes the property criminal will have lived in the target apartment community or have a friend who is a current resident.


For apartment managers, recognizing and addressing the lower levels of criminal motivation is the first key to successful deterrence. A good crime prevention program works best on moderately and poorly motivated criminals. There are some key points to remember:

  • A criminal’s motivation to commit a theft is at its lowest level during the first visit to the property
  • Criminal motivation increases as they become more familiar with the property
  • Success, in committing crimes on a property, will increase the level of motivation to continue to commit more crimes
  • It is three times more difficult to deter a criminal who has been successful committing crimes on your property

Address Low-Level Apartment 

Crime Motivation at Perimeter

The best places to address lower levels of apartment crime motivation is at the entrances to the property, the perimeter of the buildings, and most importantly, in the leasing office.

Good perimeter fencing and a reduced number of entrances after hours will often create that perception.

Criminals read the signs that say, “Security Patrol” or “Neighborhood Watch” or “Crime Free Multi-Housing Program”, even if we don’t.

Property thieves want to blend into a community, and they get uncomfortable when residents look suspiciously at them. I urge you to participate in your local Crime Free Multi-Housing Program and make the right impression for keeping crime out of your community.

Reprinted with thanks of Chris E. McGoey.  Mr. McGoey may be reached at (951) 461-8950 or by visiting . This article may not be copied or republished without the consent of the author.