The Truth About Real Robbery vs. Movie Robbery


It’s common knowledge that a fine line separates events occurring in the real world from events depicted on the silver screen. This distinction is particularly relevant when analyzing a film’s portrayal of burglars and home invaders.

In 2010, the FBI reported an estimated 2 million home robberies taking place throughout the United States. Of every burglary committed during that year, 60.5% involved forcible entry (breaking through a door or window) while 33.2% were deemed unlawful entries, meaning the culprits did not employ force. Rather, they simply opened the door and crept inside.

So, what are the main differences between actual burglars and their fictional on-screen counterparts?

Seasoned Professional or Hapless Amateur?

Thief Burglar opening  door

Well, to begin with, these characters are typically portrayed as professional “career criminals” — veterans of the robbery game with high-tech gear and gadgets to disable alarms or security cameras. They dress in black from-head-to-toe and sneak stealthily across the property, thus avoiding detection. In reality, this image does not match the description of an average crook.

Granted, there are numerous professional home burglars active in the United States; however, 85% of these home invaders cannot be classified as professional. Instead, they fit the mold of desperate and dangerous delinquents, intent on swiping any valuables they can find. These felons also frequently lack basic knowledge of security systems or how to evade suspicion.

Careful Planning or Impulse Behavior?

Thief Apartment In the movies, burglars are often in their 30s and, therefore, exhibit savviness that comes with age maturity. They understand the covert nature of criminal activity, prompting them to scout targets for a significant time frame. They develop a sophisticated strategy throughout several days or even weeks. They adopt unassuming disguises, such as delivery men, gardeners and other home maintenance workers. When the crooked character is played by a female, she is generally the attractive type who leverages her sex appeal to gain entry into a target’s residence before committing her dastardly deed.

Real-life burglars, however, are not nearly so cunning. In fact, studies indicate that the majority of home invaders are young, inexperienced and reckless white males, aged 20-25. Police have also stated that several culprits fit the classic description of an addict trying to score drug money.

Lengthy Investigation or Hasty Getaway?

Burglary By The Window

Next, once they access their target location, movie crooks move slowly, methodically and cautiously while raiding a home in search of precious commodities. Often, they appear to conduct this thorough inspection 30 minutes or longer. Off-screen, the process takes substantially less time. The average span of an actual home burglary has been estimated at 8-12 minutes. They’re in and out — quickly as possible.

What Can You Do to Avoid a Real Threat?

If you recently watched a thriller film such as Panic Room (2002) or The Strangers (2008), for example, and have become terrified of burglars and home invaders as a result, here are some pointers to remember:

  • Ensure that your home’s security system is up-to-date, your alarm is consistently activated, and your doors or windows remained locked. Burglars will unlikely attempt entering a residence where precautions have clearly been taken.
  • Double check all locks before leaving your home for any reason in order to verify that  the residence will stay secure in your absence.
  • Inform a neighbor if you will be leaving home for an expended time period, so that someone else can watch for any suspicious activity.

Of course, expert “career criminals” are legitimately on-the-prowl for an opportune moment to strike, but if you follow the necessary steps to safeguard your home, family and property, this threat will decrease. Simply put, the chances of encountering a movie-like crook aren’t as prevalent as Hollywood might suggest.



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