With everyone confined to barracks during lockdown last year, burglars started focusing more on empty second-homes, a new report reveals. The question is, will they go back to their old ways when full normality returns, or will second-homes now always be a bigger target?
The pandemic forced burglars to give more attention last year to empty second-homes, especially in coastal areas, reveals a report from UNESPA, the Spanish Association of Insurance and Reinsurance companies, based on claims made for damages resulting from break-ins.
Over 12 months from August 2019 and July 2020 insurance companies saw a marked increase in burglary claims in coastal areas, and a steep drop in cities. The Spanish capital Madrid went from a burglary hotspot to well below the national average in terms of burglary risk, reveals the report. Areas around Madrid like Toledo and Guadalajar popular with weekend-homeowners also saw an increase in the risk of break-ins.
Lockdown kept everyone at home for two months last year, and the pandemic has encouraged a trend towards telecommuting, making it harder for burglars to find primary residencies with nobody at home. Breaking-in when people are in residence is a much riskier affair, with much bigger punishments, encouraging burglars to switch to empty second-homes on the coast, which also tend to be less well-protected with alarms and expensive anti-burglar doors and windows. Ongoing coronavirus-related travel restrictions have also kept foreign owners of second-homes from visiting Spain, leaving their empty-homes prey to burglars and squatter extortion gangs.
As a result, the risk of burglary surged in coastal regions like Catalonia (58% higher probability of break-in than the national average), followed by Murcia (+46%), and the Valencian region (+11%).
Burglars in second-homes also have a different modus operandi. In main homes they like to get in and out quickly, making off with small but high-value items like cash, jewelry, and phones. In holiday-homes, with fewer people around to disturb them, burglars take longer, and remove bigger items such as TVs and furniture. I recently heard of a case where they pulled up with a van, and started emptying the whole house of furniture like a removal company. In another case all the copper pipes were ripped out.
Nine of the ten municipalities with the highest risk of burglary were in Catalonia, meaning that region, which also has the biggest squatter problem in Spain, is the Spanish hotspot for crimes against property.
Now that burglars have spent more time robbing second-homes on the coast than before, will they go back to focusing on primary residences in cities if and when normality returns? I assume most of them will, but some of them won’t. The pandemic forced robbers to gain experience in second-homes, and some will stick at it, at least part-time. So the coronavirus has probably increased the risk of break-ins in second-homes from both burglars and squatter extortion gangs. It’s time for second-home owners to take home-security more seriously.