Safer streets due to digital doorbell
The Digital Doorbell pilot has caused a drop in the number of domestic burglaries in the Stedenwijk district of Almere. As housebreakings through the front door were relatively common in this neighbourhood, 96 digital doorbells with cameras were fitted in 2018. The streets where these doorbells were installed saw the domestic burglary rate decrease by nearly 50%. Many of the residents that have a digital doorbell also feel a lot safer. The evaluation of the pilot allows municipalities to include information on the benefits of a digital doorbell with a camera in their prevention recommendations to residents. This pilot was carried out in collaboration with the municipality of Almere, the Ministry of Justice and Security, the police, the Centre for Crime Prevention and Public Safety (CCV) and two installation companies in Almere that have the Police Residential Security Warranty (Politiekeurmerk Veilig Wonen).
Digital doorbells were fitted in 45 streets of the Stedenwijk district. A study of the development in objective security compared pilot streets to a number of control streets (similar streets that did not have digital doorbells) within the same neighbourhood. Over 2018, the number of housebreakings in streets with digital doorbells fell by 48% relative to 2017, while this figure was just 5% in the control streets. Furthermore, while these control streets saw a sharp increase of car break-ins, this type of crime remained at the same level in the pilot streets. No impact was observed on destruction of property or other property offences.
However, while the advantages of the digital doorbell are significant at street level, they have not yet made a mark on the level of either the district or the dwelling. There were 76 domestic burglaries in the Stedenwijk district over 2018, which is a significant drop from 111 in the previous year. However, this decrease was equally as large in the Muziekwijk Zuid district, which was designated within the pilot as a control district where digital doorbells were not fitted. A domestic burglary occurred in 1 of the 96 pilot dwellings, resulting in a housebreaking percentage of 1.0%. This figure is not materially different from the rate in the entire district (1.8%) or the whole of Almere (1.2%).
At the end of the pilot, district residents who have a digital doorbell feel significantly safer than they did at the start of the pilot. The proportion of participants who occasionally feel unsafe in their own dwelling is down from 40% before the pilot to 23% afterwards. They moreover rate the safety of the district at 6.5, while this score in the previous year had been 5.9. The digital doorbell is responsible for the greater sense of security according to four in five participants. In future, the municipality of Almere will include information on the benefits of the digital doorbell in its free prevention recommendations to residents.
Camera in View
One of the preconditions for participation in the pilot was that residents register their digital doorbell with Camera in View (Camera in Beeld). This police system charts all cameras that monitor public spaces, providing the police with an overview of which cameras are installed where and what they are covering. For example, if there has been a burglary within a neighbourhood, the police will be able to access the system and see which of the local cameras may have recorded the crime. Subsequently, they can get in touch with the owner to view the camera images. It's worth emphasising that the police are unable to watch these camera images live.
Outcomes of approach and innovations
The approach to housebreakings has been successful. There has been a steady decline in the number of domestic burglaries since 2012. In 2018, for instance, the rate of housebreakings fell by 13% relative to 2017. However, the increase in the clear-up rate has not kept pace. Situational measures are also being taken in addition to the customary focus on perpetrators, whose personal motivations to commit a crime are always an area for attention. Such measures include neighbourhood prevention, improvements to hinges and locks, and decent street lamps. The use of digital doorbells that have a camera is well suited to this approach. In order to reduce the domestic burglary rate further, the Ministry of Justice and Security is supporting and collaborating closely with the municipalities. To that end, the municipalities will be actively informed about the outcomes of this pilot.
The years ahead will see additional experiments to prevent housebreakings in the wake of the Digital Doorbell pilot. For example, the Zero-Burglary District Field Lab (Fieldlab Inbraakvrije Wijk) has now launched in South Rotterdam. Among other things, this experiment investigates whether sensors detecting movement and sound in public spaces are able to pick up on suspicious behaviour at an early stage in order to prevent domestic burglaries.