Social renters are three times more at risk of being burgled than homeowners, with lower levels of security protection for their homes.

Households in Britain are three times less likely to be burgled today than in 1993. Yet the relative risk of burglary is now much higher for some groups in society than others, says recent research.

"The distribution of burglary in our society has become much more unjust," says researcher Professor Andromachi Tseloni. "Today, social renters are three times more at risk of being burgled than homeowners. The relative risk of burglary is also greater for groups such as lone parents, ethnic minority households, low-income households and those living in deprived areas."

Increased security, researchers believe, has played a major role in the fall in burglary rates over the past 25 years. Research led by Professor Tseloni finds that a combination of just four specific burglary devices offers 49 times more protection than having no security at all. Fitting window locks, interior lights and timer, double or deadlocks and external lights (WIDE) is the most effective security combination.

Adding any more security measures on top of WIDE does not afford any further protection and, interestingly, a burglar alarm on its own appears to increase burglary risk and, added onto other measures, reduces their combined protection. Fitting external lights on a sensor appears to provide the greatest protection against burglary if only one device can be afforded.

The study finds that groups such as social renters who are most vulnerable to burglary also have lower levels of security protection for their homes than others. The level of reported burglary has remained constant at some 700,000 cases a year for the past 12 years. Further reductions in burglary crime would, researchers believe, only be achievable if resources were now focused on those groups at higher risk of burglary.

"In our view, local authorities and social landlords should upgrade their properties with the WIDE security combination recommended by our research," says Professor Tseloni. "Raising awareness of WIDE, introducing neighbourhood watch type initiatives and replacing poor windows and doors for home owners who cannot afford that expense are some of the other measures that could help ensure that certain groups in society do not suffer unduly from criminal activity."