Guest blog by Thomas Raulen, law enforcement professional.*
Picture this. You get home after being out of town for a week. As you enter your front door, something does not feel right. Before you have a chance to process the strange sensation, you notice items out of place. A throw pillow on the floor, an end table drawer open and a light on in your kitchen.
As a sense of panic begins to form, your thoughts turn to a series of questions: Did I leave a door unlocked? Did the neighbor I asked to pick up the mail come over while I was gone? Did I just go in a hurry and forgot this is how I left things? The need to continue interviewing yourself is quickly quelled when you notice the backdoor has been kicked in. This is really happening!
Not knowing how long ago the intruder was in your home or if they might still be there, you flee to your neighbor’s house to try to find a semblance of safety. You quickly explain the situation to your friend and then call 911. When the dispatcher answers, your justifiably elevated voice exclaims, “My house has been robbed!”
Burglary and Robbery: Your Presence Is Needed for Only One of These Crimes
Law enforcement officers and 911 dispatchers are quick to recognize the common error when someone reports their house has been robbed. After a few standard questions by the emergency call taker, the reality of the above event is defined with more legal precision. The victim in this hypothetical example has experienced a burglary, not a robbery. While it may seem like semantics, the distinction between the two crimes is important.
Robbery is a crime against a person—an actual physical being. Generally defined, robbery is theft, or the attempted theft, of a person’s property in which force or the threat of force is used against a victim. Burglary, on the other hand, is considered a crime against property. Sometimes referred to as breaking and entering, burglary is usually associated with the theft of property from a home, business or vehicle.
Your Home Is More Than a Just Your Property
Burglaries occur in locations that are unoccupied, such as a car in a parking lot or at a home while the owner is away. Occasionally, a burglary may occur while the owner is still home—usually asleep—and unaware of the intruder. While this results in the level of offense being higher in most jurisdictions—such as an increase in the degree of felony classification—it is still a burglary. In the unfortunate event in which the unsuspecting homeowner and burglar come face to face, and the intruder uses or threatens to use force, the crime immediately rises from a burglary to a robbery. Again, it is the element of force against the physical presence of the victim that distinguishes the two crimes.
Let’s face it. If someone were to steal items out of your car, you would be upset. Similarly, if you had a shed or other outbuilding on your land and a thief broke in to steal your property, it would be troubling. As disturbing as these scenarios are, go back to the example at the beginning of this article. Try to imagine someone was in your home while you were away. Not your car or shed, but the place where your family lives. A stranger was in the room where your children sleep! Does this still feel like a crime against your property? A burglary to a home may be legally classified as a property offense, but anyone who has been the victim of this violation will tell you, it is a very personal crime.
Crime Prevention and Criminal Apprehension
Crime prevention specialists offer a number of suggestions to help reduce your chances of being victimized. In addition to locking your car and house doors, the use of alarms, cameras, warning signs and light timers may also play a role in a security plan. These and similar steps take a multifaceted approach to protecting you and your property. Avoiding the crime from occurring is the primary goal of any crime prevention system. However, if your property is stolen, getting it back and identifying the thief become the essential objectives.
My Property ID Registry capitalizes on the benefits of deterrence by taking steps to prevent theft. Through the use of warning signs and commercial-grade ID tags, thieves are given notice of the extra layer of protection afforded to My Property ID Registry users. In the event an item is stolen, the serial numbers on your cloud database and the tamper-resistant ID tags can help law enforcement both identify the criminal and return the stolen property to its rightful owner.
*Thomas Raulen is a freelance writer specializing in public safety, government affairs, and community engagement. He is also a 27-year law enforcement practitioner, an adjunct professor of criminal justice, and a police academy instructor. Thomas is a twice graduate of the University of Central Florida.