The Federal Bureau of Investigation (2010) defines burglary as the unlawful entry into a structure in order to commit theft or a felony. The term structure refers to offices, apartments, houseboats used as homes, barns or railroad cars. It however does not refer to cars or ships. This entry need not be forceful. Burglary is classified into three forms; forcible entry, attempted forcible entry and non-forcible unlawful entry where no force is applied.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (2010) reports approximately 2,199,125 burglaries in 2009. This is less by 1.3% in comparison to 2008. This is however higher than the 2005 and 2000 estimates by 2.0% and 2.5% respectively. Out of these, 61% were forcible entries, 6.5% were attempted forcible entries and 32.6% were non-forcible unlawful entries. 72.6% of the burglaries were on residential properties. All in all burglary made up 23.6% of the reported property crimes in 2009.
Prenzler & Townsley (1996) highlight some of the factors that fuel burglary as socio-economic and cultural inequality, alienation, substance abuse and ease of access among others. Prenzler & Townsley (1996) note that the effects of burglary are felt in terms of the value of property lost, intangible emotional value attached to property and psychological harm. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (2010) approximates that the cost to victims per offence was $2,096. This came to a total figure of $4.6 billion. The effect is also felt in terms of the police hours and money used in tracking down suspects. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2010), the clearing rate; that is the rate at which burglary cases are solved by the police, is 12.4%. This means that the overall cost of the crime only gets redress in the form of justice 12.4 times out of 100.
Prenzler & Townsley (1996) also observe that prison is not a sufficient deterrent to the crime. These observations require further inquiry in order to develop a better understanding of the crime itself. Questions such as what its causative factors are and its effects require examination. In answering these questions one would be able to identify the public policy responses that need to be put in place to effectively respond to this crime. These are the questions that form the basis of the proposed research.
The proposed research aims to establish the causative factors of burglary. It also aims to establish any factors that aggravate the crime and in which areas. The paper will then examine the effects of the crime. Having answered these questions successfully, the paper will then look at public policy responses used nationally and in other jurisdictions to prevent the crime.
The proposed research will limit its scope to an examination of the crime of burglary only. The paper will also examine socio-economic reasons for the crime. The study will also limit itself to being a secondary case study of investigative case studies already carried out.
This paper aims to contribute to a body of knowledge that is severely limited and that has not been adequately investigated in recent times. This is despite the fact the crime is escalating as illustrated by the data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2010). This makes this paper timely and relevant to any scholars or practitioners within the field of criminology, law and other related fields.
Summary of previous research
The research aims to identify the causative factors of burglary. The authors of the papers reviewed as part of this literature review attempted to provide answers to the questions of the causative factors of burglary, factors that aggravate the commission of the crime, its effects and various public policy responses to the crime.
- Vaughn, M. G., DeLisi, M., Beaver, K. M., & Howard, M. O. (2008). Toward a Quantitative Typology of Burglars: A Latent Profile Analysis of Career Offenders. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 53 (6), 1387-1392.
This case study sought to identify existent burglar subtypes by using a thorough quantitative method to classify burglars taxonomically. The study used a sample population of active career burglars. The study population was narrowed down from 25,640 defendants processed by a bond commissioner in Colorado. Only 500 of this initial sample population qualified to be termed as frequent offenders by the Chief District Judge. The final study sample contained 456 adults - 424 males and 32 females, with a history of burglary offences. Data about their criminal activities was collected during bond interviews which was termed self-reporting. Self-reporting could not be 100 percent accurate due to memory and cognitive impairments. These were deemed to be a result of their antisocial lifestyles, very long criminal careers and frequent drug use during criminal activities. Additional data was sourced through the Interstate Identification Index. This is an automated criminal database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This filled in any missing data which minimised deficiencies. Data analysis was done using latent profile analysis. This method was used to quantify causative patterns of homogeneity in the subgroups formed using continuous variables.
The study identified four burglar subtypes. These are young versatile, sexual predators, vagrants and drug oriented. Young versatile burglars are relatively youthful and have committed various other offences. They do not have specialization patterns but might acquire them in future. Vagrants are transients who burglarize for survival and material gain. They are most active just before and during winter. They are unemployed and do not have skills for employment. They are also likely to have mental health ailments. Drug-oriented burglars also seek material gain but they do so to purchase and satisfy their addiction to substances. This type is more likely to use a weapon. They also have numerous weapon related and drug related offences. The sexual predator subtype is the most dangerous. This group uses burglary as a means to sate a psychological sexual desire or thrill experienced from breaking and entering. This group was characterised by the longest criminal careers with sexual offences such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault. This group comprised 6.1% of all offenders and were the most likely to perpetrate multiple homicides. By highlighting the burglar subtypes this study offers crucial insights into what causes burglary. It illustrates what factors drive offenders to commit burglary.
- Nee, C., & Meenaghan, A. (2006). EXPERT DECISION-MAKING IN BURGLARS. British Journal of Criminology, 46, 935-949.
This study examines the factors that aggravate burglary. The study uses the view-point of the burglar to examine the situational and environmental factors that provide a facilitative environment for burglary. The study examines 50 burglars drawn from two prisons in the United Kingdom. The sample comprised entirely of male residential burglars between 21 and 60 years of age. Participants were identified through recruitment letters, recommendation by co-participants and using criminal information. Data was collected using one hour interviews.
This study also identified the motivating factors for burglary to be money, excitement and peer- influence. The study found that all except three of the interviewees made the decision to burglar away from the site and then proceeded to search for the most vulnerable site. The three were opportunistic burglars who were heavy drug users. They also took advantage of the vulnerability of properties to burglarize them. Searching was the most common strategy. It involved surveying a suitable area until a target was identified. Where ‘hot’ tips were available about suitable property, the burglars would deviate from the search and find technique and go directly for the kill. The smallest percentage of the sample was found to be planners. Planners act on prior knowledge. This group was informed about the target, the occupants and its profitability. A small number of this group prepared thoroughly for weeks before burglarizing the property. The rest watched the target for a few days.
This study identifies factors that make targets attractive to burglars. These are the factors that aggravate burglary. These factors include, ease of access and availability of an escape route. They may include the proximity of public transport and/or the presence of security. However, the presence of security features such as a dog or double glazing did not deter 60% of the respondents. In fact 16% reported that double glazing attracted them. The sample reported that the security features used were undermined by a lack of vigilance in locking up by owners. Only 28% reported being deterred by undefeatable security.
The degree of cover was also an important element. This also extends to that state of occupancy. Some preferred unoccupied houses signified by milk, mail or newspapers on the doorway, no lights and/or no parked cars. Some preferred occupied houses as there would be no surprise arrival by occupants and valuables such as wallets would be in the premises. Profitability was assessed using general indicators such as decor, cars parked, visible expensive items and the state of the property.
The study also analyses the implications of these factors on public policy and for occupants.
- Ratcliffe, J. (2001). Policing Urban Burglary. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 213.
This study examines the problem of burglary, the profiles of burglars, the factors leading to and the efficiency of public policy responses to burglary. The study analyses data from the PROMIS database. The database provides data on burglary patterns and their likely causative factors. From the data drawn, a sample of 350 burglars was identified. Using static data, the author traced crime patterns for each burglar in order to identify what drove their criminal careers. These factors include lack of money, un-employability and criminal disposition among others. The researcher was also able to pinpoint what factors influence the choice of target. The author used environmental criminology theories to explain offender characteristics. The study also used the routine activities theory to explain target choices.
The study found that some locations are targeted due to factors that increase their vulnerability such as dense vegetative cover, no surveillance from neighbours, poor security measures, and availability of escape routes or hiding places. The study examines the use of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design as a means to redress criminogenic factors. The study notes that such intelligence led policing strategies yield results and lower burglary rates. The study however observes that intelligence led policing is hampered by lack of adequate resource allocation. The study also observes that a long term solution can be reached through collaborative programs with other stakeholders for example urban planning and strategic planning departments.
- Agnew, R. (2010). Controlling Crime: Recommendations from General Strain Theory. In H. D. Barlow, & S. H. Decker (Eds.), Criminology and Public Policy: Putting Theory to Work (pp. 25-44). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
This study examines the general strain theory in relation to the causative factors of crime and the appropriate public policy response. Agnew argues that in relation to crime, the general strain theory reveals which types of strain are most likely to induce crime, why they result in crime and why individuals are likely to respond to strain with crime. Strains likely to induce crime include; unemployment, criminal victimisation, child abuse and monetary issues. These strains result in crime because people react to them in order to survive, ease negative emotions or retaliate. Strains also facilitate social learning of crime.
The research aims to identify the causative factors of burglary. It also aims to identify the factors that aggravate burglary. The study will then identify the effects of burglary. It also aims to identify public policy responses put in place to cope with burglary both domestically and in other jurisdictions. This comparative analyses aims to identify successful public policy measures that have been applied elsewhere that can be applied domestically. These objectives form the research questions for the study.
The research will be explanatory in nature. It seeks to offer reasons as to what causes burglary, what are the factors that aggravate it, what are its effects and which public policy responses should be out in place to curb burglary. The study will examine both direct and indirect causal relationships. For instance, the research would employ means and policies that would be effective in the proper identification and control measures to curb high growth of burglary cases as indentified in the earlier studies. The research methods used in this study should link to the act such that it would be able for them to get all the information required in the study to make a constructive conclusion on the study.
Drawing from the observations in studies highlighted in the literature review, the study will form its theories. These theories will be tested using propositions that shall be tested using further data analysis from selected research studies. The data analysis will involve evaluating all the information given in the study such than all the information and conclusion on the study can be arrived at. The analysis will entail checking all the information from the data to get all the any suggested information from the data. These may entail deployment of other methods that are using in the gathering of information
The proposed study shall be qualitative research using a historical approach. The preferred design type for this research shall be case studies. The research will review previously conducted case studies to test and prove theories formed from past readings and literature review of the subject matter.
Data from the case studies finding shall be analysed by use of checklists. Checklists will be used to analyse the frequency and percentages of each element in the case studies selected for review. For example, drug abuse as a cause of burglary is one arm of the causative factors theory in this research. To test it, the frequency of appearance and the percentage of positive respondents per case study will be noted on the checklist. This method can and will be used for each element of the theories developed. Reading and analysis will form the basis for the filling of the checklists. This is the preferred method of data collection since the proposed research shall be qualitative and secondary in nature.
The preferred sampling method for this research will be a stratified systematic sampling approach. Royal Geographic Society (n.d) argues that stratified systematic sampling is advantageous because it generates results that are illustrative of the entire population. It is also preferable where there are many geographical entities under investigation. It also allows for comparability.
This is the preferred sampling technique because the study aims to draw data from relevant research studies carried out nationally and does not aim to restrict itself to data from case studies of particular areas only. As such the population of interest will be the case studies conducted nationally.
The population will be stratified into regions. These are north, east, west, south and central based on the geographical locations where the studies were conducted in relation to the country map. Case studies from each division will be sourced from online libraries and journals, the library and any other sources. Then studies will then be systematically analysed for similarities in sample sizes and demographics. The research aims to use case studies with relatively similar sample sizes and sample demographics for purposes of comparability. The most comparably similar from each division will then be selected for analysis.
The proposed sample will have a total of 3 studies from each division. This brings the total sample size to 15 case studies.
William Trochim (2006) defines measurement as the process of observing and recording the observations. The independent variables will be the factors that aggravate burglary while independent variable will be the actual occurrence of burglary. The variable will be conceptualized and operationalize by thoroughly analysing the results of the checklists and reviewing how they associate with the research question. In this research, the checklist and observation notes will act as they key modes of data collection. The checklist will use coding to record frequencies of occurrences while the observational noted will record data such as percentages that correspond to the codes.
Face validity will be used to measure the results observed. This method will be used to examine the validity of the observations based on an understanding of the text and context from which the data is drawn. This method is the most appropriate as the proposed research will be based on historical analysis of data presented by past case studies. The aim of the research is not to validate past research, instead it aims to use the findings of such research to answer its own questions and propose a way forward.
In conclusion, the research proposed aims to identify the causative and aggravating factors of burglary. It also aims to identify the effects of burglary. Lastly, it aims to analyse public policy responses to burglary and recommend a way forward. Past research has established causative factors to include drug abuse, psychological desires, money and in some cases peer-pressure. Aggravating factors include accessibility, ease of escape and occupancy. Proposed policy measures include a mix of socio-economic and intelligence led policing. (Agnew, 2010; Nee & Meenaghan, 2006; Ratcliffe, 2001 &Vaughn, et al 2008)
The research is secondary and uses historical data analysis to come to its conclusions. Data will be collected primarily through checklists and observational notes. The data sample will be drawn using a stratified systematic approach.
Agnew, R. (2010). Controlling Crime: Recommendations from General Strain Theory. In H. D. Barlow, & S. H. Decker (Eds.), Criminology and Public Policy: Putting Theory to Work (pp. 25-44). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Uniform Crime Report: Burglary. U.S Department of Justice.
Nee, C., & Meenaghan, A. (2006). EXPERT DECISION-MAKING IN BURGLARS. British Journal of Criminology, 46, 935-949.
Prenzler, T., & Townsley, M. (1996). Preventing Burglary.
Ratcliffe, J. (2001). Policing Urban Burglary. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 213.
Royal Geographic Society. (n.d.). Sampling Techniques. Retrieved April 2nd, 2013, from Royal Geographic Society: http://www.rgs.org/OurWork/Schools/Fieldwork+and+local+learning/Fieldwork+techniques/Sampling+techniques.htm
Vaughn, M. G., DeLisi, M., Beaver, K. M., & Howard, M. O. (2008). Toward a Quantitative Typology of Burglars: A Latent Profile Analysis of Career Offenders. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 53 (6), 1387-1392.
William Trochim. (2006). Measurement. Retrieved April 3rd, 2013, from Research Methods Knowledge Base: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/measure.php