Over the last few decades, cases of burglary drastically reduced in USA, and most parts of the world. This is due to the increase in the overall economy and security systems installed in; homes, cars, stores and company buildings. Advancements in technology lead to the improvement of devices used in security; they are now high tech and effective. This ranges from; alarm systems, pressure systems, and security cameras. They detect and lead to the capture of several criminals. This deters several individuals from continuing with their criminal activities. However, some improve on their burglary skills and continue to carry on with their criminal acts with expertise and care. This shows in the number of criminals captures for burglary crimes leading to the loss of millions of dollars. The media have a role to play in the increased confidence most of these burglars have in carrying out their attacks. This occurs through; television programs, movies, news articles, video games, music and the internet. These depict successful heist cases carried out by the individuals without getting caught. Possible offenders view this as a source of motivation that they too can carry out the crime and get away with it. Some of the criminals copy characters like Robin Hood in the movie and series and Nathan Ford in Leverage series. These characters depicted commit burglary for a good cause; helping the oppressed. On the other hand, some take advantage of this and steal for selfish gains. In reference to this factor, the paper analyzes the role of the media in encouraging the actions of criminals. It also explores possible ways the media can be used positively; to discourage and reduce cases of burglary.
Key words: burglary, high tech, security systems, heist.
Burglary cases in the USA and worldwide attribute to a variety of factors. Among these includes; the role of the media in motivating opportunistic burglars in carrying out their deeds. In some cases, it is with good intentions. It does this through the information made available in the form of television programs, movies, video games, the internet, and news articles on burglary cases. Most of these depict stories of burglars who commit a series of heists leading to the loss of millions. Most of them get away with their criminal acts and attain the status of heroes. For instance, Robin Hood successfully steals from the corrupt elite in the society, and returns the valuables to the poor people he thinks needs them more. This earns him affection and respect despite the fact that his actions are illegal.
In order to understand the role of the media in burglary, we have to comprehend the; concept, prevalence of cases, and other factors facilitating burglary. This paper analyzes the topic in a broad and descriptive scope; shedding light on all aspects of importance.
Burglary refers to the illegal breaking into a building or structure with the intention of crimes such as theft or destruction of property (Schenker et al. 2013). In such cases, a criminal breaks into a car, commercial buildings, homes, schools and shops. Though these cases rarely involve assaults, exceptional cases may involve other crimes. These involve burglary with the intention to murder, rape or kidnap victims or vandalize.
Dealing with burglary is especially difficult due to the lack of violence and confrontation. This is also due to the view of burglary as a lesser crime in comparison to cases of; robbery with violence, murder, rape, and kidnap of victims by the criminals. The burglars take advantage of this and commit a string of crimes (Schenker et al. 2013). For instance, in Sherman Oaks, a burglar targets several stores along Ventral Boulevard without getting caught (KABC TV, 2013).
Most of the attacks target items such as; cash, gold, electronic equipment, silver, jewelry, and guns. These are easy to get away with, according to the movies, and can be sold at pawn shops and the black market quickly. This serves to avoid detection and arrest of the burglars (Schenker et al. 2013).
Statistical analysis of burglary prevalence
The prevalence of burglary cases can be emphasized through the provision of empirical evidence on the matter. According to Schenker et al. (2013), one out of every 36 houses will be burglarized this year alone. The estimated loss per break-in in the USA is $1675. This poses a financial threat to citizens who fall prey to the criminals. These attacks also lead to psychological distress caused by fear on the aftermath of the attacks. USA records the highest cases of burglary in comparison to other parts of the world.
The highest cases are in; Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Cincinnati- all in the state of Ohio. Other places with high prevalence include; Detroit, Memphis, St. Louis, Oklahoma, Tulsa, and Greensboro according to Schenker et al. (2013). Statistics reveal that 62.4% of burglaries occurring at home happen between 6am to 6pm when the owners are away at work. These mostly target the master bedroom believed to be the storage point of valuable materials. In the points of entry, front doors seemed to be preferred at 34%, followed by the first floor windows and backdoors. Criminals copy this from the techniques they see in the media. Fewer break-ins occurred through the garage, unlocked entrances, storage areas, basement and second floor windows.
Burglars vary in age, sex, and criminal motives. However, the average burglar, according to the victims of the attacks, fits the description of a male individual in the mid or late teens. The media play a vital role in the lives of individuals within this age bracket. This explains the prevalence of such cases with the advancement of media in terms of programs, games, movies and the internet. It is crucial to note that most of these offenders commit the crimes within their neighborhoods.
Role of the media on encouraging attitudes and behaviors of opportunistic burglars
The media impact virtually every aspect of human life; it determines the behaviors individuals acquire. Crime is a factor affected in different ways by the media. Media devices involve the use of television programs and other means to portray and address the issue; this is especially in relation to burglary. How has the media contributed to an increase in burglary cases?
Famous and successful burglary stories
The media, especially news articles, report cases of successful burglaries in immense detail. A lot of focus is on the strategies, planning and skills applied by criminals to execute the acts. This occurs in awe and exaggeration which further serves to magnify the acts. This motivates opportunistic individuals to try out their own heist activities. The amount of money is also a motivational factor. In famous heists, the burglars get away with property worth millions.
For instance, in Antwerp, a group of criminals known as The School of Turin stole diamonds. Diamonds worth over $100 millions disappeared according to KABC TV (2013). The group effectively strategized and defeated ten layers of security to get to the diamonds and escape. The news article provided details on how they made copies of the keys, fakes security camera footage and overcame the high tech security systems. Their only failure was leaving behind traces of DNA which led to their capture.
Subsequently, after careful planning by a gang masquerading as landscapers stole 165 million Brazilian currencies from a bank in 2005. They made tunnels over 250 feet long to access the bank vault. While the police caught a few, others are still at large (KABC TV, 2013). Overemphasis on such cases by the media leads to an increase in copycat burglary activities thus increasing the number of burglary cases. Despite its negative view by the media, some criminals adopt these strategies to carry out acts they believe are for a good purpose.
The role of statistics
The media seeks to reduce the fear citizens have in relation to criminal activities. It provides statistics portraying a decrease in criminal activities, in the society. Most individuals view this as an illusion of safety and relax on the security detail they have in cars and buildings. Burglars take advantage of this while identifying buildings with outdated security systems. They plan on how to overcome the systems. With exception to serious heists, burglars target houses without security systems; it reduces chances of getting caught. These burglars take advantage by robbing even the poor. However, the ones who belief their actions are justified attempt ways of overcoming rich people’s security.
Television programs, movies and videogames
Statistics reveal that the average age of burglars ranges between the late teens and early twenties according to Schenker et al. (2013). Programs, movies, music and video games heavily influence this generation.
Television programs depict some acts of burglary as good because they are attempts to help others. In Robin Hood, the protagonist steals from the wealthy oppressors in the society to help the less privileged (Ebert, 2010). In Leverage television series, Nathan Ford leads a team of criminals in helping people using unorthodox means including; stealing money and other valuable materials from the corrupt and wealthy members of the society to help the oppressed. Though these actions are criminal, their association with justice, and depiction of the criminals as protagonists, may encourage certain individuals.
People decide to emulate those heroes with the excuse of helping members of the society. Stealing is wrong, even when it occurs for a good reason. Movies, especially in Hollywood, associate professional burglary with the; lavish living, expensive cars and immense wealth. These characters commit daring burglary acts and get away with it. Their targets are mostly government steals from them in the form of taxes. Thus, it is only fair if they steal the money back. For hits on large organizations, they say the organizations have so much money; they would not be affected if a little part of it disappeared.
Opportunistic burglars take advantage of the situation and steal for their own interests. Most of them view stories on famous cat burglars for motivation. Statistics show that most burglars caught has a history of video game or movie addiction related to burglary activities. They do this to acquire the relevant information and estimate their chances of getting caught.
According to Helfgott (2008), the media and technology create a false familiarity with criminal activities where the potential criminals identify with the characters they view on television and internet. This blurs the line between reality and fantasy which facilitates criminal acts. In 2003, Devin Moore, an 18-year-old was arrested for the murder of two officers and car theft. Further analysis of his case revealed that he was a Grand Theft Auto-Vice City addict; a video game common among the youths. This, in combination with child abuse experiences and post traumatic stress, contributed to the violent outburst and car theft.
Role of the media in reducing burglary cases
Cases of media-motivated burglary increase unless active action occurs. A reduction in burglary depends on the extent at which individuals are exposed to criminal content via the media. According to Helfgott (2008), most families have; television sets, DVD players, computers, video game systems and internet access. This exposes children and youth to criminal content. These influence their behavior and may motivate them to commit criminal acts such as burglary; in the name of being cool. The media characters viewed as role models are emulated. If any individual sees an aggressive character receiving rewards or regarded as a hero, he is most likely to imitate the behavior.
The media can help reduce burglary in various ways. Those in charge should regulate the content aired via the media devices. This reduces the effect they have on youths. The portrayal of burglary and other crimes as heroic acts is not right; this influences youth who are gullible to copy these actions leading to the loss of property and violence in some cases. This is also the parents’ responsibility in regulating content that is safe for viewing in the home.
Subsequently, the media should focus on discouraging the use of drugs. Most burglars practice alcohol and substance abuse (Weisel, 2002). The individuals engage in this t gain the courage to carry out their criminal acts. Showing the negative effects of drugs as well as, consequences of arrest ensure individuals avoid them. They stay sober and make logical decisions.
The media should partner with security companies in advertising new advancements in security systems. Through this, home owners and other individuals acquire effective systems such as; locks, security cameras, trained dogs and alarm systems (Weisel, 2002). This discourages burglars from targeting such properties with the fear of being caught. For those brave enough to attempt, the police will have a higher chance of arresting the criminals.
The media are an integral part of normal life today. Individuals are constantly in contact with media content through; television programs, movies, video games, music and the internet. Due to influence it has on behavior, portrayal of burglary in the media is a sensitive issue. The depiction of burglary as acts of goodwill encourages people with criminal tendencies to copy what they view. This causes an increase in the case of burglary within the society. For instance, the view of characters such as Nathan Ford and Robin Hood as heroes is not morally acceptable. The fact that they steal from the rich and corrupt members of the society, to help the less privileged, does not make their actions right. It is criminal and should be punished. The means certainly do not justify the end in this perspective.
Ebert, R. (2010). Robin Hood. Chicago Sun-Times, Retrieved April 18, 2013 from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/robin-hood-2010
Helfgott (2008). The Influence of Technology, Media and Popular Culture on Criminal Behavior: Copycat crimes and cybercrime. Criminal Typologies.
KABC TV. (2013). Recent Burglary Stories, Videos and Galleries. Explore ABC7.com Stories. Los Angeles: KABC TV, Retrieved April 18, 2013 from http://www.abclocal.go.com/kabc/explre?tag=burglary
Schenker, M., Sadie, C., Amy, B. and Alex, S. (2013). Will Your House be broken into this Year? A Secure Life, Retrieved April 18, 2013 from http://www.asecurelife.com/burglary-statistics
Weisel, D. L. (2002). Burglary of Single-Family Houses. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. No. 18, Retrieved April 18, 2013 from http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/e07021611.pdf