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What is a burglary and how do they commonly occur?

By Mike Reitan; Assistant WF Police Chief

Let’s Talk Burglary

What is a burglary? The North Dakota Century Code defines a burglary as: NDCC 12.1-22-02. Burglary. 1. A person is guilty of burglary if he willfully enters or surreptitiously remains in a building or occupied structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof, when at the time the premises are not open to the public and the actor is not licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged to enter or remain as the case may be, with intent to commit a crime therein.

The short answer is someone enters or hides within a building during a time they are not allowed for the purpose of committing a crime. For the act to be the crime of burglary it must meet the three requirements: in a structure; during a time they would not normally be allowed; and to commit a crime. The crime could be theft, an assault, vandalism or any other activity designated a crime.

In the United States sixty percent of the residential burglaries occur during the day when no one is home. This was not always the case. In 1961 the percentage of daytime burglaries was sixteen. In 1995 the percentage had risen to forty percent. The increase in the number of women working outside the home is thought to be the reason for the change in pattern of the burglaries. This may also be the reason why most burglaries occurring during the week days and between the hours of 10 AM and 11 AM or 1 PM and 3 PM.

The time of year has a bearing on when burglaries occur. While the variation in numbers of reported cases may be small, most burglaries occur during August, the fewest in February. The weather and the availability of activities away from the home appear to have some effect on what time of the year a burglary is likely to occur. February in North Dakota is cause for more people to be at home and the house to be closed up.

The burglar selects a target based on opportunity, how easy did you make it for them; risk, have you done something that will cause them to be caught; and what they expect to get out of it, can they see valuables from outside the home.

Frequently a burglar will commit their crime close to where they live or in an area they are familiar with. Like real estate sales sometimes it is about location. Homes located near higher concentrations of potential offenders are frequently targeted. Living along a busy street or foot path allows a larger number of people to pass by your home and observe your patterns of behavior. It could be that your home is located on the outskirts of the neighborhood allowing someone to slip in or out relatively unnoticed. If your home is located next to a home that was recently burglarized your home may become the next target if the victim homeowner hardens their home to prevent future attacks.

Once your home has been burglarized it is up to four times more likely to be burglarized again. The subsequent burglary can be expected to occur within six weeks of the initial crime. They return because your house may have offered a good payout or it was easy to access. The burglar come back to get the items they would have had to leave behind during the first theft. The burglar may share the story of their success with others who will attempt to gain access to your home. Burglars will again attempt to gain entry into your home months after the initial crime to steal your purchased replacement items.

In following articles additional elements of the crime of burglary well as prevention tips will be discussed.