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Is Burglary a Crime of Violence? An Analysis of National Data 1998-2007

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2015
97 pages
An analysis of national data for burglary for the years 1998-2007 determined whether violence is a general characteristic of these offenses, as is implied in some State and Federal laws and sentencing for burglary.
The analysis of national data on burglary obtained from Uniform Crime Reports, National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVSs), and the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for 1998-2007 indicates that the majority of burglaries did not involve physical violence and there was weak evidence of even the possibility of violence. The incidence of actual violence or threats of violence during burglaries ranged from a low of 9 percent in rural areas based on NIBRS data, to a high of 7.6 percent in urban areas based on NCVSs. At most, 2.7 percent involved actual violent acts. A comprehensive content analysis of the provisions of State burglary and habitual offender statutes, however, found that burglary is often treated as a violent crime instead of prosecuting and punishing it as a property crime, while separately charging and punishing convicted offenders for any violent acts that occasionally co-occur with burglary. The discussion of policy implications of these findings suggests reform of current statutes that do not reflect the documented characteristics of burglary offenses. It suggests that at a minimum, only burglary of an occupied building be regarded as a serious crime; preferably, the revised law should require that an actual act of violence or threatened violence occur before burglary can be prosecuted as a violent crime. 3 figures, 13 tables, and 93 references

Date Published: January 1, 2015