Criminal activity in residential areas is mainly restricted to breaking and entering and stealing from dwellings. When breakage occurs with the aim of committing a felony, as well as when a felony is committed within a residential area without breaking, the aspect of residential burglary comes to mind. Several issues have been identified of being causative of residential burglary cases. Criminal and unlawful entry into dwellings with the aims of committing crime is described as an opportunistic problem that is most prevalent in areas with high characteristics such as a great number of free access points, large number of valuable goods, proximity to public transport systems and proximity to pawn shops. Areas with many detached dwellings and large number of empty houses are also prone to residential burglary. This implies that most residential crimes occur during times when people are mainly out of the houses and in work places. It is therefore important for such crimes to be prevented through incorporation of strategies that minimize the possibility of free access to residential areas.
Residential burglaries occur in unplanned and speculative manner making them preventable only through the involvement of communities in activities aimed at increasing the efforts required to gain access to residential areas. Successful prevention strategies work through the reduction of burglary risk factors which houses vulnerable for burglary. Identifying potential burglars and finding distractive measures can also function well as a preventive measure against burglary. It can thus be said that residential burglary poses a challenge that requires individual and community participation in order to be tackled effectively. Strategic decision making and problem solving have been cited as necessary towards finding lasting solutions to the problem of residential burglary. The capacity of the community in addressing burglary issues can be enhanced through formation of particular security aspects which can help the local authorities to monitor and control security. The core of this activity is the identification of potential risk factors associated with each residential area and consequently finding ways of addressing the risk factors in order to prevent burglary rather than dealing with the after math.
Factors which increase the risk of residential burglary have been identified as ranging from carelessness induced factors such as availability of access points that are unlocked. Although breaking and entering constitutes a great part of residential burglary, committing felonies within residential yards has also been described as a form of residential burglary. This means that homes with high amounts of valuable goods left out in the yard are also at risk of burglary. Not only does vandalism of property constitute burglary, it also shows that there are risk factors to that dwelling. One of the factors that have been cited immensely is the presence of sufficient cover for burglars such as overgrowth, and abandoned buildings, construction sites and others. Burglars are more attracted to dwellings with sufficient cover due to the reduced chances of identification. Secondly, dwellings with unsecured points of entry are also at risk of burglary. The unsecured access points make it easy for burglars to get into property without be identified and subsequently commit their felonies without being identified.
Another risk factor for residential burglary is the lack of occupancy. Unoccupied houses form perfect targets for burglary since perpetrators are less likely to be noticed and even more difficult to identify. Moreover, in case of successful burglary, the perpetrators are assured of safe undetected exit as well as of the confidentiality of their information since it will take time for it to come to notice that something has been taken from the dwelling. According to Armitage (2011), proximity to pawnshops and public transport systems also contribute to increased risk for burglary. Access to pawnshops is necessary since the burglars need to dispose of the stolen items as soon as possible to avoid being cornered. Similarly, access to public transport systems ensures that burglars can get away as soon as possible to avoid being caught. Moreover, lack of open car ports in properties also contribute to increased risk since the burglars assume vacancy during the intended time of crime. It has also been ascertained that areas with large numbers of unemployed youths are also at risk of residential burglaries. This implies that this problem is multifaceted and cannot be solved through speculation.
It is therefore important for specific risk factors to be identified prior to finding lasting solutions to residential burglary problems in a particular area. Crimes committed by gangs in residential areas are more destructive and more difficult to prevent compared to individually committed crimes. Recognizing the organization of the perpetrator is thus important in laying down strategies for preventing residential burglary. While most residential burglaries occur in an ad hoc manner without prior plan, some are committed by criminals who scout for days and sometimes weeks prior to the action itself. These types of perpetrators are more difficult to notice as they have greater awareness of the target area and have studied the personal habits of the victims prior to committing the crime. This only means that the victims would probably take longer to notice that they have be burgled and thus take longer to report, a duration within which the crime perpetrators disappear. It is thus important to find lasting ways of solving the problem of residential burglary.
The present paper explores alternatives such as reduced ease of access to residential areas and involvement of local authorities in the fight against residential burglary. These methods have been reviewed by others previously and have been found as being effective to different degrees and when used in various combinations in the fight against residential burglary. The paper addresses the gap that still exists in comparing the combination of these two strategies in fighting residential burglary.
Residential burglary as a crime problem has been addressed severally over the years. While some strategies have been found to be effective in addressing this menace, it is still difficult to eliminate this problem entirely due to its multifaceted nature. The involvement of local youths both in crime perpetration and crime prevention is a key concern in resolving residential burglary issues. The challenge lies in identifying strategies which can address the problem through reduction of access to residential areas through elimination of risk factors while as well reducing chances of youth involvement in criminal activities. The local governments also have an essential role to play in this making the problem greater than expected. A three sided strategy involving the government, local communities and individual residents is important in order to handle this menace. The present study focuses on identifying working strategies and coming up with a combination that will be instrumental in combating residential burglary. The effectiveness of the effective strategy thus depends on the combined effectiveness of the independent strategies. This will hopefully address the challenge of residential burglary.
In order to creatively solve the outlined problems, it is necessary for the research to be carried out based on the suggestions of residents in areas where the incidences of residential burglary have been reported to be significant. However, in order to find informative data, the research will be guided by the following three questions:
Q1: Can residential burglary be prevented through increased carefulness?
Q2: How can local authorities help in reducing incidences of residential burglary?
Q3: What combined efforts of residents and local authorities can help in achieving greater security with respect to residential burglary cases?
The study believes that through answering the three questions extensively, it will be possible to draw conclusions regarding ways in which residential burglary by gangs can be reduced.
Individual Strategies to addressing residential burglary
Moreto (2010) defines residential burglary as inclusive of all acts of illegal and/ or unlawful entry into a residential area aimed at committing felony. This description is further supported by the explanation that residential burglary occurs in an unplanned manner and thus requires intervention strategies aimed at reducing the possibility of unauthorized access into residential areas (Nee & Meenaghan, 2006). The only way of combating such illegal acts is through the identification of risk factors and addressing the risk factors in such a way that can help in reducing vulnerability. According to Ratcliffe (2001), community based strategies are most effective towards addressing the problem of residential burglary. Strategies such as controlling access to property, campaigns against residential burglary and involvement of local authorities are effectively identified as confirmed positive strategies for preventing residential burglary.
Many different strategies have been established to be practical when dealing with residential burglary issues. Although this form of crime is ardent in areas with low occupancy levels, it is recognized as being a personal as well as a communal problem (Moreto, 2010). As such, resolving the menace is described as involving local communities, individuals as well as local authorities. The roles assigned to each of these categories of participants are well demarcated within legal boundaries. For instance, increasing the surveillance ease is described by Grabosky (1995) as one of the practical ways of addressing residential burglary. The question of how to increase ease of surveillance brings out the factors suggested by several others (Grabosky, 1995; Moreto, 2010). It is described as an individual responsibility of the residents of any particular dwelling to reduce vulnerability of their property to residential burglary through increasing ease of surveillance by installing security alarms and senor lights and maintaining the same in order to make it easy for surveillance to be carried out both by the authorities and the residents themselves (Grove, 2011).
Apart from increasing the ease of surveillance, home owners are also advised to secure their homes through ensuring that all doors and windows are locked to prevent burglars from gaining free access to their properties. One of the factors that have been identified as increasing vulnerability for residential burglary is the availability of free access areas. By controlling access into their properties, individuals can effectively reduce the possibility of burglary. Besides this, Armitage (2011) also opines that securing implements that may aid in breakage can also help in reducing the chances of burglary in residential homes. Once all doors and windows are locked and there are no implements for breaking in, burglars can be discouraged to dissociate themselves from thoughts of committing felony (Allat, 1984). In each strategy, the key objective is to reduce the ease with which burglars can get into and out of a house without being noticed. Another recommendation is that residents should make it a responsibility to always create an impression of occupancy in their homes. In this way, burglars find it hard to determine when the owners are in or out of their homes (Cherney, 2006).
Cummings (2005) discusses an access control that has been tested and confirmed effective towards reduction of residential burglary cases. According to Cummings, controlling access can be achieved through various strategies aimed at increasing the amount of efforts required by any potential burglar to get into a residential place. Controlling access through installation of barricades, closure of streets, and installation of various security devices are all discussed as being plausible in discouraging residential burglary. All these activities help to increase the security around residential homes through discouragement of potential burglars. Moreover, through a review of various crime and criminal justice articles, Morgan and Homel (2011) also found out that the combination of the access control strategy in combination with other strategies of crime control can be effective towards controlling residential burglary. The use of access control measures is aimed at individual home owners and residents while support activities such as awareness campaigns and use of diversionary tactics both target the community (Allat, 1984).
Community and Local Government Strategies
The use of awareness campaigns and diversionary tactics target communities should be applicable as supplementary measures to controlling residential crimes. From the work done by Armitage (2011), campaigns by residential communities can be used to make people aware of the burglary risk factors and help individual homes to reduce their vulnerability to burglary. Through identification of victimization risk factors and identification of burglary hotspots, plans can then be made to alleviate the potential dangers and negate the risks (Cummings, 2005). Diversionary tactics are also described as being effective as community based strategies for preventing residential crime through engagement of potential perpetrators i.e. idle youths in other more productive activities. This cannot be achieved by an individual household and is therefore the prerogative of entire societies. Youths at risk of joining burglary gangs can be engaged in either after school or full time activities such as patrols for the purpose on increasing security (Nee & Meenaghan, 2006).
The use of community based patrol groups is also highlighted as an effective strategy for combating residential burglary. While highlighting the potential benefits of community based patrol groups, Cherney (2006) describes patrol groups as being multi stage effective. This is based on the argument that patrol groups can employ idle youths who are at risk of joining gangs as well as other neighborhood watch groups. Similarly, the patrol groups can work together with the local authorities towards the identification of suspected burglars and bringing them to justice. By using local patrol groups, burglars are set on a short leash due to the fear of identification. The patrol groups can also work with other residents as well as victims of residential burglary towards improving and/ or maintaining the security devices that have been set in place. The role of the local governments in this is clearly described by various authors (Cummings, 2005; Grabosky, 1995).
According to Grabosky (1995), it is the responsibility of local governments to help residents in preventing residential burglary through provision of finances for installing and maintaining security devices. Through provision of finances, it is impossible for residents to claim they have no security installations in their homes. This can make it easier for both the local security authorities and the communities as a whole to control residential burglary. Secondly, local authorities are also tasked with providing community patrol groups with devices that can help in enhancing security such as cameras, video recorders and motion detectors (Cherney, 2006). These devices can help the patrol groups to better respond to security alerts and hence working in better collaboration with the police. In order to address instances of residential burglary when they have already occurred, the local governments are encouraged by Morgan and Homel (2011) to develop rapid response strategies for answering residential burglary calls. This can be done while taking into consideration the prevailing risk factors because different factors pose different challenges to implementation of any proposed strategy.
Problems in Implementation
When it comes to implementation of outlined strategies, Allat (1984) recognizes the difficulty posed by various challenges. Areas with high residential mobility are identified as being attractive to potential burglars. However, they are also recognized as being the most difficult to protect due to lack of stability. When residents keep shifting from a given neighborhood, it is difficult to co-ordinate community based patrol groups or to engage youths in diversionary activities hence increased risk of residential burglary (Armitage, 2011). Similarly, areas with low social cohesion also pose a challenge in community dependent strategies (Moreto, 2010). While these problems cause the greatest challenge when it comes to implementation of strategies, staffing issues also make it difficult for local authorities to keep an eye on every residence within their jurisdictions (Morgan & Homel, 2011). This implies that the subject of residential burglary is not a government problem solely, and should be addressed using collaborative efforts.
Combining the efforts of individuals, the entire residential community and the local government can help in addressing some of the lesser challenges such as poor communication on the referral process and persistence of the government on the original town plans (Cummings, 2005). By engaging the communities, these problems can be resolved since it will be possible for each local government to understand the burglary situations on the ground based on the reports of the local communities (Cherney, 2006).
The study will be carried out using two key approaches for research. The design of choice is a qualitative research aimed at addressing the research questions and effectively leading to a conclusion on the subject of residential burglary. In carrying out the primary research, a qualitative survey approach will be undertaken. Qualitative surveys have been found to be effective in collecting primary data from potential respondents. This makes them instrumental in this research as they provide deep and informative data, especially when the questions are well structured (Creswell, 2007). To make the surveys be of great quality, the choice of participants will also take into consideration the desired type of information for the research. Creswell further suggests that the choice of respondents for a study influences the validity of the results as well as the results’ accuracy. The study will thus use an approved method of participant selection to select participants for the process.
The study included 10 students from the faculty of criminal justice. Each of the participants was expected to relate their responses to the survey with their residential areas at home and not in school. Each of the students was aged between 21 years and 25 years since this age group comprises of individuals who can articulately communicate their experiences and recommendations. The choice of the participants was carried out through random sampling strategy which involved the research approaching any of the students within the faculty area and asking if they would be willing to participate. Turner (2010) suggests that participation in primary research should be voluntary and not out of coercion. The students were expected to narrate their own experiences in writing.
Before the actual survey, the survey questionnaires were prepared and analyzed for validity. The analysis was necessary early in advance in order to be able to recognize and correct errors in time for the actual surveys. The questions in the survey comprised of a mixture of open ended and closed ended questions which were used to elicit answers from the participants. The open ended questions were used where the answers required relating to personal experiences since they provide in depth information and allow for varied view explanations. At the same time, closed ended questions were relevant where the research needed more precise answers and where open ended answers would cause confusion rather than extrapolation of ideas. Moreover, in structuring the questions, various considerations were made since the questions had to address the required research objectives. All the questions were formulated using neutral language to avoid the possibility of prejudice in answering. This is because skewed questions have the tendency to draw unwarranted and unacceptable answers from respondents. Also, the questions were issued after consideration of student diversity and have no discriminatory wording. The questions were also formulated in a way that helps avoid divergence into other subjects considered irrelevant to the present study.
The preliminary preparation process for the survey was intense, with the aim of eliminating errors during the process of the actual survey. The process involved preparation of all the requisite tools such as pens, survey papers e.t.c. These materials were then kept safely awaiting the survey dates after their efficiencies were confirmed. The rationale for carrying the pens is that the potential respondents, since picked randomly may not have their own pens at the time of the survey. Secondly, the preparation involved carrying out mock surveys to help have an overview of the actual survey process.
Each of the surveys was set to take a maximum of five minutes since only 5 questions were in the survey questionnaire. The respondents were informed of the reasons why they were requested to complete the survey and informed of the study objectives. They were also made to know how their contributions could be relevant to the study and how the study results would be reported with accuracy. It is believed that respondents are more likely to respond more accurately if they know the scope of the study as well as the potential contribution of the participation to the academia. The following were the five questions that participants were expected to respond to within the time intervals allowed.
- Where do you live when away from school? Give only the home area
- Have you ever experienced any episode of residential burglary?
- Which of the following do you think will help prevent residential burglary? You can mark more than one statement
- Increased care by residence owners – through ensuring all doors and windows are closed
- Installation of security alarms and motion sensors
- Increasing the ease of surveillance of properties through provision of lighting in all areas
- Use of residential burglary awareness methods by the communities
- Community based patrol groups
- Provision of security enhancement funds by local authorities
- Jailing habitual residential burglars
- Do you think the local governments are doing enough to reduce residential burglary?
- Can residents influence the action of the government in reducing residential burglary?
While carrying out the survey, it was necessary for the researcher to hold onto certain ethical principles in research. During the initial contact with the participants, the researcher carried out self introduction, explaining who they are and their purpose in the research process. Moreover, the researcher also had to explain the importance of the research to the academia and the importance of the participant’s contribution to the study. The objective of carrying out this detailed introduction was to ensure the ethical requirement for full disclosure is achieved. Secondly, the research was carried out on the basis of anonymity, with each participant being assigned an identification pseudonym instead of their real names.
This was further enhanced through providing already coded questionnaires with no slot for entering names. In this way, the participants had no way of giving out their names unintentionally. In addition to this, no information regarding the participants’ residences was asked for to protect the participants from potential burglary as well as other personality crimes that occur particularly in isolated areas. In relation to collecting secondary information from materials, it was mandatory for the researcher to consider and adhere to copyright laws through effective in-text citation. This was to avoid legal liabilities concerning use of intellectual property without paying tribute to the property owners.
The data obtained from the survey was recorded in a sheet for analysis. The first two questions regarding the residences of the participants were aimed at finding out the level of risk associated with each of the areas. This question required an open ended answer. The questions on the preventive measures against residential burglary were meant to determine the degree of relevance of each of the methods in preventing residential burglary. The following table indicates the percentage of participants who marked each of the different strategies as relevant.
|Strategy||Percentage of support|
|Increased care by residence owners||80 percent|
|Access control measures||90 percent|
|Installation of security alarms and motion sensors
|Increasing the ease of surveillance of properties||50 percent|
|Use of residential burglary awareness methods by the communities
|Community based patrol groups
|Provision of security enhancement funds by local authorities
|Jailing habitual residential burglars||20 percent|
Strategies for curbing residential burglary by gangs
The various strategies given to the participants to choose from were obtained from relevant pieces of literature. These strategies were also supported by the participants from the faculty, despite relating different levels of effectiveness for each of the methods. From the findings of the survey, installation of security alarms and motion sensors may be the best strategy to use for improving security and protecting residents from burglary in vulnerable areas. This strategy is followed in popularity/ perceived effectiveness by being more careful in closing doors and windows at all residences. Both of these strategies are supported by various pieces of literature which also discuss the same. As a matter of fact, control of access to residences has been given wide attention with descriptions on how to restrict access to property and residential housing. Among the strategies given as options to the participants, jailing habitual burglars seemed to be the leas t populous amongst the participants. This may indicate lost hope in the jail process. Most of the habitual criminals do not restructure their thoughts based on the teachings of their sentences, instead they focus more on activities that may result in increased income and participate in burglaries and other forms of petty theft.
The study therefore recommends a combination of various strategies to achieve a reduction of residential burglaries by either individuals or gangs. The combination strategy is to include an operation of carefulness with enhanced access control measures such as installation of alarms and motion detectors. Moreover, to make this combination strategy as effective as desired, it is recommended that the government should also come in to assist residents in the installation process through provision of funds for repair and maintenance. In this way, surveillance of properties will be made easier making it possible to control and prevent residential burglary.
Measures of access control have been discussed immensely as various authors opine that controlling property access can help reduce the ease with which burglars get access to property from which they are trying to steal (Cheney, 2006; Cummings, 2005). By making sure that all implements that can be used to break and enter properties are stored away from the proximities of the potential burglars, it is possible to reduce the possibility of entering into property with ill intentions. Moreover, when there are alarms and motion control systems. The level of access control relates to the degree of reduction in residential burglary cases. To make access control even more effective, construction of walls around properties as well as provision of lighting within residential areas all make it easier to address the issue of access control since potential burglars may fear the probability of being identified during their activities and subsequently reported to the authorities. The different methods of access control to property all work towards reducing the possibility of property access by making the process more stressful for the potential burglar.
While residents carry out access control measures, they may be limited by financial constraints. In this case, there are two options for the local governments. Failure to assist those in need of financial assistance can result in higher levels of residential burglary, leading to greater need for continued police surveillance. On the other hand, providing sufficient funding can help reduce the need for continuous surveillance by local authorities.
Residential burglaries are an important phenomenon in criminal justice. Although considered under the less serious crimes in the federal law, residential burglary is especially common in areas where there as high risk factors. Factors such as lack of occupancy, increased ease of access through open doors and windows, isolation and lack of surveillance all contribute towards increased vulnerability to residential burglary. In order to effectively reduce the instances of residential burglary, it is recommended that various measures be taken by residents, local communities and the federal authorities to curb the vice. Measures such as access control, increasing carefulness in house management, increasing the ease of surveillance and maintaining an air of occupation all make it possible to beat the bug of residential burglary. Although all these methods obtained from literature can be essential in combating residential burglary, the survey carried out for this study showed that people have different views concerning combating residential burglary.
Most of the participants indicated that using access control is the most appropriate way of preventing residential burglary. This strategy is followed by increased carefulness and installation of alarms and motion sensors. Based on the findings from the study and the survey, the present research recommends the use of combined strategies for the prevention of residential burglaries. A combination of access control and installations of alarms and motion detectors can help to curb the vice. This however, has to be practiced with the help of local authorities who provide funding for the installation of security alarms and the maintenance of those systems.
Despite the effectiveness of the study in answering the study questions, the study is still limited in scope due to the limited survey participant range. Moreover, the research focuses on preventive measures without any suggestions for mitigation of already experienced residential burglaries. Future research should therefore be carried out on the subject of residential burglary with the objective of finding out the impacts of residential burglaries and how those impacts can be averted.
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