One of the more frightening and potentially dangerous crimes that can occur to a family is a home invasion robbery. A home invasion is when robbers force their way into an occupied home, apartment or hotel room to commit a robbery or other crimes. It is particularly frightening because it violates our private space and the one place that we think of as our sanctuary.
Home invasion is like the residential form of an automobile carjacking and it’s on the rise. Like the crime of carjacking, most police agencies don’t track home invasions as a separate crime. Most police agencies and the FBI will statistically record the crime as a residential burglary or a robbery. Without the ability to track the specific crime of home invasion, little can be done to alert the public as to the frequency of occurrence in their community or devise a law enforcement plan of action to control it.
Residential burglars work mostly during the day and when a residence is more likely to be unoccupied. Most burglars work alone and tend to probe a neighborhood looking for the right residence and the right opportunity. Alarm signs and decals, bars on windows, strong locks and doors, big dogs, and alert neighbors can sometimes deter burglars. Also, burglars will avoid a confrontation and will usually flee when approached. Most burglaries do not result in violence unless the criminal is cornered and uses force to escape.
Home invasion robbers, in contrast, work more often at night and on weekends when homes are more likely to be occupied. The home invader will sometimes target the resident as well as the dwelling. The selection process may include a woman living alone, a wealthy senior citizen or a known drug dealer, for example. It is not unheard of for a robber to follow you home based on the value of the car you are driving or the jewelry you are wearing. Some home invaders might have been in your home before as a delivery person, installer or repair vendor. Home robbers rarely work alone and rely on an overwhelming physical confrontation to gain initial control and instill fear in you. The greatest violence usually occurs during the initial sixty seconds of the confrontation and home invaders often come prepared with handcuffs, rope, duct tape, and firearms. Some in-home robbers appear to enjoy the intimidation, domination, and violence and some even claim it’s a “rush.”
The act of committing a home invasion is escalating much like carjacking. The reason for the increase seems to follow a similar pattern. Much like automobiles, the traditional commercial targets for robbers like convenience stores and fast-food restaurants have hardened themselves against criminal attack and have reduced available cash. Technology has allowed commercial establishments to install affordable video surveillance systems, silent alarms, and other anti-crime deterrent devices. A residence, by comparison, is now a more attractive choice.
Home invaders know that they won’t have to overcome alarm systems when the home is occupied or be worried about video cameras and silent alarms. Unlike robbing a retail store, home invaders expect privacy once inside your home and won’t have to deal with the police suddenly driving up or customers walking in. Once the offenders take control of a residence they can force the occupants to open safes, locate hidden valuables, supply keys to the family car, and PIN numbers to their ATM cards. Home invaders will try to increase their escape time by disabling the phones and sometimes will leave their victims bound or incapacitated. It is not unheard of for robbers to load up the victim’s car with valuables and drive away without anyone in the neighborhood taking notice.
Method of Operation
The most common point of attack is through the front door or garage. Sometimes the home invader will simply kick open the door and confront everyone inside. More common is when the home invaders knock on the door first or ring the bell. The home invader hopes that the occupant will simply open the door, without question, in response to their knock. Unfortunately, many people do just that.
Home invaders will sometimes use a ruse or impersonation to get you to open the door. They have been known to pretend to be delivering a package, flowers or lie about an accident like hitting your parked car. Once the door is opened for them, the home invaders will use an explosive amount of force and threats to gain control of the home and produce fear in the victims. Once the occupants are under control the robbers will begin to collect your valuables.
Some home robbers have been known to spend hours ransacking a residence while the homeowners are bound nearby watching in terror. Some robbers have been known to eat meals, watch TV, or even take a nap. A major fear is that the robbers might commit more violence like sexual assault or even murder. Some robbers have kidnapped and forced a victim to withdraw cash from their ATM machine or take them to their small business to rob it as well.
Remember these important security steps:
- Install solid core doors, heavy duty locks, and window security devices
- Lock all doors, windows, and garages at all times
- Use four three-inch screws to secure heavy duty lock strike plates in the door frame
- Use the door peephole BEFORE opening the door
- Use your porch light to help you to see clearly outside
- Never rely on a chain-latch as a barrier to partially open the door
- Never open the door to strangers or solicitors
- Call the police if the stranger acts suspicious
- Alert your neighbors to suspicious solicitors
- Hold a family meeting to discuss home security plans
- Set the home perimeter alarm at night, if you have one