Burglary and Violence

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has issued a new report on victimization during household burglary, which might have important implications for the application of the Armed Career Criminal Act.  First, here are the report’s highlights on the burglary-violence connection:

  • A household member is present in about one-quarterof residential burlgaries.
  • A household member is violently vicitmized in about seven percent of residential burglaries (or about one-quarter of the burglaries in which a household member is present).
  • In residential burglaries, simple asault is the most common violent crime (3.7 percent of all burlgaries), while more serious violent crimes like rape (0.6 percent) and aggravated assault (1.3 percent) are far less frequent.
  • In a majority of even the “violent” burglaries, the victim reports no injury; a “serious injury” is sustained in only 8.5 percent of the violent burglaries.
  • Even in the violent burglaries, fewer than forty percent of the offenders are armed.

Now, for the ACCA link. 

As I describe in this post, Justice Scalia’s preferred method for deciding whether a prior conviction was for a “violent felony” (three of which trigger the ACCA fifteen-year mandatory minimum prison term) involves statistical comparison between the dangerousness of the prior offense and the dangerousness of burglary.  Moreover, as I describe in this post, there is reason to think that Scalia’s statistical approach is gaining traction on the Court.  (With cert. recently granted in a new ACCA case, we may soon see more evidence of the shift.)  If the statistical approach becomes more important in applying ACCA, then the BJS’s new burlgary data may prove a critically important touchstone in the analysis.

Here are a few additional interesting bits of data from the BJS report:

  • The U.S. averages about 3.7 million household burglaries per year.
  • Renters are almost twice as likely to experience burglary as home-owners.
  • Poor people are more likely to experience burglary than the well-off, and young people more than old.
  • In nearly half of burglaries, the property loss is less than $250.
  • Burglaries frequently go unreported to the police (more than forty-seven percent of cases when no household member was present and more than forty-one percent of cases when a household member was present).
  • Belying the common association between burglary and shadowy strangers, offenders are known to their victims in nearly two-thirds of violent burglaries.

Cross posted at the Marquette Law Faculty Blog.

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