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SPD Home / Safety & Prevention / Understanding Property Theft Terms

Property Theft Terms

For law enforcement, there is a difference between Robbery, Home Invasion Robbery, Burglary, Trespass and Theft. When you report a crime to 9-1-1 or a police officer, the language you use makes a difference.

TRESPASS

When someone enters physical property, not his or her own, without permission. It could be a parking lot, a business, or somebody’s yard. If that person does not have permission to go there, or has not been given implicit permission because of the type of business (a fast food place, for example) the person is trespassing. If the person is told they are trespassing and is asked to leave, if they refuse to leave, that person can be arrested for trespassing.

BURGLARY

When someone enters physical property, not his or her own, without permission, with the intent to commit a crime. The crime could be to take belongings from the property (i.e. theft), or against a person within the property (i.e. assault). This could be a residence (residential burglary), a place of business (commercial burglary), a detached storage shed or garage (also residential), or even a public storage unit or storage yard (also commercial).

It doesn’t matter if force is used to gain entry, if someone was home at the time (in the case of a residential burglary) and it doesn’t matter is something is stolen. The unlawful entry of the property with intent to commit a crime is burglary.

For the record, most residential burglaries occur during the day, (when people are away at work) and most commercial burglaries occur at night (when the site is more likely to be vacant).

THEFT

Whenever any property is taken, that is theft. Shoplift (taking something from a store without paying for it), auto theft and auto accessory theft (car stereo/CD player) are examples of theft. One form of theft frequently happens when we go shopping and we leave our belongings (purse, backpack, wallet) unattended. While we’re busy looking on the bottom shelf for the least expensive oatmeal, someone has taken the purse or backpack, or taken something out of the purse or backpack (wallet, cell phone) without permission, or knowledge, or direct threat or actual use of force. No one implied a threat or used force to take it from you; no one entered your home or place of business to get it; it was there and they took it. That’s theft.

ROBBERY

The physical taking of property from another individual by the use of force or the implied use of force.

Some examples:
A woman walking down the street when someone comes up from behind, grabs her purse off of her shoulder and runs away - that is a strong-arm robbery, better known as a purse snatch.
If a man is walking down the street and another person comes up to him and says, "give me your wallet," while showing a knife or other weapon, that's an armed robbery, whether the weapon was used or not.

The physical taking of another person’s property through force - or implied use of force - is robbery, whether a weapon is used or not. Use or implication of a weapon just helps us categorize the "type" of robbery.

HOME INVASION ROBBERY

This term is actually a media creation than an official crime term. It refers to a robbery when the perpetrators enter the home with the intent of finding someone there. The perpetrators use weapons and (often) actual violence to get the people in the home to give them money, jewelry and other belongings. Household members in the home are often restrained, threatened and beaten, and they are often told that if they report the crime to the police, they will be killed.

This is a a very scary type of occurrence. Thankfully, it is also extremely rare, which is why it gets so much media attention when it happens. If the perpetrators unlawfully enter the property, the crime is primarily a burglary. However, the introduction of guns or other dangerous weapons by the perpetrators, and the threat or use of those weapons, allow the crime to be charged as both burglary and robbery in many cases.

If weapons are used, there is a weapons enhancement added at sentencing (which means the suspects will do more time if convicted), and a firearms enhancement if a gun was used – an automatic five year additional sentence if convicted.

 
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