Image Source: Tactical Life.
Today's post concerns a very post-Postmodern crime: the home invasion. Like the new, terrifying criminal who is a baffling, brutal and unstoppable force of nature in the Coen Brothers' 2007 film, No Country for Old Men, home invasion crosses lines which criminals of the past would not cross. Home invasion is a new type of ferocious act, committed by a new breed of criminal. It terrifies because it comes rampaging right to the last stronghold of security in a frightening world: the private dwelling, the final sanctum. This is a crime which shatters an already atomized order.
Image Source: Winnipeg Police Services.
Responses to this crime, like other unimaginable violations such as 2012's school or cinema shootings or the 2012 gang rape case in India, are politicized. But are the answers to a widening gap between the rich and the poor, tech-driven brutality, and an increase in savage crime simply political? Questions about these issues, surely, come from problems that are beyond politics.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. faces political debate over his hard stance on violent crime. Image Source: The Second.
Political fallout between Sheriff's office and city. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke appeared on 12 News, Part One. Video Source: Youtube.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke appeared on 12 News, Part Two. Video Source: Youtube.
Should citizens retreat into paramilitary militia mode, as Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee recently advised inhabitants of his town (listen to him here and above)? Clarke is known for his criticisms of softer justice and his claim that dialing 9-11 and waiting for the police is no longer enough; his Dirty-Harry-styled remarks made him the poster boy of pro-gun activists and gun control activists alike:
In one of his harshest condemnations yet of what he calls Milwaukee County's "criminal injustice system," Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. this week called it a co-conspirator in a murder-suicide.
Daniel Billings, 41, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Anne Marie Bautch, 39, on Monday and then turned the gun on himself. Billings had a long criminal history and should have been in prison, Clarke said in a news release.
Clarke points out that Billings had been charged with felony child abuse in July for seriously beating his 16-year-old daughter, but the case was amended by prosecutors to misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct.
"Even when convicted of the lesser charges, Judge Mary Triggiano stayed a paltry twelve-month jail sentence and instead ordered anger management classes and that he have no contact with firearms," Clarke wrote of the September sentencing.
"That doesn't work with a career criminal. As a felon, he has possessed firearms in the past. A month before sentencing on the beating of his daughter he violated his bail condition with a failed drug test. That is a bail jumping charge that was not issued. Instead he was scolded by Judge Triggiano. It is unknown if Billings completed the anger management course. If he did, it did not make a difference."
Clarke said the prosecutor and judge "aided and abetted a man whose criminal history shows convictions in 1991 for carrying a concealed weapon, felony weapons violations in 1994, and a federal case of felon in possession of firearm and short-barreled rifle in 2000. He was sentenced in federal court to more than 10 years in prison. About the only time he wasn't committing crimes with guns and assaulting women was while he was in prison."
"This murder was preventable," Clarke wrote.
Clarke has often criticized sentences he considers too lenient as leading to "revolving door justice."
Early last year, he removed 61 defendants from electronic monitoring and returned them to jail, suggesting judges were allowing high-risk inmates to use the jail alternative.
Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers said judges only make recommendations and that Clarke had the authority all along to decide which inmates should be on electronic monitoring.
Poster boy or not, does Clarke have a point? Is Millennial society becoming too anarchic and violent? Should we have much more powerful police forces? What if the police become too powerful?Most recently, Clarke drew national attention ... after he recorded a public service radio spot warning residents that calling 911 is no longer their best option when concerned about their personal safety and urging residents to take a gun safety course and handle a firearm "so you can defend yourself until we get there."
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. speaks to the city's public safety committee, January 2013. Image Source: Tom Lynn via Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel.
What if the police are not powerful enough? Detroit is becoming a vigilante town, since funding cuts have decimated the police force and crime is high; citizens have been arming themselves, forming militias, and hiring private security contractors.
The Daily reports on conditions in Detroit:
The people of Detroit are taking no prisoners.
Justifiable homicide in the city shot up 79 percent in 2011 from the previous year, as citizens in the long-suffering city armed themselves and took matters into their own hands. The local rate of self-defense killings now stands 2,200 percent above the national average. Residents, unable to rely on a dwindling police force to keep them safe, are fighting back against the criminal scourge on their own. And they’re offering no apologies.
“We got to have a little Old West up here in Detroit. That’s what it’s gonna take,” Detroit resident Julia Brown told The Daily.
The last time Brown, 73, called the Detroit police, they didn’t show up until the next day. So she applied for a permit to carry a handgun and says she’s prepared to use it against the young thugs who have taken over her neighborhood, burglarizing entire blocks, opening fire at will and terrorizing the elderly with impunity.
“I don’t intend to be one of their victims,” said Brown, who has lived in Detroit since the late 1950s. “I’m planning on taking one out.”
How it got this bad in Detroit has become a point of national discussion. Violent crime settled into the city’s bones decades ago, but recently, as the numbers of police officers have plummeted and police response times have remained distressingly high, citizens have taken to dealing with things themselves.
In this city of about 700,000 people, the number of cops has steadily fallen, from about 5,000 a decade ago to fewer than 3,000 today. Detroit homicides — the second-highest per capita in the country last year, according to the FBI — rose by 10 percent in 2011 to 344 people.
On a bleak day in January, a group of funeral directors wearied by the violence drove a motorcade of hearses through the city streets in protest.
Average police response time for priority calls in the city, according to the latest data available, is 24 minutes. In comparable cities across the country, it is well under 10 minutes.
Citizens like Brown feel they have been left with little choice but to take the law into their own hands.
The number of justifiable homicides, in which residents use deadly force in self-defense, jumped from 19 in 2010 to 34 last year — a 79 percent rise — according to newly released city data.
Signs that vigilantism was taking hold in the city came earlier, around Memorial Day 2009, when former federal agent Alvin Davis decided he’d had enough of the break-ins at his mother’s home on the east side. She called the police again and again, but the brazen robberies continued. Davis, then a 32-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, snapped.
Prosecutors said he spent days chasing and harassing the teenagers who were allegedly robbing his mother, even shoving his federally issued firearm into one of their mouths. No one was killed, but by the time he was done, Davis had racked up charges of unlawful imprisonment and assault. In August 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
But many residents in his mother’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood are sympathetic to Davis, whose case is on appeal.
“He basically did what a lot of us wished we could do,” said Ken Gray, 58, who lives down the street from Davis’ mother.
One high-ranking official in the county legal system, speaking to The Daily, said the rise in justifiable homicides mirrors a local court system that’s increasingly lenient of the practice.
“It’s a lot more acceptable now to get your own retribution,” the official said. “And the justice system in the city is a lot more understanding if people do that. It‘s becoming a part of the culture.”
Detroiters are arming themselves with shotguns and handguns and buying guard dogs. Anything to take care of their own. And privately, residents say neighborhood watch groups in Detroit are widely armed.
“It’s like the militiamen who stepped up way back when. That’s where the neighborhood folks are," said James “Jackrabbit” Jackson, a 63-year-old retired Detroit cop who has patrolled the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood for years.
“They’re ready to fight,” Jackson said. “We don’t hardly see police anymore.”
In America, home invasion immediately polarizes because it is so invasive and terrifying. Some would say it is a micro example of disaster capitalism; in other words, they would argue that it is random violence, misleadingly used to justify draconian measures which ironically diminish the very freedoms those same laws are supposed to protect. Should citizens support initiatives to make criminals less violent and alienated? Should they espouse gun control?
Other commentators would blame increasingly violent entertainment. But is criticizing the entertainment industry simply a retreat into politicized censorship?
Image Source: Orange County D.A.
Home invasion touches all the political hot points, because it invites nature versus nurture arguments. Is society to blame? Or is the individual criminal responsible? Can the state protect us from criminals who are willing to cross all the lines of human decency, who are, or are willing to become, what victim Dr. William Petit called 'evil'?
Photo from the Petit family home invasion 23 July 2007, Hayley Petit's bedroom, Cheshire Connecticut. Image Source: Connecticut Judicial Branch / AP via AOL.
A crime scene photo of a bedroom in the Cheshire home of Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a home invasion, 2007. Image Source: Litchfield County Times.
11-year-old Michaela Petit's room after her body, still tied to her bed, was removed, Cheshire Connecticut home invasion. Image Source: Chasing Justice.
Attackers poured gasoline on 17 year old Hayley Petit while she was tied to her bed. An evidence photo shows her bedroom after the fire on 23 July 2007. Image Source: New Haven Register.
Report on the 2010 Oprah interview with remaining survivor of the Petit home invasion, Dr. William Petit. Video Source: Youtube.
Should people take their safety into their own hands if the police cannot adequately protect them in those terrible first minutes or hours when the home is violated? The answers are difficult to determine because home invasion not only goes beyond the bounds of 'humanly acceptable' crimes, it goes beyond the rules, beyond the bounds of political experience. We are in the realm of Beasts and Gods, beyond the city walls.
Washington State: "A surveillance image from an August 19  Vashon Island home-invasion robbery in the 9400 block of Southwest Gorsuch Road. (King County Sheriff’s Office photo)." Image Source: Seattle.pi. More photos from this case here.
In the 20th century, the earliest known examples of, or dramatizations of, home invasion captured the public imagination because it was something unheard of, for even criminals operated within certain limits of right and wrong. For a time, home invasion was the stuff of science fiction. This was a new crime for a new age, rather like hostage-taking and terrorism. Incidents of home invasion were so rare that they remained more an inspiration for dark mythologies, rather than a real concern. Home invasion inspired two famous works of literature in ground-breaking genres of dystopian science fiction and creative non-fiction.
Start of the home invasion scene in Stanley Kubrick's version of A Clockwork Orange (1971), where the head of the house lets Alex and his boys in. Image Source: Warner Bros. via Collative Learning.
A Clockwork Orange (1962) was a masterpiece. Author Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) presciently conveyed the collapse of future society through a brutal transformation of language. Burgess invented the fictional slang Nadsat (see an online Nadsat dictionary here) for his criminals. Their language was heavily flavoured with Russian words, which suggested that (while not explaining how) Soviet socialism had prevailed in the Cold War and now dominated Britain. You cannot read this book without reading the glossary. Reading A Clockwork Orange effectively sucks the reader into the world of its violent teens, because by the end of the novella, you literally speak their language; that very fact creates a horrifying sympathy and unwanted intimacy with Burgess's characters. See an excerpt from the novella online here.
The anti-protangonist, Alex, leads his droogs (friends) in a passionate quest for ultra-violence to the soundtrack of lovely Ludwig Van. You can see the 1971 Stanley Kubrick movie version of the home invasion scene here. This harrowing novel explored what would happen in the future to unrepentant perpetrators if 'humane' rehabilitation was vastly ramped up through technological innovation. The result was far worse than anything Sheriff David Clarke could imagine from the opposite side of the political tracks.
"The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there'." Truman Capote in the Clutter family home where the famous Holcomb, Kansas home invasion occurred. Image Source: Guardian.
In Cold Blood (1965) by Truman Capote was based on the Clutter farm family murders by Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith in Holcomb, Kansas in November 1959. See their crimes described at length here.
Scorsese's neo-noir remake Cape Fear (1991) asked the question: what if a criminal targets you and will stop at nothing? The answer: the system is slow, skeptical, helpless. Saul Bass title sequence. Video Source: Youtube.
Several films were based on home invasion. Arguably the most famous is the American film Cape Fear (1962) and its superior remake Cape Fear (1991). The films are based on the 1957 novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald. Home invasion also inspired a 1992 album by rapper Ice T.
Since the turn of the Millennium, home invasions have become increasingly common. On the surface, our non-online world appears largely unchanged from what existed only twenty years ago. Beneath the surface, things are very different from the way they used to be. Home invasions are examples of a brooding savagery which explodes periodically on deceptive social landscapes.
Replicas (In Their Skin) (2012) Canadian film about sinister neighbours who menace a family in a home invasion and try to take their place. The film resembles the Austrian film Funny Games (1997) and US remake from 2007. Video Source: Youtube.
In Canada, there is a debate as to whether or not defending yourself during a home invasion is legal. Most Canadians believe that it is illegal to defend yourself forcibly against intruders. This must sound ludicrous to their American neighbours; the belief comes from Canada's British legal roots. Canada's leading conservative newspaper, the National Post, advises that not only is it legal to fight back against home invaders, it is probably a good idea; until 2013, Canadian law stated:
"Section 40 of the Criminal Code notes, 'everyone who is in possession of a dwelling house is justified in using as much force as necessary, to prevent any person from forcibly breaking into or entering the dwelling house without lawful authority.'"
The law has since been updated. A recent home invasion case in a suburb of Toronto shows that when it comes to interpreting the law, Canada occupies a grey area between the US and Britain. Canadians are allowed to defend themselves against invaders inside their homes, as long as it can be proven that the circumstances and the response are 'reasonable.' On 29 April 2013, the National Post reported:
Last week, in the Toronto suburb of Markham, an incident occurred that has left one man in hospital and two facing charges. Details are sparse, but it is reported that two brothers encountered three men trying to force their way into the garage of their home in the middle of the night. An altercation ensued, and two of the three would-be intruders fled. The other wound up in critical condition. Police arrested the brothers. Alexandru and Marius Truta, have been charged with aggravated assault. It is not clear at this time who phoned the police to alert them of the incident.
If the Truta brothers were indeed defending their home, however, it’s far from clear that such charges will stick. Indeed, using force to drive off intruders attempting to enter your home (or the home of someone you are helping to defend) is perfectly legal. The case will hinge on how much force was used, and whether it was “reasonable.”
Canada’s laws of self-defence and citizens arrest were simplified just last year. Bill C-26 took multiple Criminal Code sections covering the defence of self and of property and compressed them down to merely two. The relevant section in the Criminal Code, as regards the allegations against the Truta brothers, is Section 35. It notes that defending such property does not constitute an assault if those on the defensive believe on reasonable grounds that someone “is about to enter, is entering or has entered the property without being entitled by law to do so,” and intends to steal or damage that property.
The National Post reports that home invasions are not as common as other crimes in Canada: there were roughly 2,800 instances of home invasion in Canada in 2008. Last Christmas, an elderly relative of mine in her eighties who lives in an established suburb of Toronto described her growing fear of crime and home invasions in her area. The once-safe and respectable community has changed around her. Perhaps this is related to the poor economy, something which has been noted in the UK. Perhaps there is more to this, a breakdown of social cohesion.
Crime Stoppers: Announcement re. Steeves Mountain, New Brunswick home invasion 27 July 2012. Video Source: Youtube.
Looking at the flurry of local news headlines across the country, especially in the past few years, and increasingly over the past year to six months, it is hard not to second-guess the National Post and see a growing trend in this particular type of violent crime. Here is a small sampling of recent home invasions which have occurred in Ontario and Quebec: Ottawa (see also here), Ottawa (Nepean), Hull, the Gatineaus (see also here and here), Beauharnois, Longueuil (see also here), Terrebonne, Mississauga, Markham (and Markham again), and Windsor. You can see a list of recent articles here in the National Post on home invasions, mainly in and around Toronto. In BC: Burnaby, Kitimat, Kamloops, Richmond, Kelowna, New Westminster Salmon Arm and Vancouver. In Alberta: Lloydminster, Calgary (Coral Springs), Calgary (Falconridge), Edmonton (Callingwood), Edmonton (Sherwood Park), Edmonton (north end), Boyle, Lethbridge, Lethbridge (again), and Red Deer. In Manitoba: North Bothwell, Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg (Elmwood), Winnipeg (Selkirk Avenue), Niverville, Brandon, Oakland. And in the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador: Bay St. George, Newfoundland; St. John's Newfoundland; Bridgewater, Nova Scotia; Upper LaHave, Nova Scotia; Trenton, Nova Scotia; Dartmouth, Nova Scotia; Pictou County, Nova Scotia; Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia; Darlings Lake, Nova Scotia; Halifax, Nova Scotia (and again); Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; Steeves Mountain, New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick (and also here); Bas Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick; Moncton, New Brunswick; Saint John, New Brunswick; Emyvale, Prince Edward Island; Albany, Prince Edward Island; Cardigan, Prince Edward Island. Canada Safety Council's guidelines to protect against home invasion are here.
By far the most disturbing recent Canadian case, which likely involved home invasion, took place near Herschel, Saskatchewan in 2011. Carol King, a 40-year-old single woman from Mattis Point, Newfoundland, had moved out west in 2008 to take advantage of the better employment opportunities in Alberta. She subsequently bought a house and property within commuting distance of Alberta in a rural district of neighbouring Saskatchewan.
King complained of strange men circling her house at night. She called the police several times. She had run out into the yard and yelled at trespassers to get off her property. She also had problems with an ex-boyfriend.
King disappeared on 6 August 2011. That night, she had an appointment in Herschel to complain to local authorities about trespassers on her property. Her two closest neighbours were away and another lived too far away to see or hear anything. Her family complained that she had not called them on 6 August as promised. Around 6-8 August, someone entered her home and poked around; this was according to a person claiming to be her sister on a missing persons' board:
THE POLICE WONT GO INTO HER HOUSE, THEY HAVE FOUND SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY TODAY THAT SOMEONE WAS AT HER HOUSE, INTO HER GARAGE AND PLUGGED IN HER TRAILER, THERE WERE LIGHTS ON AND SCREENS OPEN AND RECENT SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE...AFTER ALL THIS THEY STILL WONT GO INTO HER HOUSE...SHE WAS ALONE, NO FAMILY [in the area]. AND WAS BEING HARASSED BY AN EX. WHOEVER IS DOING THIS IS WANTING THE POLICE TO THINK ITS CAROL BUT IF IT WAS HER THAN SHE WOULD HAVE GONE INTO THE HOUSE AND CALLED SOMEONE...Thus, according to King's sister, a mysterious person began living in a trailer plugged into King's house after King disappeared. This made it look as though King was still on the property and delayed any police investigation. King's car was found in a nearby slough 10 August, after which the police investigation became a priority. King's body was discovered six kilometres away on August 27.
Police questioned King's ex-boyfriend and found he was in Alberta at the time of her disappearance and death. He publicly stated his innocence. However, he had put a lien on her property the previous summer, even though he was not the owner, so that he would get money from any sale of the house.
Strange headstone that appeared on the site where King's body was discovered. Image Source: CBC. More images here.
In November of 2011, in an even more eerie turn, a mysterious memorial stone was anonymously erected on the secluded spot where King's body was found. The piece of granite had a makeshift cross, a photo of King, flowers, and a weird message attached to it.
Bizarrely, the memorial stated that King had been murdered on 6 August, even though authorities had not confirmed any date of murder to the public. Even more oddly, the lines on the makeshift memorial stone were taken from a poem written by the daughter of a women killed two years earlier on 6 August in another home invasion in the United States.
The owner of the abandoned property where the memorial was found complained about trespassers dumping King's body and leaving this cryptic headstone message, even as he received a "deranged" anonymous obituary for King; he gave the anonymous obituary to the editor of the local newspaper (?), who only turned it over to the police after deciding that it should not be published:
New details have surfaced about a mysterious memorial put up for Carol King about three weeks ago. King originally went missing from the Herschel-area in early August – her remains were found later that month. Greg Martin owns the abandoned property where the memorial went up, and says there's more going on behind the scenes. "I personally have no idea who put this memorial up," he said. He's not happy it was done without his permission.
The memorial is a granite stone bearing a cross with a passage that reads "The Lord he came and got me, and took me far away. Remember, I wasn't in my body when the DEVIL came to play." The message on the memorial was taken from a poem written by Kimberly Elisan-McKinney, daughter of Cindy Ramos who was murdered in California, US in 2009.
Now Martin says there's a more conventional memorial where King's car was found submerged in a slough in early August, signed by family and friends. Martin was mysteriously sent a letter that had accompanied an obituary for Carol King, illegibly signed by the person claiming to have made the memorial.
"Like somebody is trying to send some sort of message," said Martin. He has no idea why it was sent to him. Rosetown Eagle newspaper editor Ian McKay got the actual obituary, but didn't publish it because of its "deranged" nature. McKay says the obituary was handed over to police about three weeks ago. He said he couldn't remember what it said, except that it didn't seem like something written by friends or family.
The mysterious granite memorial stone gave the wrong birth year for the murder victim, and oddly assigned the death date, not known to the public. Image Source: CKOM.
In the 6 August 2009 home invasion case to which this memorial refers, a 58-year-old woman, Cindy Ramos, was found beaten to death in her mobile home in Tracy, California. Her daughter wrote a poem about her mother's murder, which was posted on a memorial Website devoted to Ramos:
I Wasn’t There
Poem written by Kimberly Elisan-McKinney
youngest daughter of Cindy Ramos
On August 6, 2009, the Devil came to play
In human form he manifested and took your life away.
Unto his demons he whispered... Her love is far too great,
go slaughter, kill, destroy, who cares that it’s not late.
But God was also present, he wrapped you in his light
“come leave this shell, this human form, for this is not your fight.
Yes they can have your body, let them do as they will,
for with each brutal strike, it’s their own soul that they will kill.
Your soul belongs with me, far away from human sorrow,
I'll give you peace, no fear, regret
No wanting for yesterday, today, tomorrow”.
So with his words you followed and left behind the pain,
Leaving behind a family, in whose hearts you’ll always remain.
Now we must bear the pain, you must now be our memory,
and live our lives with purpose, for the years you’re not here to see.
The tears still come to often, questions, regret and rage,
the details of that day will haunt us to our grave.
Six children lost a Mother,
And so many others have lost a Great Friend
The pain is just so deep, like a wound that will never mend.
But I know your soul surrounds us… I can feel your love so near,
For the love you instilled is amazing,
And something your family will always hold dear,
I just wish that I could see you... but was not given a choice
Yet I know that you are present, and constantly still hear your voice
“Don't cry for me I'm happy, & always remember times we share
And when you want me close, just remember times we share.
Please don't worry your hearts & minds...
As I wasn't even there.
You see...The Lord he came and got me, and took me far away,
So I wasn't in my body,,, when the devil came to play”.
It appears the person who erected the memorial was trying to show a connection between the Ramos murder and the King murder.
King's house after the first arson, 19 December 2011. Her murder and the arsons are unsolved. Images Source: CJME.
After the headstone was found in November, King's house mysteriously caught fire on 18 December 2011. The RCMP treated the fire as an arson case. On 21 December 2011, they confirmed a sobering fact: this was the third time that buildings on King's property had been set on fire within a three year time span, the first fire occurred in September 2009, the second in 6 July 2010, and the last in December 2011, after King's death:
The first fire dates back to Sept. 2009 — that's when a second house on Carol King's property burned to the ground, police said. It was discovered by a school bus driver passing by the area who called for help. On July 6, 2010 her fifth wheel trailer went missing, said Cpl. Rob King. It had also been on fire."And then it was located on July 18  in an area or a field close to where her car was located in the slough [in August 2011]," he said. Days after her disappearance police found Carol King's car submerged in a slough near her home. Police said they find the string of fires interesting and they are now taking a closer look at the two earlier fires. No charges have been laid in either cases.This looks like King was threatened after her property had already been repeatedly targeted. What exactly happened to this poor woman is still undetermined and this frightening case remains unsolved.
The United Kingdom
Years ago, I met a guy who told me he moved from the UK to Canada after his flat was broken into in London. He was woken up in the middle of the night at knifepoint by a burglar. He was beaten, stripped, gagged and tied to a chair. The burglar then robbed his home. He was not discovered for some time. Shortly after that, the victim of this home invasion emigrated. The crime broke his faith in his own country.
Home invasion is commonly known as 'hot prowl burglary' in the UK, although the two terms do not exactly overlap. Home invasion involves burglary with additional intent to injure or kill the inhabitants. Some anecdotal chatter asserts that there are ten times more home invasions in the UK than there are in the US. Violent crime in the UK, this article states, jumped by two-thirds between 1998 and 2003: "Crime is higher in the UK than the US in every category except rape and murder."
The comparative crime rate between countries is hard to pin down, because home invasion falls under other UK crime categories such as robbery, kidnapping, homicide, rape, or assault. The 'burglaries' category filter at HM Government's data site recently stopped working - or rather, recently started showing much higher numbers than usual. The statistics in the charts below for theft insurance claims present alarmingly high numbers.
Images Source: Daily Mail (23 January 2013).
As of January 2013, some of the worst cities for hot burglary were London, Leeds and Bradford. The Telegraph concluded in 2004 that the more home security measures are implemented to prevent home invasion, the more trapped inside the inhabitants are. The paper sighed, "an Englishman's home is his dungeon," and argued that home invaders could ram through home defences. The Telegraph also wrongly argued that home invasion is comparatively unheard of in the United States. After the 2004 home invasion and murder of a London financier, John Monckton, the paper described home invasion as a symptom of battles between upper and lower social classes:
One of the key measures of a society's health is how easily you can insulate yourself from its underclass. In America, unless one resides in a very small number of problematic inner-city quarters or wishes to make a career in the drug trade, one will live a life blessedly untouched by crime. In Britain, alas, it's the peculiar genius of Home Office policy to have turned the entire country into one big, rundown, inner-city, no-go slum estate, extending from prosperous suburbs to leafy villages, even unto Upper Cheyne Row.
The murderers of John Monckton understood the logic of this policy better than the lethargic overpaid British constabulary. An Englishman's home is not his castle, but his dungeon and ever more so - window bars, window locks, dead bolts, laser security, and no doubt biometricrecognition garage doors, once the Blunkett national ID card goes into circulation.
All this high-tech protection, urged on the householder by Pc Plod, may make your home more secure, but it makes you less so. From the burglar's point of view, the more advanced and impregnable the alarm systems become, the more it makes sense just to knock on the door and stab whoever answers. ...
Mr Monckton was a cousin by marriage of The Sunday Telegraph's Dominic Lawson, who is leading a campaign to allow citizens to defend themselves in their own homes.
That this most basic right should be something for which he has to organise a campaign is disgraceful. In New Hampshire, there are few burglaries because there's a high rate of gun ownership. Getting your head blown off for a $70 TV set isn't worth it. Conversely, thanks to the British police, burning the flesh of a London dressmaker to get her watch is definitely worth it. In Chelsea the morning after Mr Monckton's murder, Her Majesty's Keystone Konstabulary with all their state-of-the-art toys had sealed off the street in an almost comical illustration of their lavishly funded uselessness.
But let's look at it from their point of view. Suppose, instead of more of these robberies going wrong, they went right. The homeowner cowered in the bathroom, while the lads helped themselves to the DVD player and the wife's jewellery, and then the coppers came round and took a statement and advised you to get another half-dozen door chains and keep the jewellery in a vault at the bank.
Is it reasonable to live like that?
Debates in the US and Canada as to whether home owners should take matters into their own hands or wait for state officials to save them are echoed in the UK. The Straight Dope contemplates UK punishments of home owners who fight back against intruders, in direct contradiction to the American Castle Doctrine:
The Tony Martin case, a cause celebre in Britain, may not be as clear-cut as some claim, but it's still pretty outrageous. The eccentric Martin lived in a dilapidated Norfolk farmhouse with only three rottweilers for company. One night in 1999 the place was broken into by Brendan Fearon, 29, and Fred Barras, 16, both of whom had long criminal records. Martin claims he heard a noise, grabbed a shotgun, headed downstairs, had a flashlight shone in his face, and began shooting. The following afternoon Barras was found dead in the garden; the wounded Fearon was arrested nearby. Martin was convicted of murder and given a mandatory life sentence, but an appeals court reduced the charge to manslaughter on grounds of mental illness. Martin was denied parole, in part because probation officers feared he would shoot additional burglars; he's out now. Fearon, who did time for burglary, was granted legal-aid funding to sue Martin, although the suit failed. OK, the burglars weren't armed, Martin had previously expressed a hatred of Gypsies (Barras was one), and Barras was shot in the back, but many Americans would say: Come on--it was dark and they were in the guy's house.
Does this combination - which would surely amaze many Americans - of unarmed householders who face charges if they attack intruders contribute to an increase in UK home invasions? The Straight Dope finds no major difference in the number of hot burglaries in the UK and home invasions in the US.
If The Straight Dope is correct and it is true that the number of hot burglaries per capita between the two countries is about the same, then this would likely mean that whether or not a householder is potentially armed has little or no impact on the rate of home invasions:
Although it's an exaggeration to say there's no right to self-defense in Britain, the law there is more restrictive and, in contrast to typical U.S. practice, cuts you no slack if you're defending your home. UK householders who injure a home invader are often hauled up on charges (although they may be acquitted), whereas in the U.S. more commonly you'll get a pass. Malcolm claims that because UK crooks don't fear disarmed householders, half of burglaries there take place while someone is home, a much larger fraction than in the U.S. Not so--close analysis of the data suggests "hot" burglary rates in the two countries aren't dramatically different.
The alternative to arming citizens is to strengthen police forces. In Essex, Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston called this month for the creation of a new burglary police squad to be established after burglaries increased in county municipalities by between 13 to nearly 20 per cent over the past year.
A 2005 government report in New Zealand observed the increase in hot prowl burglaries and compared research from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States for its advised response. You can see an overview here, which calls for comprehensive measures and draws from these different countries to form a synthetic approach. Many of these recommendations move well past the gun debate and get to the heart of the matter: the unity and health of communities. The New Zealand recommendations involve neighbourhood watch schemes and similar efforts to reinforce community identity and mutual protection as well as trust in, and cooperation with, police forces. They also focus on conditions around offenders, especially vulnerable youth, with a combination of curfews, crackdowns on drugs, corrective programs, and an emphasis on early education to prevent initial offenses.
Given the increasing rates of home invasion, and the terrifying brutality of this crime, it is sure to continue to test the very mettle of the communities. The shock of home invasion stands right on the line between the rights of the individual toward self-preservation, and the higher values of the group. It shows dramatically where Millennial society is collapsing, and it is one of the primary sites of potential renewal - or failure.