Defining Burglary Arson and Vandalism

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Burglary Inspires Movies!

Burglary is the unlawful entering of a home or building to commit a crime therein. An unlawful entry means the person doesn’t have permission or authority to enter — similar to the crime of trespassing. But what distinguishes a trespass from a burglary is that burglary includes the intent to commit another crime in the building. Normally people think of this secondary crime as theft: A person breaks into a home to steal jewelry, for example. However, a person who breaks into a house to commit a rape is also committing burglary. In some cases where it happens the other way round both charges can be pressed. Read a previous article of mine about a case where the robber ended up stealing as well as raping here. 

In most countrries, the severity of punishment for burglary depends on several factors:

✓ Was the building a home (as opposed to an office building, for example)?

✓ If the building was a home, did the burglary happen at night (when residents may have been home)?

✓ Was anyone present at the time of the burglary?

✓ Did the burglar forcibly enter the building?

✓ Did the burglar have a weapon when he entered the building?

A burglary that includes all these factors — armed burglary that involves kicking in the door of an occupied dwelling at night — is the most serious type of burglary because it’s most likely to result in violent harm to the victims. In most countries, burglary with these elements results in a lengthy prison sentence.

What is a Professional Criminal

Professional criminals are much more likely to engage in burglary (and perhaps Internet fraud) than any other crimes. (By professional, I don’t mean that the burglars wear coats and ties. Rather, they develop special burglary skills and commit repeated crimes, almost as if burglary is their job.) But more commonly, burglars are juveniles or people in their 20’s who are seeking thrills or looking for money to buy their next drug or alcohol fix.

Nonetheless, burglary can be a more challenging crime than shoplifting because it requires planning the entry in advance, targeting specific locations, and finding a market in which to sell the stolen goods. You may assume that most burglars focus on homes, but, these days, burglars increasingly target retail establishments because they can lawfully visit the stores during the day, identify the locations of high-value items, and then return at night. Pharmacies, in particular, have become popular targets because burglars can easily sell (or use) prescription drugs. Burglars more commonly commit retail or office burglaries at night when the business is closed, but they more commonly commit residential burglaries during the day when residents are at work.

Disposing Off Stolen Goods

How does a burglar dispose of his ill-gotten gains? Historically, middlemen operated fencing operations. A fence would buy stolen items for a huge discount and then resell those items. Today, fences still exist, but burglars now have new ways to sell their goods. Internet sites, such as eBay and craigslist, are chock full of stolen items.

And because the punishment for property crimes is typically mild, a person may spend several years as a burglar before he does any significant time behind bars. Committing outdoor property theft Commodity and metal theft has become a significant problem across India’s urban cities. Drug users, for instance, steal metal items, 

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such as copper piping from buildings, and then sell them for scrap to get drug money. And highways in India’s spanking new expressways and highways are often in the dark because thieves repeatedly steal the wiring for the street lights! Construction materials and tools are frequent targets, too, because they’re often left outside without any security. Burglars also sell items to friends, family members, or pawn shops; some even exchange stolen items directly for drugs. A burglar

skilled in his trade may commit a hundred acts before being caught. I just watched an artful old French Movie directed by Robert Bresson the other day called The Pickpocket. The film is a little vague and not as entertaining as the title would suggest but if you are interested in the modus operandis of thieves who have honed their skills to perfection this film is neat little primer.

Defining Property Damage

Property crime includes more than just theft; it also includes property damage. Two of the more common crimes involving property damage are arson and vandalism.Committing Arson typically refers to the intentional burning of a home, building, vehicle, aircraft, or personal property of another. People commit arson for many reasons, including the following:

✓ To collect insurance money

✓ To strike back at employers, ex-spouses, or business competitors

✓ To get perverse pleasure from burning things (which is a reason why emotionally disturbed juveniles or adults start fires)

✓ To cover up evidence of additional crimes

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Fire Also Inspires Bollywood

In the western United States, wildfires are a significant problem every summer, requiring thousands of firefighters and millions of dollars to put them out. Mounting evidence suggests that significant numbers of these fires are started intentionally by people — some of whom seek work fighting the very fires they start. (Of course, lightning strikes and careless humans start many wildfires, too.) Police face daunting challenges in proving the crime of arson.

After all, the fire destroys most of the evidence. Nonetheless, arson investigators, many of whom work for fire departments, are skilled at identifying the causes of fires. Arson investigators talk to the firemen who first arrived at the scene to find out whether they detected any clues about where the fire started, how it progressed, or what color the smoke was. Investigators can often detect the location where a fire originated because of evidence of the use of accelerants, such as gasoline-soaked rags or lighter fluid. Similarly, investigators look for signs of forced entry by the arsonist or even tampering with fire suppression systems. And, of course, the presence of a motive, such as burning a business that’s failing, can be an important clue that eventually leads police to the arsonist who started the fire.

Vandalizing property

Some people don’t choose to use violence to get back at someone else. Instead, they decide to damage the other person’s property, a crime called vandalism. Perhaps the most common form of vandalism is graffiti (also known as tagging when committed by a street gang to mark its territory). But vandalism also includes other damaging actions, such as breaking the windows of businesses or homes. For example, I once gathered evidence to prosecute a man for breaking the windshield of his wife’s car because he thought she was seeing another man. (In case you’re curious, she wasn’t. He could have just come to us to do an extra marital affair investigation before he broke the law!) How vandalism is punished usually depends on the dollar value of the damage that was committed. If you throw a rock through your ex-girlfriend’s window, you’ll probably just be charged with a misdemeanor. But if you key someone’s Audi (meaning you used your key to significantly scratch the car’s expensive paint job), you may be prosecuted for a more serious felony crime because hell yeah even the judges know that an Audi or a Ferrari is expensive!

Author Bio

Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One Detectives – which is the best criminal investigation agency in Mumbai, Amit has also successfully completed corporate investigation assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations.

Article edited and co-written by Atin Dasgupta who is the co-founder and marketing head of Alliance One. Read more about Atin here.

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