Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is a generalized description of home invasion robbery. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

The first step in conducting local analysis is determining that your community has a specific home invasion robbery problem, and not a problem with residential burglary or personal robbery near or outside residential dwellings. The next step is analyzing the home robbery process, which can vary from problem to problem. It helps to divide this process into four time blocks, which cover activities during the following periods as depicted in Figure 2 below:

Figure 2: Home Invasion Robbery Process

Source: Adapted from Jacobs and Wright (1999); Jacobs, B., and R. Wright (1999). "Stickup, Street Culture and Offender Motivation." Criminology 37(1): 149-173.

 

The two tables below use this division of time to show the differences between two types of home invasion robberies. Table 1 describes the robbery of a senior citizen by a stranger. Table 2 describes the robbery of a drug dealer by a familiar person.

Table 1. Home Invasion Robbery of a Senior Citizen by Time Block

Time Block

Offender

Victim (Senior Citizen)

Location

Long before

An offender needs cash. He identifies the victim by posing as a utility worker. The offender can easily monitor the victim while appearing legitimate.

A single senior citizen is usually home for predictable, long periods of time.

Neighborhood; homeowner’s property

Just before

The offender notices that the victim is alone.

The victim willingly opens the door to the offender (who is in uniform) and allows him inside.

Porch; home entry way

During

The offender switches from “con” to “blitz” tactics and uses force to restrain the victim and takes money and property after searching the home for a long period of time.

Victim complies with offender’s demands and does not resist. The victim suffers minor injuries.

Inside home

After

The offender casually exits the house and drives away. He later sells the stolen property.

The victim is left restrained and must free herself, so she cannot contact police until long after the robbery.

Destination will vary

Source: Table adapted from Tilley et al. 2004
Table 2. Home Invasion Robbery of a Drug Dealer by Time Block

Time Block

Offender

Victim (Drug Dealer)

Location

Long before

An offender needs drugs. He is an acquaintance of the victim and knows of his dealing and where he lives. He can easily visit the victim without raising suspicion.

A drug dealer is known to sell narcotics out of his house.

Victim’s neighborhood and outside of dwelling

Just before

The offender asks to buy drugs from the victim.

The victim presents drugs that are for sale.

Inside the home

During

The offender threatens victim with a gun and quickly takes the drugs and cash, but not other property.

The victim complies with the offender’s demands. He is not injured.

Inside the home

After

The offender flees the home on foot to a nearby escape route and uses or sells the drugs.

The victim does not report the crime, because only drugs were taken and he doesn’t want police investigating his own crimes.

The location will vary

Source: Table adapted from Tilley et al. 2004

Stakeholders

In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the home invasion robbery problem and ought to be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it:

  • Community/neighborhood associations have local knowledge that could help identify potential offenders, locations, and other contributing factors.
  • Local pawn shops want to avoid losing money and merchandise from buying or pawning stolen property and might help police identify offenders and/ or assist in investigations.
  • Local hospitals are interested in reducing injuries and deaths from home invasion robberies, and hospital staff may know of robbery-related injuries not reported to police.
  • Residential service providers (e.g., utility companies) could provide information to customers that would help them protect themselves from cons. They could also train their employees not to give personal information about customers.
  • Other local government agencies (such as city planning departments, city councils, public health departments, and social service providers) could provide data for analyzing the problem or assist in planning and implementing responses, including those too costly for community and neighborhoods associations.
  • Illicit drug sellers, gamblers, and other possible victims involved in illicit activities. They will want to avoid robberies, and while they may not cooperate to aid in the arrest and prosecution of robbers, they may provide general information that could be useful in developing prevention tactics.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of home invasion robbery, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later.

Incidents

  • How many incidents occur in your community?
  • Is the number of incidents increasing or decreasing?
  • How do the police record and classify reported home robberies (as burglary, robbery, theft, trespass, or some other crime)?
  • What percentage of completed home robberies is reported to the police? Of attempted home robberies?
  • Why are attempted home invasion robberies not completed (e.g., victim resistance, mistaken identity, targets not found in home, crime interrupted by others)?
  • What percentage of home robberies involves weapons?
  • What percentage of home robberies is perpetrated by strangers and by familiar persons?
  • What are the underlying motives for home invasions (retaliation, financial gain, intimidation, sexual assault)?
  • What methods are used to gain entry (e.g., force, deception)?

Locations/Times

  • Where do most incidents occur? Is a particular neighborhood or housing area being targeted?
  • When are incidents most common (e.g., day or night, day of week, time of year)?
  • How much time elapses between home invasions in an area? Short time intervals may indicate a home invasion crew is operating; long intervals suggest a crew is not.

Victims

  • Are there demographic patterns among victims (e.g., age, sex, and education)?
  • What percentage of victims resist and how? How serious are injuries occurring from resisting, if any?
  • What are victims doing before the robbery?
  • Are victims involved in illicit activities?

Dwellings

  • Are repeat home invasions common?
  • Are repeat and one-time home invasions different? If so, how?
  • What are common entry points?

Offenders

  • Do offenders fall into a demographic pattern (e.g., age, sex, and race or ethnicity)?
  • Are offenders local residents or from out of town? Where, in relation to the dwelling, do offenders live? How do they get to the dwelling?
  • Do offenders work alone or in groups?
  • What percentage of home invasions do repeat robbers commit?
  • What percentage of offenders was on probation or parole at the time of their most recent offense?
  • Are offenders on drugs or alcohol during the home invasion? Are offenders seeking drugs and/or alcohol before the incident?
  • What types of items do offenders take?
  • Where do offenders sell stolen goods and to whom?
  • Do offenders commit other types of robbery and/or residential burglary of unoccupied dwellings?

Current and Previous Responses

  • Have specific home invasion robbery strategies been tried? If so, what strategies have worked or failed?
  • What agencies have been involved in previous responses? What did they do?
  • Do police have a special unit assigned to address home robberies?
  • How are home robbers prosecuted and sentenced?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results.

You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area. For detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 1, Assessing Responses to Problems and Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 10, Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion.

The following are potentially useful outcome measures of the effectiveness of responses to home invasion robbery. They assess the actual impact on the problem (i.e., reductions in the level and severity of incidents as opposed to arrests or clearances):

  • Reduced number of home invasion robberies in your community or targeted area
  • Reduced number and severity of injuries or of deaths resulting from home robberies
  • Reduced cash and property losses
  • Reduced community fear of home invasions