Burglary Investigations Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Burglary investigations [...] theory of burglary investigations, how "surveillance" is part of the stakeout, how to look for a suspect, how fingerprinting is a part of the investigation, and will distinguish between the different types of burglaries, i.e.: First-degree; Second-degree, etc. based on using a weapon or not. It will also discuss the degrees of penalty, and how burglaries differ between day and night.


Burglary is one of the most invasive crimes perpetrated on the public. It is also known as Home Invasion, or Breaking and Entering, and is defined as "The unlawful entry into the premises of another with intent to commit a felony (usually larceny) therein."

How detective and police officers investigate this crime can mean the difference between solving the case and allowing burglaries to continue in the community, and unfortunately, burglaries are some of the crimes with the worst clearance rates in police investigation.


If a string of burglaries occurs in an area or community, surveillance may be established to aid in capture the suspect. Sometimes regular patrol officers are used, and sometimes it is a special burglary unit involved in the surveillance. "Similarly, special units may be formed to help analyze a specific problem, say, robbery or burglary. The unit's officers may then conduct tactical operations based on that analysis."

However, so many burglaries occur in cities and towns that surveillance may not be possible, or the locations may be so random it may not be feasible. Since many burglaries are discovered after the fact, surveillance may not even be an issue unless the burglaries have all happened in a certain period, or in a relatively compact location.


When officers arrive at a burglary scene, the suspect could still be in the area. It is not unusual for residents or business owners to surprise a suspect in the act of committing the burglary, and officers should be aware and alert as they enter the area surrounding the crime scene. One expert says,

If the call was a crime in progress and someone stops a possible suspect, be sure to look them over carefully as well. Look at their shoes for mud or dirt and note what the tread pattern is. Look at their clothing for any snags or tears. See if they have any injuries. Are they carrying tools or gloves? (In many jurisdictions possession of burglary tools is another chargeable offence.) Communicate with the officer on scene and see if there is anything which can tie them to the scene.


Investigation of a burglary may be one of the most difficult tasks in law enforcement. Often, there is quite a bit of evidence to collect, but there are usually no witnesses to the crime, which makes detection and capture of a suspect difficult. If evidence is not available, the crime may be virtually unsolvable.

Actual investigation techniques may differ according to specific circumstances, but most experts agree:

Generally it is not necessary to go to great lengths to secure a burglary scene. Ask the victim to avoid handling anything, and try to keep them in an undisturbed portion of the scene. Traffic through the building should be minimized. In some cases the victims may have already been through the entire premises and begun to clean up before the police arrive. This makes the location of evidence more difficult.

Of course interviewing the victim is one of the most important parts of the investigation. The victim can point out disturbed items, where items are missing, and provide a list of what was taken. Sometimes they have photos of the items, and serial or ID numbers, which can help track down the stolen merchandise.

Fingerprinting is one of the most crucial areas of the investigation. If prints can be identified with a suspect, then usually the crime can be solved.

Fingerprints are one of the best forms of evidence at any scene, and burglaries offer many opportunities for locating prints. The normal method of fingerprint processing at burglary scenes is with fingerprint powder. Powder has been used in crime investigation since the early 1900's. It's cheap and effective. The only materials required are a soft brush, light and dark colored powders and a roll of clear tape. Once developed the fingerprints can be photographed and/or lifted with tape. When looking for items to process for latent prints, the rule of thumb is that the more like glass the surface is, the better. Hard, smooth, clean surfaces offer the best chance for locating latent fingerprints. The less smooth the surface is the less likely it is to yield identifiable prints, with cloth being more or less impossible to recover prints from. Dusting wet or greasy surfaces will just result in you ruining your brush. Wet items can be air dried and processed later, while greasy surfaces will require a completely different processing technique.

There are also many other ways of lifting fingerprints, including using materials that can lift prints even from textured surfaces. There are also materials available to take prints of foot impressions and photos can be extremely useful to show the point of entry, scale of foot impression, etc. Investigators should also be aware of fibers left behind from burglars clothing, pieces of tools that might have been left from breaking in, and even blood, if the burglar was injured during the break in.

Interestingly, reports have shown that the initial investigation, often conducted by patrol officers, is the most important weapon in solving burglary cases. If the initial investigation is not conducted well, detectives may have no chance to find additional information, and the case may go unsolved. One report showed:

The report's authors claimed that the solution of burglary cases had virtually nothing to do with detective effort. Instead, the report stated, the solution of these cases was due solely to the evidence available to the patrol officers who first arrived at the scene. If patrol officers did not gather the relevant information, detectives were unlikely to collect it later. Further, the availability of information necessary to solve cases is random (Greenwood 1970). In short, there is little follow-up investigators can do to solve burglaries, except to process reports.

In Atlanta, Georgia, robberies increased so much in 1997, that a special task force was created just to investigate and solve burglaries. The squad was so successful, other communities might want to take note of Atlanta's success rate, and follow their example.

The robbery squad was formed in May. In June, the unit's first full month of operation, it had 31 cases - an average robbery count for any given month, said department spokesman Robert Quigley. The robbery squad solved 21 of those cases and made 17 arrests, a clearance rate of better than 67%.


There are three main types of burglary in the United States: First-degree burglary, Second-degree burglary, and third-degree burglary. Third-degree burglary occurs when someone breaks into or enters a building to commit any type of crime. This is a Class D felony. Second-degree burglary has all the elements of third degree burglary, but is conducted in a dwelling. This is a class C felony. First-degree burglary contains all the elements of third degree burglary, or second-degree burglary, but includes violence. When the burglar uses violence in any form, including a deadly weapon, injury to another person, threatening another person with any type of dangerous item or weapon, or the burglar uses force to enter a building. This is a class B felony.


Penalties differ in different areas of the country, but for the most part follow the same standards. For example, in Kentucky, convicted Class B felons can face fines up to $10,000, plus 10 to 20 years in jail. Class C felons can face fines up to $10,000 and five to ten years in prison. Class D felons can face fines up to $10,000 and one to five years in prison.

Often, courts will plea bargain away prison time, but require restitution to the victims.


Burglaries can occur at any time of the day or night, but there are several commonalities between them. Burglaries during the daytime are usually committed when the victim is not at the location. An office might be closed for lunch, or a home may be empty because the victims are at work. The burglaries are usually discovered after the suspect has left the scene; perhaps many hours after the burglary actually occurred.

Burglaries occurring at night may be different in several regards. The burglar usually enters the home when the residents are sleeping (residential burglary). They often are there to grab something quickly, such as a wallet, purse, or jewelry. They hope not to confront the victims, and want to leave as soon as possible. Burglaries at night in buildings other than homes (commercial or non-residential burglaries), are often more like daytime household burglaries - the burglars have more time to take what they want,…

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