Police Decision-Rules in Classifying Home Invasion Incidents

Yolanda M. Scott, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Experts in the security industry, some police officials, and the media suggest that home invasion crime is increasing and is of great concern to citizens. However, research on this crime is scant. Home invasion appears to be a hybrid crime that can involve a myriad of property and violent offenses. Some criminal justice practitioners suggest that home invasion is routinely misclassified as either robbery or burglary by law enforcement. What rules are used by police to classify incidents of home invasion crime? Police may use an informal weighing system to decide how to classify this offense. Factors thought to influence their decisions include: method and mode of entry, level of confrontation, relationship between victim/offender, extent of victim injury (seriousness), use and type of weapon, value of property taken, if any, sex of victim and offender, number of victims and offenders, and domicile status. Actual news reports of home invasion incidents, which vary in terms of the factors described above, will be used as scenarios for police to classify based on their law enforcement knowledge and experiences. Officer's characteristics (sex, age, tenure) will also be included to clarify their classification decisions. The social policy implications of this work will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006