The Offence Of Burglary And The Defence Criminology Essay

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The offence of burglary is defined by section 9 of the Theft Act 1968. It states that a person is guilty of committing the offence of burglary if they enter a building as a trespasser with the intent to steal or indeed attempts or is successful in stealing anything in the building. (Theft Act, 1968)

Despite the fact that the number of burglaries that have been committed has consistently decreased over the past 15 years, it still remains one of the most prevalent forms of criminal attack in the United Kingdom. Although seen by some as an almost "innocent" criminal act with the damage done being only material rather than physical this is far from true. Surprising similarities have been found between the reaction and emotional trauma to victims of both violent criminal acts and common burglary. It also intrudes into the home and damages feelings of personal security, peace of mind and well-being. Because of this, it often has an impact on its victims, and others who fear burglary, that is out of all proportion to the value of the property that is stolen (Maguire, 1982).

Whilst the rate of home theft has decreased as a whole throughout the country, large urban areas and major cities have actually noticed an increase in the past years in its occurrence. In some cases a rise of almost 4% has been observed. Several demographic groups have also been identified as being more susceptible to having a burglary committed. These include students and the elderly. The reasons for these groups being more at risk can be seen as being generally one of two things. The potential gain is greater, with students traditionally cohabiting housing there is likely to be a greater amount of items that are value to steal. The Home Office comments that 'Students are, statistically, one of the most likely groups to fall victim to crimes' and that young people aged between the ages of 16 - 24 are three times more likely to be victims of burglary than people in any other age bracket; making students even more vulnerable. (Home Office, 2009)

It is the student group that is most relevant to this particular research's stated objectives. The area being looked at in detail, the Birchley estate has become a breeding ground for burglaries with increases being noticed in occurrences over the past year. This would appear to coincide with the increase in the population of students living on the estate. The residents of the estate appear to believe that the increases are directly linked to the level of students accommodated in the area and also the ease of escape routes via the numerous exits that can be accessed via a series of interconnecting alleyways. Funding can provide one of two preventative measures in order to combat the problem; gates on all alleyways with key for residents or a crime prevention campaign giving security advice and cheap locks to doors and windows. To determine which of these is likely to be the most welcomed and effective method of burglary prevention the research must both prove or disprove the commonly held notion that the residents conceptions of what is causing the increase in theft and also assess which strategy the residents themselves would most like to see put in place.

RESEARCH DESIGN PLAN

The research itself will consist of four elements and stages. In the first stage a thorough literature review will be conducted to examine data that is already in existence and that may of use and relevance to the planned research to be conducted. Due to the nature of the aims of the research being both quantitative and qualitative in nature, these forms of research analysis will then be carried out. Police statistics relating to burglary in the Birchley estate will be analysed to assess both the relevance of the student population as well as means of escape to the problem. This will be followed by an administered questionnaire designed to gain a feeling of what people in the community feel both the problem and solution is to the burglaries. Finally, with the use of the preexisting data provided by the police and the analysis of the questionnaires, the evidence can be accurately collated and conclusions drawn.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The main aim of the literature review will be to locate and examine both up to date statistical that has already been done on the subject area, in this case the problems of burglary within urban environments, specifically focusing on those areas with a large student population. If possible it would be of value to identify any areas of similar size and demographic makeup in order to form a control group of sorts later on in the research. The literature review will also identify any previous preventative methods that have been successfully employed in similar situations. This will enable the research to give an accurate prediction of the success or failures indicative of the two types of burglary prevention techniques being examined.

QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS

Using the pre-existing data pertaining to the number, victims and methods of escape that has been provided to the research an accurate and statistical analysis will be conducted to show any correlation between the increases in student population and the rise of burglaries in the estate. This data will also help to show the influence on the availability of the alleyways as a means of escape and whether removing this option would help to reduce the occurrence of burglary. The correct interpretation of the police data is imperative to the research establishing patterns, if they exist so as to prove or disprove the assumptions held by many of the local residents and also to ensure the correct preventative measures that are available to maximum affect. Any results found within the literature review concerning similar areas and any solutions previously utilized could also be incorporated at this stage in order to provide a control group of sorts.

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

This will take the form of a pre designed questionnaire to be administered to all houses on the Birchley estate. The questionnaires primary goal will be to collect qualitative information from the inhabitants of the Birchley Estate. It is planned that this will be conducted either by uniformed police officers or a licensed survey group. Should any residents not be present at the time of administering, there will be the option to complete and return by post to the local police station. A deadline for receipt of these will be set. This also applies to locals that do not want to openly answer the questions. By doing this we are ensuring a degree of protection and confidentiality for those participating.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS

One of the key elements of the planned research will be the participation and feedback of the local residents of the Birchley Estate. This inclusion in the decision making process allows the inhabitants to become part of the solution as well as taking ownership of the initiatives to reduce burglary in the area. Whilst this is important to the overall aims of the research it may also be one of the stumbling blocks. Firstly, as was noted by the lack of attendance at the residents meeting, students are less inclined to assist and take the time to voice their concerns. Following on from this, the questionnaire, where possible should be administered in person where possible and if not then by consensual postal return. As students have differing schedules and movements are more erratic it may be difficult to tie them down and thus the qualitative element of the research will rely on them returning the questionnaire, if not at home at the time of delivery, by post in order to gain as much feedback as possible in order to validate the overall research aims. Involving the University itself to help promote the scheme would also be beneficial to obtaining maximum feedback. A further problem may also be the fact that all of the student housing are liable to be rented and therefore contacting the owners of each student property would also be necessary as the transient nature of students moving in and out of housing may been some of the questions are unable to be answered accurately. This problem also extends to the other houses on the estate with many homes potentially being sub-let. This should become more apparent during the collation and analysis of the questionnaire. Provisions should be made to be able to leave hard copies of the questionnaire for landlords to fill in and return via a pre paid envelope. Alternatively letting agents or individuals could be approached directly. Another problem can be seen in the non inclusion of either foiled or attempted burglaries that have not been reported and aren't included in the quantitative data. These can be identified within the questionnaire.

ETHICAL AND SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

Ethical and safety considerations must be made for taken into account for both those carrying out the research and administering the surveys as well as the occupiers of the homes that are to receive the questionnaire. Where possible the risk to both groups needs to be minimized. Before researchers administers move into the area to conduct the survey a risk assessment should be done and necessary protocols put in place. Guidance should be sought through the Social Research Association and in particular their Safety Code of Practice for the Safety of Social Researchers.

In the first instance the survey will be conducted via a house to house survey of local residents. It is important that they are fully acquainted with the aims of the survey and also how the information gathered will be protected and used. No identifying information should be taken (name, address etc). Those agreeing to answer the questionnaire should also be made to form a verbal or written agreement to the use of the information gathered. Blaxter et al (2001 as cited in Bell 45:2008) comment that 'Ethical research involves getting the informed consent of those you are going to interview…'

VALIDITY OF THE RESEARCH AND RELIABILITY OF THE FINDINGS

The reliability and subsequent validity of the research findings will form the foundations for all conclusions that can be drawn from the research. If the data is unreliable and the validity of its results questionable then any conclusions drawn will be of little academic or practical use.

This reliability is dependent on the integration of both the quantitative and qualitative data. Without viewing both of these elements in conjunction, the aim of the research cannot be met. A great deal of validity of the qualitative data is linked to the success of the questionnaire and the openness and honesty of the occupiers answers. Should the majority of occupiers not be present at the time of administration there is the potential for limited response and with that a potentially unbalanced and unreliable set of answers.

A focused combination of both the statistical data provided alongside a gauged understanding of the locals' wishes will guide the research to its conclusion. Ultimately, the reliability findings can only really be measured through a noticeable change in the pattern of offences within the estate. It would therefore be suggested that a reevaluation of up to date quantitative date be conducted at regular intervals to chart the success of measure implemented due to the findings of the research. This "re testing" is one way of testing the reliability of the findings. Sapsford and Judd (1996) offer a more precise way of measuring the validity of the research. By assessing whether the research has, in the course of its actions provided any credible conclusions and that the evidence found within the data supports this. In the case of this research it will be validated by the proving or disproving the correlation between the student population rise and the increase in burglaries on the estate.

DID THE RISE IN BURGLARY OCCUR WHEN THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS INCREASED?

Using the empirical data provided over the period Jan 2005 - Dec 2007 it is possible to examine the statistical evidence that can determine whether the increase in burglaries is in direct correlation to the increases in the student population on the Birchley Estate. It is undeniable that as the number of student occupied houses increased over the 2 year period so does the number of burglaries that are committed within the estate. This can also be seen in reverse; in the brief times when the student population has decreased on the estate, so too has the number of burglaries.

The graph above shows the figures for both occurrences of reported burglary and also quantity of houses occupied by students for the period. As stated previously it clearly shows that as the number of student occupied homes increase and decrease the reports of burglaries rise and fall also. When utilising this information it important to remember that the data only shows the number of reported and therefore does not take into account any non reports. The statistical evidence does support the local residents' supposition that the increase in the number of students has affected the rise of burglaries on the estate.

WHAT EVIDENCE IS THERE THAT THE RISE IN BURGALRY IS AFFECTING STUDENTS MORE THAN THE OWNER OCCUPIERS?

For the purposes of answering this question the research will class all non student occupied homes as owner occupied (although they may in fact also be rental properties). Using the data as provided by the local police force it is possible to identify which group is being affected more.

As can be seen from the bar chart, in the first three quarters of 2005 the numbers of burglaries reported were balanced equally with 50% being committed against student occupied housing and 50% against owner occupied. In the last part of 2005 and then throughout 2006 the student accommodation appears to be more victims of reported burglary with two thirds of the reported crime being committed against student accommodation. When analyzing this piece of quantitative data it is important to remember that during the period when students were more affected by burglaries there were more student occupied houses than previously.

HOW DOES THE RISE IN BURGLARY RELATE TO THE BURGLARS CHOICE OF ESCAPE ROUTE?

One of the key questions that the research intends to answer is which sort of crime prevention method is going to be a) the most popular amongst the residents of the Birchley Estate and b) the most beneficial to reducing the occurrence of burglaries in the area. An aspect that has raised concern is the use of the alleyways that run behind the houses as a means of escape as well as using traditional exit points.

Below is a graph representing the number of burglaries that occurred in each quarter against the number which also used the alleyways as means of escaping.

As can be seen, during the first year the use of the alleyways as a means of an escape route was the predominant method employed in the burglaries. Almost 78% of all burglaries during 2005 used this method of escaping. During the following year of data this number drops of to 52% despite the increase in the number of burglaries occurring. Thus whilst the rate of burglaries has increased alongside the rise in student occupied homes, the use of the alleyway as the primary means of escaping has diminished by over 25%

QUESTIONNAIRE

What age groups listed do the residents of the property come under:

a. 0-15

b. 16-24

c. 24 +

This is a closed category question and is asked to determine the age groups. Home Office statistics show that people between the ages of 16 - 24 are three time more likely to be a victim of burglary. It can also determine how many people reside at the address.

Owner Occupier or Rental

The question is designed to determine whether the majority of people on the estate are renters or owners of the property. Are households of a specific nature more targeted by burglars?

Have you been a victim of a burglary or attempted burglary

A closed question with direct relevance to the research aims. Although the quantitative data shows reported the actual recorded burglaries there is no guarantee that all were reported to the police. Attempted burglaries are also to be counted at this stage as studies have shown that foiled attempts at burglaries are not as well reported

If the answer to the above was YES. How many times.

A closed question. Asked to determine whether there is specific targeting of properties.

Do you feel the police do enough to deal with burglaries in the estate.

What security measures do you currently use in your home

Open ended question to ascertain what if any security measures are already in place and are they working. Are properties with existing measures still victims of burglaries? Is anyone already using some of the methods being offered - window locks etc - are they successful as a deterrent.

Given the 2 choices proposed to help prevent the burglary which would you feel is more beneficial and why?

Both a closed and open ended question. Gives the resident the opportunity to choose which they feel would be better and their rationale. Part of the central research aim is to find which strategy the residents would like introduced.

Do you feel that burglary is a major problem on the Birchley Estate? Are you aware of the increases in the occurrence of the crime

Despite the evidence showing the increase in burglaries it may be that the residents don't view it as a major problem or aren't aware of the ongoing increase - only long term residents attended the meeting This is closed question which has the potential to lead on to a more open ended response.

What do you think is the greatest contributor to the increase in burglaries?

As no students attended the residents meeting in which reasons for the increases were put forward, it may be that there are other reasons that have not been included.

What would you like to happen next

A deliberately open ended and exploratory question. This opens up discussion on not just the options that are being offered to the residents but the potential for future schemes that may be of benefit

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