The killings of seven people in a home-invasion robbery in Indianapolis last week spotlights a trend in several cities, says USA Today. Such robberies aren’t a separate crime category that the FBI and most police departments track. Police chiefs and criminologists say anecdotal evidence suggests home invasions, a form of armed robbery in which criminals burst into homes and threaten their victims face to face, are increasing in some areas. Increases in such crimes are showing up in some parts of the West and Southwest, where police say illegal immigrants are sometimes both victim and perpetrator.
In Houston, home-invasion robberies increased 25 percent last year to 448. Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the victims often are either drug dealers whose stashes are targeted or small-business owners known to carry home cash. In Sacramento, home-invasion robberies are up 37 percent to 63 in the first five months of this year over the same period last year. “When one person does a certain type of crime and is successful, it filters through the criminal world,” says Sgt. Terrell Marshall, a police spokesman. “That’s what we’re seeing with this home-invasion thing. When they get incarcerated, they’re actually being educated on which crimes work and which crimes don’t work.” In last week’s Indianapolis case, the two suspects were searching for a safe they believed contained money and cocaine, according to the Associated Press, citing documents filed by prosecutors. Some cities that track home-invasion cases are recording declines. In Tampa, home-invasion robberies dropped from 104 in 2004 to 96 last year. Some analysts believe home invasions are decreasing. “That’s why when these cases come up, they are all the more attention-worthy,” says Prof. Robert McCrie of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Because we don’t hear about it.”