We come across the words burglary, robbery, (and not quite as often) larceny, in our everyday interactions with people, the news, and social media. Well, hopefully not every day, but often enough that we may need to ask ourselves, ‘Do I even know what the difference is between the terms?’ Why are there so many ways to say the same thing – that’s confusing!
But all of the terms involve the loss of a valuable item or items.
We are here to help. We’re going to break down the terminology and statistics to give you a better idea of what exactly happens in each situation to make it different than the other. If you’re reading and researching this because you’ve been a victim in one of these crimes, you’ll want to take a moment to look at our review of home security systems as part of the process in educating yourself at becoming more savvy when taking measures to protect yourself, your family, and your home. Information, intelligence, and relevant data can be a strong weapon in combating the people who are out to compromise our safety and well being.
Let’s start by breaking each one of the terms down by definition and example.
The act of breaking and entering a dwelling at night to commit a felony (such as theft); the entering of a building with the intent to commit a crime.
That’s the dictionary definition, although I don’t know that it has to be at night.
The FBI defines burglary as “as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. To classify an offense as a burglary, the use of force to gain entry need not have occurred”.
They further define three sub categories for burglary:
- forcible entry
- unlawful entry where no force is used
- attempted forcible entry whereas a “structure includes an apartment, barn, house trailer or houseboat when used as a permanent dwelling, office, railroad car, stable, and vessel – but not automobiles.
Huh? Yes, automobiles are considered another category…just to confuse you a little bit more.
A victim may or may not be present for it to be classified as a burglary.
The act or practice of robbing; larceny from the person, or presence of another by violence or threat
The main difference between burglary and robbery is that a victim (single or multiple) is always present in the scenario when using this terminology to identify a crime. They are forcibly made to give up something that is of value.
Larceny, Theft & Extortion
Larceny is the unlawful taking of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it permanently. It’s often used interchangeably with theft.
The FBI’s defines larceny-theft as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another. Examples are thefts of bicycles, motor vehicle parts and accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article that is not taken by force and violence or by fraud. Attempted larcenies are included when charging with a crime.
So there’s not force or violence, just a theft. The presence of a victim isn’t “required” to identify a crime as larceny or theft. Something is stolen.
Embezzlement, confidence games, forgery, check fraud, etc., are excluded.
Extortion means that an individual is forced to give up something, or act against their will by threats to their reputation, finances, a threat of violence, or property damage (threat of). The victim appears to be handing something over/act willingly, but are in fact acting to avoid the threats against them.
Both burglary and robbery are defined as PROPERTY CRIMES because they involve the theft of property from an individual, or the intent to steal (or commit a felony) with unlawful entry into one of the named structures.
Why do we need to know the difference? Isn’t it all considered stealing?
Yes, it is all stealing in one form or another, but within our judicial system, each crime doesn’t carry equal punishment so it’s important to differentiate between the categories outlined, and the degree to which each crime was committed. Complicated in a way, but it also saves the bike thief from being punished in the same way and manner that the burglar is dealt with if he should compromise an individual or family’s safety when he/she enters a home and commits a theft while they are there. Make sense?
So when comparing burglary versus robbery, the circumstances will define the crime.
The Numbers and Statistics
There is great news, and that is that the overall property crime rate has declined 26% according to the United States Department of Justice. But that doesn’t mean that being prepared and outfitting your home and self are the best ways to keep those numbers on the downward slope.