Responding to Victims of Property Crimes
Deborah Weisel  -  2011/12/28
Property crime victims are not covered by our state victim rights, and I know these services could help them as well. Any suggestions on how we can serve them better when the system does not recognize them as victims?
1.  dlweisel
 Great question. There has been a lot of progress in victim rights over the last two decades and much of the priority has tended to focus on violent crime victims. As long as there is a limited amount of resources, this is likely to continue. There are nearly four times as many property crime victims, however, as violent crime victims. We have a good chance of preventing revictimization among property crime victims but because of resource constraints, likely need to focus on a different set of responses.
In Missouri, the burglary of an unoccupied residence is a Class C Felony and considered a property crime. Have any state court jurisdictions upgraded these offenses to crimes against persons (Class B) and increased the penalty class to reflect the seriousness of the act?
1.  dlweisel
 (Part 2 of response) Of course, this varies from state to state but distinctions or degrees variously distinguish different levels of harm or potential harm. Thus, burglary of a dwelling is often considered more harmful than burglary of a commercial property, burglary in the nighttime is more harmful than burglary in the daytime, burglary with force is more harmful than unforced entry, and burglary of an occupied dwelling as more harmful than an unoccupied dwelling. An important element of most state statutes is intent was the offenders intent to trespass, to steal, to damage property, or to cause bodily harm to persons. Unfortunately, intent is an element that is often difficult to determine.
2.  dlweisel
 Residential burglary or breaking and entering is certainly a serious crime that imposes enormous emotional costs in addition to the loss of property. I havent seen any state classify burglary as a crime against person although in terms of punishments and penalties for offenders, different emotional costs of different types of burglary are largely reflected in states criminal statutes.
3.  Michael
 Vacant residence
4.  dlweisel
 Did you mean burglary of an occupied residence?
Will your presentation include victim response when the property crime is domestic abuse related?
1.  dlweisel
 This is a great question. There isnt a lot of empirical information about multiple victimization among domestic violence victims. There are some findings related to the prevalence of intimate partners among burglary offenders it seems as if as many of 13 of burglars are former intimate partners WHEN a burglary is committed and someone at home. Of course, three-quarters of burglaries are committed when no one is home so the relationship of the offender and the victim may be suspected but is often unknown. Im not aware of other research about the overlap between domestic violence and property crimes. Its commonly talked about and SHOULD be the focus of more research.
What are the best responses to those that express fear that juvenile offenders will return to the same location or target the victim's children for contacting law enforcement?
1.  dlweisel
 The other part of your question is about offenders retaliating against witnesses. That issue is addressed in many state statutes providing services to both victims and witnesses.
2.  dlweisel
 To protect the location from further offenses, it really is important to change the features of the location that originally made it vulnerable. You did not mention the type of offense but this may mean blocking easy access, making the location more visible or other strategies that alter the offenders calculations about their potential success in committing the offense.
3.  dlweisel
 It is certainly reasonable to think that offenders will return to the same location. There is a vast amount of research showing this to be the case but the best response will depend on the type of offense that has occurred and other factors related to why it occurred at that location. Were talking about property crime today, so were looking at offenses including theft, burglary or even property damage such as graffiti or vandalism.
4.  Stephanie
 Building, or in some cases rebuilding trust in our law enforcement agencies, to follow-up. If a revictimization occurs, report it to law enforcement. If children are made a target, again report this. It is against the law to tamper with a witness or harass a person. Encouraging victims to believing in persistance and in our justice system.
Judges often order restitution in juvenile cases. In reality, the majority of these kids or their families will never have the ability to pay for the loss or damage. What are the best responses to victims when they ask about restitution?
1.  dlweisel
 Really, all research suggests that you dont want to raise peoples expectations and fail to meet them. There is a publication available on this topic, featuring some promising practices. See
2.  dlweisel
 Its certainly another misery heaped on a victim if court-ordered restitution is not forthcoming so Im not sure there is any best response to the individual. However, if you're in the position to do so, I would strongly encourage you to systematically track and evaluate the failure rate on juvenile restitution for your jurisdiction. From an evaluation point of view, restitution failure is similar to other types of non-compliance with court orders. Determining the prevalence of non-compliance across multiple cases rather than looking at individual cases or just a couple of cases is important to make judges (and other juvenile court personnel) aware of what you're suggesting is a systemic problem.
Involvement. We've seen residents become active in watch groups after their victimization. However, that usually lasts for a short period of time then its back to life the way it was. How can we sustain long term involvement that produces positive results in the community?
1.  dlweisel
 If youre asking how to sustain interest in Neighborhood Watch, see the issues about this covered in the response appendix in Unless citizens perceive specific crime problems as personally relevant to their own self interests, they are not likely to remain active. If the problems arent perceived as relevant because citizens are not well informed, educational outreach can be undertaken via web based crime maps, notification systems such as reverse 911 or telephone or email trees. If the problems are not perceived as relevant because they are few in number, are the programs needed? Sustaining interest in community problems is at least one objective of Citizen Academies operated by police.
2.  dlweisel
 The first part of your question is missing.
How can local police better incorporate victims into neighborhood-level responses to burglary.
1.  dlweisel
 (Part II answer) It remains critically important on residential burglaries to focus on preventing a subsequent burglary. All the research continues to show that one victimization is the best predictor of another victimization this is the best time and place to put crime prevention strategies in place. See
2.  dlweisel
 (Part 1 answer) The answer to this question really varies a lot based on the type of neighborhood and the type of burglaries. Its obviously important to make residents aware of burglaries occurring nearby and to get their involvement. Despite all the advances in forensic evidence in the last few decades, research shows that eyewitnesses are still key to solving this common crime.
Is there a $ limit to compensation amounts for a victim of property crime
1.  dlweisel
 Victim compensation programs differ a lot so you will need to check with your local program.
2.  Kate Jones
 Limit of compensation for property crime: this will vary state to state. In CA the limit appears to be provable damages, as evidenced by receipts.
Are there any suggestions you have for developing community partnerships to help crime victims with services not covered by compensation like replacement of windows, locks, stolen property?
1.  dlweisel
 This would be a good initiative for a local agency law enforcement, victim services to recruit contributions from local companies, especially home improvement stores or contractors.
2.  dlweisel
 Over the years, I have seen a few different programs that assist victims with repair of damaged windows and doors from burglaries and replacement hardware but Im not certain that these programs have been sustained. Ill have to check into that and get back to you. Since it is so important to secure the point of entry when a home has been broken into, getting this assistance to victims ought to be our first line of defense. Replacement of property lost in a crime is a different issue.
Since most property crimes are monetary based and not covered by state victim compensation programs, is the best assistance for victim to use the restitution avenue?
1.  dlweisel
 We'd probably all agree that any type of victim assistance is better than none; as you've seen from some of the other posts, even court-ordered restitution doesnt always make its way to the victim. in general, the quicker the assistance is provided, the better.
Hi! I am a new Victim Services Coordinator for our police department. Are there any brochures literature that you would recommend for people who are victims of property crimes? Things that could be given to mailed to victims?
1.  Carlene Holt
 I work in a victims service agency and have used The National Center for Victims of Crime to order pamphlets--- they are free, check out their website.
2.  dlweisel
 OVC's website has many different materials available for download. Take a look at
3.  dlweisel
 Im sure the OVC experts have resources and can respond to your question better than I can! Please note that we are speaking of property crimes as if they are pretty generic but there are a range of property offenses. The steps to prevent your home from being burglarized are different from those needed to prevent having your bicycle stolen, or your car broken into or stolen, Most folks would include identify theft, credit card theft or fraud, vandalism including graffiti, and even arson among property crimes. For all these offenses, prior victimization is a cue to future victimization so use the opportunity in your marketing to incorporate crime prevention strategies.
4.  Katrina
5.  Jessica
 I would also be interested in that information.
6.  Carlene Holt
 What state are you in?
How can I help a property crime victim whose offender is soon off paper and still ows a lot of restituion? I cant tell them were or if he is working. Often in reality, they may never see it all payed back. Court order or not.
1.  Sandi
 Small claims court is well and good, however, we find that the majority of offenders do not have jobs and can't pay even if a judgment is entered. In a majority of the cases as well, the offender may have various liens and judgments against himher already and one more won't bother them. It is unfortunate. If you can get a small claims judgment and know ifwhere the individual is working, you may be able to attach wages, but that is another legal procedure.
2.  dlweisel
 This is similar to the other question about offender compliance. Take a look at the publication recommended to see if there are ideas you can incorporate.
3.  Ron
 One remedy is persuing the offender through small claims court in the area. Although there are fees initially required up front, the threat of this action can be an additional motivator to pay. I've had a few cases where the victim has initiated this action against the parent of a juvenile offender. Parent has paid the restitution before going to small claims court.
Do you have any resources for families that don't have homeowners insurance and are victims of property damages that they can't afford to repair?
1.  dlweisel
 It might be worth getting the media involved in getting resources for this family. Some publicity might help you connect with someone -- individuals or businesses -- that are willing to help out.
2.  Dawn O.
 A drunk driver ran into someone's home and the owners can't afford repairs and don't have insurance. I personally sent letters to all the hardware stores in that town (8 stores) asking for their help in donating materials for the family and never heard back from any of them.
3.  dlweisel
 So have your court officials or law enforcement executives call up local contractors, building supply companies and home improvement stores to link resources to victims. If there are no victim service providers, responding law enforcement officers will know who needs assistance.
4.  dlweisel
 In my view, this ought to be the major service provided to victims of property crime especially burglary victims. There are more than 2 million burglaries reported in the US each year more than all the aggravated assaults, homicides, rapes, robberies and vehicle thefts combined. We may not be able to apprehend the burglar since we clear at best about 12 of burglaries. We are also unlikely to recover the victims property or diminish the emotional trauma, but we should do all we can to prevent the household from being burglarized again. Locks, window and door repairs are a critical first step.
Does OVC have research on restituion success rates for property crime defendants sentenced to probation?
1.  dlweisel
 The term restitution success rate is a complex concept. Consider the crime of burglary. Even if restitution is a mandatory part of sentencing, only 12 of burglaries are cleared nationally through arrest or exception and this does not mean that this proportion of offenders to crimes actually proceed through court. There is case attrition at every step. Offenders may not be charged, charges may be dropped, cases may be dismissed or defendants may be acquitted. The possibility of restitution for burglary and many property crimes becomes unlikely.
After major hate vandalism of SFR home during remodel, parents wonder how to ensure safety of small children when they move to this new residence. Suggestions?
1.  dlweisel
 Unfortunately, home foreclosures in many jurisdictions continue to rise and there continues to be a problem with former owners vandalizing these properties. In many cases, law enforcement are already aware of problems at specific properties and should be consulted about the best response strategy.
Working with juveniles require the caseworker to be very creative to provide assistance to the victims in cases while holding the youth accountable and attempting to work towards making the youth a productive part of our community. Any successful programs that you know of that would be beneficial to add as part of the group counseling to the youth we work with?
1.  dlweisel
 This is outside my expertise as I don't work that much with juvenile court. I always tend to find OJJDP's Model Program Guide helpful when looking at a range of sanctions.
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