U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Bureau of Justice Statistics
National Crime Victimization Survey
Victimization During Household Burglary
September 2010 NCJ 227379
Shannan Catalano, Ph.D.,
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An estimated 3.7 million household burglaries occurred each
year on average from 2003 to 2007. In about 28% of these
burglaries, a household member was present during the burglary.
In 7% of all household burglaries, a household member
experienced some form of violent victimization (figure 1).
These estimates of burglary are based on a revised definition
of burglary from the standard classification in the National
Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Historically, burglary is
classified as a property crime except when someone is home
during the burglary and a household member is attacked or
threatened. When someone is home during a burglary and
experiences violence, NCVS classification rules categorize the
victimization as a personal (rape/sexual assault, robbery, and
aggravated and simple assault) rather than a property crime
(household burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft). In this
report, the definition of household burglary includes
burglaries in which a household member was a victim of a
violent crime (see Methodology).
*An estimated 3.7 million burglaries occurred each year on
average from 2003 to 2007.
*A household member was present in roughly 1 million burglaries
and became victims of violent crimes in 266,560 burglaries.
*Simple assault (15%) was the most common form of violence when
a resident was home and violence occurred. Robbery (7%) and
rape (3%) were less likely to occur when a household member was
present and violence occurred.
*Offenders were known to their victims in 65% of violent
burglaries; offenders were strangers in 28%.
*Overall, 61% of offenders were unarmed when violence occurred
during a burglary while a resident was present. About 12% of
all households violently burglarized while someone was home
faced an offender armed with a firearm.
*Households residing in single family units and higher density
structures of 10 or more units were least likely to be
burglarized (8 per 1,000 households) while a household member
*Serious injury accounted for 9% and minor injury accounted for
36% of injuries sustained by household members who were home
and experienced violence during a completed burglary.
“Home invasion” has been used widely to describe an array of
“Home invasion” has been used broadly to describe any crime
committed by an individual unlawfully entering a residence
while someone is home. More narrowly, home invasion has been
used to describe a situation where an offender forcibly enters
an occupied residence with the specific intent of robbing or
violently harming those inside.
The limited numbers of states incorporating the term “home
invasion” into their state statutes include the intent on the
part of the offender in their definition. In part, these
statutes have defined intent as–
*A person enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with the
intent of committing a violent crime;
*A person knowingly enters the dwelling place of another with
the knowledge or expectation that someone (one or more persons)
*The unauthorized entering of any inhabited dwelling or other
structure belonging to another with the intent to use force or
violence upon the person of another.
Public perception and media reports of home invasion do not
necessarily include intent
Public perception and media reports of home invasion do not
necessarily include intent on the part of the offender.
Situations reported by the media as home invasion include–
*An offender forcibly enters a home to rob the household of
specific items, including cash, drugs, or other items–
specific households or residents may become a target either to
“settle a score” or because residents are perceived as
vulnerable, such as persons with disabilities and the elderly.
*An offender enters a residence falsely believing no one is
home and a confrontation occurs between the resident and the
*A household member returns home while a burglary is in
progress and a confrontation occurs between the household
member and the offender.
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) estimates of
nonfatal crimes and the consequences to victims do not include
The NCVS provides estimates of nonfatal violent and property
crime and the consequences to victims. If a victim suffers
violence during a burglary, NCVS classification rules
categorize the victimization as a personal rather than a
property crime. Some of these burglaries measured by the survey
may fall under the broad definition of home invasion.
Between 2003 and 2007–
*A household member was home in 28% of the 3.7 million average
annual burglaries that occurred between 2003 and 2007 (table
*In nonviolent burglaries, household members knew the offender
in 30% of the burglaries taking place while someone was home;
the offender was a stranger in 24%. The identity of the
offender was unknown in 46% of burglaries.
*On average, household members became victims of violent crimes
in about 266,560 burglaries annually. Offenders known to their
victims accounted for 65% of these burglaries; strangers
accounted for 28%.
Because the NCVS does not determine offender motivation for
entering an occupied household, the survey cannot address the
more stringent application of the term “home invasion” that
includes offender intent. Additionally, the NCVS does not
distinguish between a household member who is present when the
offender gains entry and one who arrived home unexpectedly
while the burglary was in progress.
Findings include household characteristics of burglaries of
both occupied and unoccupied residences
The findings on household burglary in this report are presented
in three parts. Household characteristics of burglaries of both
occupied (household member present) and unoccupied (household
member not present) residences are examined in Tables 1 through
4. Burglary characteristics of occupied households, such as
method of entry and type of damage, are examined in Tables 5
through 14. Characteristics of violence during household
burglaries that took place while someone was home are examined
in Tables 15 through 20.
Violence during household burglaries remained stable from 2000
Between 2000 and 2007 the rate of household burglary of
unoccupied households declined from 25.8 to 21.2 victimizations
per 1,000 households (figure 2). In contrast, the rate of
household burglary when someone was home remained stable
between 2000 (8.5 per 1,000 households) and 2007 (8.3 per 1,000
households. The percentage of these burglaries that included
violence remained stable between 2000 (6.3%) and 2005 (5.7%).
Between 2005 and 2007, however, there is some indication of an
increase in the percentage of violent burglaries from 5.7% to
Households composed of single females with children had the
highest rates of burglary while someone was present
Households composed of married couples without children
experienced the lowest rates of both types of burglary when no
one was home (14 per 1,000 households) and while a household
member was present (4 per 1,000 households) (table 2).
Households composed of single males were more likely than those
composed of single females to experience a burglary while no
one was home. However, households composed of single males and
single females were equally likely to experience a burglary
while the residence was occupied.
Single heads of households male (59 per 1,000 households) and
female (54 per 1,000 households) living with children
experienced the highest rates of burglary while no household
member was present. Households composed of single females with
children had the highest rate of burglary while someone was
home (22 per 1,000 households). There was no consistent pattern
in the risk of being present during a burglary between
households composed of single males with children and other
Residences with an American Indian or Alaska Native head of
household experienced higher rates of burglary
Households having an American Indian or Alaska Native head of
household (57 per 1,000 households) experienced higher rates of
burglary when no one was home than any other race.
A slightly different pattern in the likelihood of experiencing
a burglary was observed for households victimized while
occupied. Residences having an American Indian, Alaska Native,
or a person of more than one race as the head of household were
equally likely to be home during a burglary.
Households with a white head of household were somewhat less
likely than those with a black head of household to experience
a burglary while a household member was present. Asian and
Pacific Islander head of households were the least likely to be
present during a burglary.
Households with a head of household ages 12 to 19 had the
highest rates of burglary; ages 65 or older had the lowest
Burglary rates declined for households with heads of households
in older age groups. Households with a head of household age 65
or older had the lowest rates of burglary 12 per 1,000
households while no one was home and 5 per 1,000 households
while the residence was occupied. Households with a head of
household age 12 to 19 had the highest rates of burglary 59 per
1,000 households when no one was present and 27 per 1,000
households while the residence was occupied.
Higher income households experienced lower rates of burglary
Rates of household burglary were generally lower for higher
income households than lower income households (table 3).
Across all categories, the risk of burglary was higher for
households living in rental properties. Households living in
rental properties experienced higher rates of burglary when no
one was home and while the residence was occupied than those
who owned or were in the process of buying their homes.
Single-unit housing and housing with 10 or more units were
least likely to be burglarized while someone was home
Household members living in mobile homes (32 per 1,000
households) were more likely than those living in any other
type of housing to experience a burglary while no one was home,
with one exception hotels, motels, and rooming houses.
Households living in mobile homes were equally likely as those
staying in a hotel, motel, or rooming house to experience a
burglary while no one was present (table 4).
Households residing in houses or apartment complexes (9 per
1,000 households) were somewhat less likely than those living
in mobile homes (11 per 1,000 households) to be burglarized
while someone was home.
There was no consistent pattern in the risk of experiencing a
burglary when no one was home by the number of units in a
housing structure. However, a pattern was observed when a
household member was home. Households residing in single-family
units and households residing in higher density structures
consisting of 10 or more units (8 per 1,000 households)
generally had lower rates of household burglary while a
household member was present.
Damaging or removing a door was the most common type of entry
in forcible and attempted forcible entry burglaries
Removing or damaging a window screen during a forcible entry
was equally likely to occur whether the residence was occupied
(11%) or unoccupied (9%) (table 5). In comparison, tampering
with a door handle was less likely to occur while a household
member was present (20%) than when no one was home (26%).
Attempted forcible entry burglaries differed somewhat from
forcible burglaries. Damaging or removing window screens were
an equally likely method of an attempted entry by an offender
to occupied (22%) or unoccupied (18%) residences (table 6).
However, burglars were more likely to attempt to enter a
household by tampering with door handles or locks when
household members were not in the residence (30%) than while
the residence was occupied (19%).
Offenders used an open door or window to gain unlawful entry in
17% of unoccupied residences
In 40% of unlawful entries to unoccupied residences, offenders
gained access through an unlocked door or window (table 7). A
smaller percentage (5%) of unlawful entries while no one was
home was through a locked door or window by unknown means; 8%
of offenders used a key to the residence to gain access.
For households occupied at the time of the burglary, offenders
were equally likely to gain unlawful entry through an open
(27%) or unlocked (28%) door or window. Respondents in 18% of
burglaries of occupied residences stated that someone inside
the home let the offender in; 12% stated that someone inside
opened the door and the offender pushed their way in. Nearly 4%
stated that the offender had a key to the residence and used
the key to gain access.
Household members were at work during a quarter of burglaries
that took place while no one was home
In households in which no one was home about a quarter stated
that household members were at work when the burglary occurred
(table 8). A similar percentage (23%) of households were away
from their residences and engaged in leisure activities when
the burglary took place.
Victims in 38% of households burglarized while someone was home
were asleep at the time of the burglary while 44% of households
stated that household members were engaged in other activities
in the home when the offender gained entry to the residence.
Households burglaries that occurred when no one was home were
more likely to occur between the daytime hours of 6 am and 6 pm
(43%) than between the hours of 6 pm to 6 am (26%) (table 9).
Conversely, a household member was more likely to be present
during a nighttime burglary (61%) than during one that occurred
between the daytime hours of 6 am and 6 pm (33%).
With the exception cash, items were more likely to be stolen
when residents were not home at the time of a burglary
Purses, wallets, credit cards (29%), electronics (33%), and
personal items (31%) made up a larger percentage of items
stolen curing a burglary that occurred when no one was home
compared to burglaries that took place when a household member
was present (table 10). Firearms were stolen in 4% of
burglaries of unoccupied households. Cash was equally likely to
be stolen regardless of whether a household was occupied or
unoccupied during the household burglary. Fifty-five percent of
households burglarized while a resident was home, stated that
no items were taken during the burglary compared to 25% of
households burglarized while no one was home.
Households burglarized while no one was home were more likely
to suffer greater economic losses
Households burglarized while no one was home were more likely
to suffer greater economic losses than those burglarized while
occupied (table 11). Thirty percent of households burglarized
while no one was home had stolen items valued at more than
$1,000; 17% of burglaries with household members present
experienced thefts of $1,000 or greater. Households burglarized
while a household member was present were more likely to suffer
losses of less than $250, compared to other categories.
About three-quarters of all household burglaries by forcible
entry while no one was home were reported to the police
The percentages of burglaries reported to the police, forcible,
unlawful, and attempted forcible entry burglaries were equally
likely to be reported regardless of whether a household member
was home at the time of the burglary (table 12). However,
differences were observed among forcible entry, unlawful entry,
and attempted forcible entry in the percentages of burglaries
by household members being present and household members not
For households burglarized while no one was home, forcible
entry burglaries (73%) were more likely to be reported to the
police than unlawful (41%) or attempted forcible (41%) entry
burglaries. More than three-quarters (78%) of households with
members present during a forcible burglary reported the crime,
52% reported unlawful burglary, and 62% reported attempted
forcible entry. These differences were not statistically
For households burglarized while residents were not present,
the most common reasons for not reporting the victimization to
the police were that the burglary was considered a minor crime
(30%), the resident could not identify the offender or the
resident lacked proof (18%), the police would not bother
investigating the crime (15%), or that the crime was discovered
too late (10%) (table 13).
Offenders were known to their victims in a third of households
burglarized when a household member was present
Offenders were known to their victims in about a third of the 1
million average annual burglaries from 2003 to 2007 that took
place with a household member present (table 14). About a
quarter of households with a member present during a completed
rather than an attempted burglary stated that the offender was
a stranger; 42% stated that the offender was unknown.
Households were less likely to know the offender in attempted
forcible entry burglaries. The offender was known to household
members in about 13% of households that experienced an
attempted forcible entry; the relationship to the offender was
unknown in 62% of these entries.
Violence during the course of a burglary may be examined by two
The general risk of violence may be examined as a percentage of
all household burglaries of residences that were occupied
(household member present) and unoccupied (household member not
present) during the burglary. The specific risk of violence may
be examined as a percentage of the number of burglaries with a
household member present during the course of the burglary (see
An assault occurred in 5% off all household burglaries
In 7% of all household burglaries, someone was home at the time
and experienced a violent victimization (figure 1, table 15).
This translates to about 266,560 household burglaries out of
about 3.7 million taking place each year on average.
Simple assault (15%) was the most common form of violence
during a com-pleted burglary when a resident was home
A household member was present in roughly 1 million burglaries
from 2003 to 2007. Of these households, 26% (or 266,560)
experienced some form of a violent victimization during the
burglary (figure 1, table 16).
The type of violence against household members present at the
time of a burglary varied by burglary category. Simple assault
was the most common form of violence experienced by household
members present during completed (15%) and attempted (6%)
burglaries. Robbery was more likely to occur when a burglary
was completed rather than attempted. A robbery occurred in 7%
of completed burglaries, compared to 1% of attempted forcible
entries. An aggravated assault against a household member was
equally likely to occur during a completed or an attempted
burglary. A rape or sexual assault occurred in about 3% of
households experiencing a completed burglary.
Residents present during a burglary were equally likely to be
victimized by an intimate partner (current or former) as they
were by a stranger
One or more household members knew the offenders in some manner
in 65% of the 266,560 burglaries that took place while someone
was present and experienced violence (table 17). Overall,
household members knew approximately a third of these offenders
as intimates (current or former) (31%), or relatives,
well-known individuals, or household acquaintances (34%). A
stranger perpetrated the violence in 28% of households
burglarized while someone was home and violence occurred.
Findings for completed burglaries were similar to those for all
burglaries. Household members knew offenders in some manner in
two-thirds of completed burglaries involving violence. Despite
the apparent differences between victim-offender relationships,
when violence occurred during a completed household burglary,
individuals present were equally likely to be victimized by an
intimate partner (current or former) (32%) as they were by a
Victims in violent burglaries were equally likely to report
knowing the offender in some manner in an attempted forcible
burglary as they were to report the offender as a stranger.
Thirty percent of individuals experiencing violence during a
completed burglary faced an armed offender
Overall, 61% of offenders were unarmed when burglarizing a home
while residents were present and violence occurred (table 18).
Household members faced an offender with a firearm in about 12%
of all households burglarized while someone was home and
Household members present during a completed burglary were less
likely to face an armed offender (30%) than an unarmed offender
(63%). Those present and violently victimized during an
attempted forcible entry were equally likely to face an armed
or an unarmed offender (38%). Offenders were armed with a
firearm in 23% of burglaries in households (73,000 on average)
burglarized by a stranger where violence occurred (table 19).
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide
According to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, 430
burglary-related homicides occurred between 2003 and 2007 on
average annually. This number translates to less than 1% of all
homicides during that period.
Between 2003 and 2007, approximately 2.1 million household
burglaries were reported to the FBI each year on average.
Household burglaries ending in homicide made up 0.004% of all
burglaries during that period.
Household members were injured in almost half of all completed
burglaries involving violence
Household members were more likely to be injured during a
completed burglary (48%) than an attempted forcible entry
burglary (8%) when a household member was present and violence
occurred (table 20). Serious injury accounted for 9% and minor
injury accounted for 36% of injuries sustained by household
members who were home and experienced a violent crime during a
completed burglary. Most household members who were present
during a violent burglary (92%) were not injured.
The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) gathers data on
crimes against persons ages 12 or older and their households,
reported and not reported to the police, from a nationally
representative sample of U.S. households. The survey provides
information about victims (age, gender, race, Hispanic origin,
marital status, income, and education level), offenders
(genders, race, approximate age, and victim-offender
relationship), and the nature of the crime (time and place of
occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, and economic
consequences). Between 2003 and 2007, 40,320 households were
interviewed annually on average with a 91% household response
Except for data on homicides, all estimates presented in this
report were generated from the NCVS. For more information on
NCVS Methodology, see the Methodology section of Criminal
Victimization Statistical Tables on the BJS Web site. Homicide
data are from the Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) to the
Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR), which are collected by
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Definition of household burglary in the NCVS
The legal definition for “household burglary” may vary among
jurisdictions. For the NCVS, household burglary is defined as
the entry or attempted entry to a residence or adjacent
structure when a person has no right to be there. This crime
usually, but not always, involves theft.
Forcible entry is a completed burglary in which force, such as
breaking a window or slashing a door screen, was used to gain
entry to the residence. Unlawful entry is a completed burglary
committed by someone having no legal right to be on the
premises even though no force was used to gain entry. Attempted
forcible entry is a burglary in which force was used in an
unsuccessful attempt to gain entry.
Missing data in the National Crime Victimization Survey
As with any data collection, in the NCVS missing data vary by
survey item. The impact of missing data depends on the specific
survey item under examination. In Victimization During
Household Burglary, there was no missing data associated with
any of the burglary or violent crime estimates that occurred
when residents were present in the household. In contrast, the
variable ‘Household Income’ is consistently characterized by
high levels of missing data due to reluctance on the part of
survey respondents to disclose their income. In this report,
22% of income data was missing for households victimized while
no one was home and 20% for households that were victimized
while someone was present in the household.
This report, Victimization During Household Burglary, differs
from other NCVS reports in that a different coding approach was
constructed to combine burglaries where a household member was
present and experienced a violent crime with burglaries that
took place while no one was home. Presenting the analyses in
this manner allows for a comparison of the characteristics of
present and non-present burglaries and the examination of the
co-occurrence of a resident’s presence and subsequent
victimization. As a result, estimates presented in this report
are not comparable to victimization estimates of burglary or
personal crime contained in other NCVS reports. This approach
was used previously in Household Burglary, 1985 (NCJ 96021).
Household member is defined as a household member if the
individual is using the sample address as his or her usual
place of residence at the time of the interview or is staying
temporarily at the sample address at the time of the interview
and does not have a usual place of residence elsewhere.
Household burglary with household member not present is defined
as any household burglary (as classified in this report) that
is committed while a residence is not occupied by any household
Household burglary with a household member present is defined
as any household burglary committed while one or more household
members are present in the household.
Violent household burglary is defined as any household burglary
committed while one or more household members are present and
violence occurs between the offender and household members.
General and specific risk
The estimates of risk in this report use measures that may
include multiple victimizations per household, and as such do
not represent a true risk measure based on the prevalence of
victimizations in the population. However, the two estimates
For example, in 2005, approximately 2.5% of households
experienced a household burglary victimization
(http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cnh05.pdf) while the
current report estimates a rate of 3.2 household burglaries per
100 households (32 per 1,000 households), including ones in
which violence occurred.
Standard error computations
Comparisons of percentages and rates were tested to determine
if observed differences were statistically significant.
Differences described as higher, lower, or different passed a
test at the 0.05 level of statistical significance
(95%-confidence level). Differences described as somewhat,
lightly, or marginally passed a test at the 0.10 level of
statistical significance (90%-confidence level). Caution is
required when comparing estimates not explicitly discussed in
the report. Estimates based on 10 or fewer cases have high
relative standard errors. Care should be taken when comparing
these estimates to other estimates, especially when both are
based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics is the statistical agency of
the U.S. Department of Justice. James P. Lynch is director.
This Special Report was written by Shannan Catalano, Ph.D.
Alexia Cooper verified the report.
Georgette Walsh and Jill Duncan edited the report, Tina Dorsey
produced the report, and Jayne E. Robinson prepared the report
for final printing under the supervision of Doris J. James.
September 2010, NCJ 227379
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