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Breaking Down Elements of Burglary That Every Homeowner Should Know

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Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can do to protect your home and family. Having more knowledge also allows you to make the right decisions about home security. We are in the home security business – as well as many other home-related businesses – and we want our customers to know as much as possible about our products. . Knowing the elements of burglary can help you make the right choices when it comes to security systems for your home as well as for your business.

What is a Burglary?

According to the FBI, a burglary is entering a structure with the intent of committing a felony or theft. This can include forcible entry, but it would also include entering without permission. Going through an open door without permission to commit a crime would be a burglary according to the Government’s definition. Attempting to break in forcibly but failing to do so, is still considered a burglary. This applies to almost any structure but does not apply to automobiles, which fall under a different category. When you understand the elements of burglary, you can see how home security is not always simple.

Definitions of Crime

Understanding the elements of burglary can seem like something that would only interest law enforcement agencies. if your property is gone without your permission, you want it back and may not care what category it falls in. But understanding these definitions can affect how you decide to make your home secure. Knowing the terminology can also help you understand what is happening if you do have a burglary at your home or business.

doorbell camera footage of package theft, car in background


As noted above, burglary is entering a structure without permission to commit theft or some other kind of felony. It is sometimes called breaking and entering, but the word “entering” is what is most important. Entering, or even trying to enter, someone else’s property with the intent of committing a crime is illegal. The intent will make a lot of difference when the person is punished for their crime.


Theft is taking someone else’s property by any means. It can get complicated because there are a lot of aspects of theft to consider. If you accidentally leave your bicycle on the sidewalk, and someone takes it, that is still theft even though it may not have been on your property at the time.

Levels of Theft

The worth of property can change the severity of the crime.

  • Petty theft is stealing something of relatively small value, under $400 in most states.
  • Grand Theft is taking something of a greater value than $400. Grand theft is usually a felony, which is a much more serious crime that may involve jail time.

Elements of Theft

The elements of burglary would include the various levels of theft and different kinds of theft. These all have different levels of severity and different levels of punishment.

  • Larceny is slightly different than theft. It is taking someone’s property with the intent of never letting the owner have it back. Some thefts are not considered larceny.
  • Embezzlement is taking money for personal use that they were entrusted to care for by another person.
  • Receiving stolen property is also considered theft. It is illegal to knowingly buy the stolen property or to even hold it for another person.
  • Extortion is taking money or property through intimidation or threats.
  • Theft by deception is deceiving someone into letting them take property. This can be done by false pretenses or larceny by trick. False pretenses mean taking something through fraud. Trick means doing something like borrowing a car but never intending to return it to its owner.

burglar in black gloves using a tool to enter home

Types of Crime

Burglary, theft, and robbery all involve taking someone else’s property without permission. They are all crimes at different levels and are all related. A person could do burglary, theft, and robbery all at the same time. That same person could do one but not the other two, or any combination of the three.


Burglary is entering property without permission to commit a crime, which is often theft or robbery.

Some states have types of burglary charges that depend on the value of the stolen property, or where it was taken from.

  • Residential burglary entering a house to commit a crime. It is a Class B Felony that could involve up to 10 years in prison.
  • Second-degree burglary is also a Class B Felony and is committing a burglary somewhere other than in a residence or a vehicle.
  • First-degree burglary is a Class A felony, involving the use of a deadly weapon and an assault. This can result in life in prison and a large fine.


Theft is taking someone else’s property for your own use. This can mean physically taking it from them, taking it when they are not looking, or deceiving them into giving it to you.

Theft can also be broken down into levels based on the value of the items stolen. These may vary by state, but the general idea is the same.

  • Third-degree theft is a “gross misdemeanor,” meaning it is just below the level of a felony. This involves properly at less than $750 and results in a year or less in jail.
  • Second-degree theft is a class C felony, with the property being valued at between $750 and $5,000. This type of crime can also involve the theft of a credit card or access code. This is punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • First-degree theft is a Class B felony. The stolen property must be worth more than $5,000, and the property must have been stolen directly. The penalty for this could be up to 10 years in prison.


It is robbery when weapons are used, or violence in some form is used to take someone’s property. It can be threatening someone with a gun or knife, for instance, to get them to give you their property. The threat of violence is also considered robbery, whether an actual weapon was used or not.

  • First-degree robbery is a Class A felony and involves a crime against a financial institution such as a bank. The use, or pretended use, of a deadly weapon must also be involved. This could result in a lifetime jail sentence.
  • Second-degree robbery is any robbery that is anything less than a first-degree robbery. This is also a felony and could result in 10 years in prison.

Differences in entrances.

Just as there are levels or kinds of theft, there are levels and kinds of illegal entry into another person’s property.

  • Trespassing is entering someone’s property after having been told not to do so. This can be verbal, or from having a sign posted telling people to not enter. Whether there is an intent to commit a crime is not relevant to the trespassing charge, just being there is the crime.
  • Breaking and entering is a similar crime. It involves forceful entry in most cases and is associated with the crime of burglary. There is no requirement that the owner forbids entry as is the case with trespassing.
  • Unlawful entry is similar but does not involve violence. This could be walking through an open door of someone’s house. This would be without the intent of committing a crime.
  • The “breaking” part of breaking and entering means the person illegally entering a property with the intent of committing burglary.

burglar in gray sweatshirt and black ski mask trying to enter door

Use Home Security to Decrease Chances of Burglary

The elements of burglary can get complex, and there are many angles to consider. As a homeowner, you may be more interested in protecting your home than in worrying about the intricacies of the law. No home security system can indeed be 100 percent unbreakable, but there is evidence that home security systems do deter crime.

In recent years there have been developments in technology that have made home security systems more effective. There are also more home security systems than ever. Studies have shown that burglars and other criminals look for easy targets. A house that does not have security is an easier target than one that does, so it would make sense for a criminal to go after one that is not protected.

FBI statistics show a decrease in the number of burglaries in recent years, and that could be due to improved technology and more people having home security systems. In 2014 alone, there was a 10 percent drop in the number of burglaries nationwide. There was a 20 percent decrease in burglaries between 2013 and 2010. Even so, there was an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses in 2014 from home burglaries. Of all burglaries committed in the United States, the FBI estimates that 73 percent of them involved residential property.

Trust ONIT Home For Your Security Essentials

When it comes to home security, look no further than ONIT Home. We offer customizable packages, 24/7 monitoring systems, and the peace of mind that your home is safe. Teaming up with ONIT Home gives you state-of-the-art monitored systems and a team of trained security professionals. We simplify the process and make sure to find you a security package to fit your needs at a low monthly rate.

To get started, visit us online or give us a call today at 1-833-433-0331. 

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