Protect yourself from home invasion

On April 17, the Dover Police Department investigated two unrelated home invasions at unidentified residences in the 100 block of Willis Road within 31 minutes of each other. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

On April 17, the Dover Police Department investigated two unrelated home invasions at unidentified residences in the 100 block of Willis Road within 31 minutes of each other. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — It’s simple, really.

Avoiding the illegal drug trade greatly reduces the odds of being victimized by a home invasion.

According to police, home invasions are almost always somehow connected to unlawful drug use.

Intent on committing a violent felony, a home invader typically takes drugs, money and cellphones, using darkness as a cover, the Delaware State Police said.

The stolen property likely will never be seen again.

Home invasions are rarely random, according to authorities.

Victims may provide limited information when police arrive to investigate.

HOME INVASION DEFIND According to Delaware Code, home invasion is a class B felony. Following is its definition by law: A person is guilty of home invasion when the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a violent felony therein, and: • That dwelling is occupied by another person who is not a participant in the crime and • When, in effecting entry or when in the dwelling or immediate flight therefrom, the person or another participant in the crime engages in the commission of, or attempts to commit, any of the following felonies — murder, robbery, rape or kidnapping in any degree, first- or second-degree assault, manslaughter and  • When in effecting entry or when in the dwelling or in immediate flight therefrom, the person or another participant in the crime  is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon or causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime.

HOME INVASION DEFIND
According to Delaware Code, home invasion is a class B felony. Following is its definition by law:
A person is guilty of home invasion when the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a violent felony therein, and:
• That dwelling is occupied by another person who is not a participant in the crime and
• When, in effecting entry or when in the dwelling or immediate flight therefrom, the person or another participant in the crime engages in the commission of, or attempts to commit, any of the following felonies — murder, robbery, rape or kidnapping in any degree, first- or second-degree assault, manslaughter and
• When in effecting entry or when in the dwelling or in immediate flight therefrom, the person or another participant in the crime is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon or causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime.

“Targeted victims are cooperative to an extent due to their involvement in illegal activities,” State Police spokesman Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said.

According to Dover Police Department spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman in general terms, “The overwhelming majority of these incidents involve homes that are specifically targeted by the suspects for a variety of reasons.

“Oftentimes, we find that they are tied to illegal activity, specifically drugs.”

While acknowledging that the level of victim assistance varies, Cpl. Hoffman said, “The majority of the time, they are the callers and are mostly cooperative.

“However, some leave out information because it may be tied to illegal activities the victim is involved in.”

While most intruders try to conceal their identities in some way, “at some level, a majority of the victims know the suspects or there may be a link to the suspect (such as an) associate of a person who has knowledge of fruits of the crime — drugs, money, high value items,” Cpl. Fournier said.

Home invasion stats

“If the victim is cooperating, they usually can provide valuable information to help with the investigation.”

From 2014 to 2016, approximately 55 percent of home investigation cases successfully were cleared by investigating police in Kent and Sussex counties among all law enforcement agencies, according to the State Police. Also, about 37 percent involved a gun.

Each county experienced 35 home invasions in 2014 and 2015, according to police data. In 2016, five of seven home invasions have been cleared in Kent County, three overall with guns involved. One of four cases have been cleared in Sussex County. One with a gun overall.

In Dover, “The majority of the time, the victims tell police a firearm was involved,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Also, home-invasion style incidents without a weapon or by use of hands only can be categorized as a domestic incident in the statistical data base, authorities said.

On April 17 in Dover, two unrelated home invasions unfolded in the 100 block of Willis Road within approximately 30 minutes of each other. The closeness of incidents was a rarity, police said, and didn’t necessarily indicate that the neighborhood was any more dangerous than it had been before.

“It was a very unusual situation and not something that has been seen in the city of Dover in recent memory,” Master Cpl. Hoffman said.

A suspect was arrested shortly afterward in one case on Willis Road, charged with home invasion, first-degree assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and criminal mischief after a resident was shot once in the chest at 11:01 p.m., police said.

In the other investigation, Dover Police determined that four to five suspects entered a home at 10:30 p.m., threatening three occupants with handguns. A minor assault was reported, and an undisclosed amount of cash was taken.

No rising trend

Overall, there’s no indication that home invasions are trending upward in Dover, Cpl. Hoffman said.

As an investigation proceeds, police say nearby neighbors are told of the crime.

“Yes, while detectives canvass the area and through media releases,” Cpl. Fournier responded when asked if a notification policy exists.

Cpl. Hoffman said, “More often than not, detectives will contact neighbors as part of their investigation.”

The unpredictability of when home invasions occur makes it impossible for law enforcement to conduct a campaign to curb them, unlike speeding and drunken driving enforcement, plus drug dealing hot spot surveillance, among other operations.

By taking safety precautions regarding their homes, citizens can better protect themselves against any possible danger, according to police.

“Obviously the best advice, as with anything, is to be aware of your surroundings, report suspicious activity, and keep your home secured,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Cpl. Fournier advised residents, “Alarm the residence and have a panic button in the event of a break-in.

“Do not answer the door or open the door to someone you do not know. Call 911 in the event of any suspicious person near your home.”

State Police Major Crimes Units investigate home invasions, considered a Class B felony in Delaware Code, with a possible mandatory minimum sentence of six to eight years in prison depending on circumstances that include frequency of previous felony convictions for home invasion, first- and second-degree burglary, if applicable. A crime against a victim 62 or older triggers an automatic minimum sentence of seven to nine years based on past criminal record.

Home security company SafeWise spokeswoman Clair Jones said, “While a home security system cannot guarantee that your home won’t be intruded, it can drastically decrease the amount of time a criminal has to do harm and increase the likelihood of a successful conviction.

Speaking generally, Ms. Jones said, “Home invasions have always been a point of fear for homeowners, and in many areas of the country violent and property crime rates continue to rise.

“If someone is brave enough to enter your home while you are occupying it, they are likely the sort of person who will have no problem harming you and your family.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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