Psychological Effects of Burglary

Published 17 Mar 2017

Burglary is regarded as an act of breaking ones house with intent to steal properties. This is what in short is referred to as housebreaking. As per the definition given by Bartol (211), “Burglary is the unlawful entry of a structure, with or without force with intent to commit a theft or other felony.” Though burglary mostly occurs to houses, it is not only limited to that as it also occurs to vehicles. This act of crime is very common in America and it is estimated that about four million Americans become victims of burglary in each year. Apart from victims losing properties, burglary causes psychological effects to the victims and it is for this purpose that this paper will specifically focus on these psychological effects.

Although burglary in the United States is mostly classified as property crime, it is also sometimes regarded as interpersonal crime because there are serious psychological effects that are associated with it. According to studies that have been done on the subject, it is clear that burglary victims apart from experiencing property loss they also feel psychologically traumatized. Invasion of ones property, sanctity and privacy of ones homestead brings stress and discomfort to the victims and may take ages to recover (Smith, and. Meyer, 1998).

There are people who refer to burglary as home rape especially where the burglar gains access to ones private items such as diaries, photographs and letters. The level of distress arising from this is big and it becomes even more pronounced if the invasion is extended to other private sectors of the house such as closets, bedroom, desks, bathroom and chest of drawers where materials containing personal items could be found. There are cases where burglars after committing the crime leave notes and make anonymous calls indicating that the invasion is not over and that they will be back. In such a case, the anger that the victims experience quickly turns into fear and if this persists it causes stress which in turn results to depression (Clarke, 2002). Thinking constantly about how burglars would break into ones house again affects ones thinking process and victims become terrified to an extent that everything they do revolves around their security. These people could be seen upgrading some security gadgets such as door locks, putting stronger gates, installing security lights and alarms (Bartol, 211)

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According to a study that was done by the United Nations Human Settlements Program (2007), it was revealed that of all people who are victimized by buglers forty percent of them become traumatized while the same report shown that sixty eight percent of those who experienced either burglary or burglary attempts became angry to an extent that they could not think straight. These victims say that shock, fear, and lack of sleep are common experiences to them. Psychological effects associated with burglaries are as serious as those that results from violent crimes like robbery and assaults.

According to Prenzler and Townsley (1996), even in cases where monetary value of goods stolen is not big, any act of burglary however mild, is enough to cause psychological consequences that can last for about one year. The affected persons whose sentimental and instrumental valuables have been stolen or interfered with feel insecure, become depressed and may lack sleep for days something that concurs with the findings of the United Nations Human Settlements Program’s survey.

In short, breaking into ones house has some consequences such as property loss and psychological effects but for the sake of this paper, it is psychological effects that have been discussed. There are serious psychological effects that burglary victims are subjected to once such an act happens to them. These people become traumatized and constantly live in fear and in some cases they become depressed. Also shock and sleep loss are common symptoms to them.


  • Bartol, Curt R. 2004. Introduction to forensic psychology. SAGE.
  • Clarke, R.V. 2002. Burglary of Retail Establishments. Guide No. 15. Available at
  • Prenzler, T and Townsley, M. 1996. Preventing Burglary. School of Justice Administration, Griffith University.
  • Smith, Steven R. Meyer, Robert G. 1988. Law, Behavior, and Mental Health: Policy and Practice. NYU Press.
  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme. 2007. Enhancing Urban Safety and Security: Global Report on Human Settlements 2007. Earthscan.
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