Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of June 20, 2005)

Baseball, Barbeques and Break and Enters

  By John Martin

The season has started to turn and people are thinking of the warm days ahead. Unfortunately, thereís one recurring phenomenon on the horizon we could all do without.  Thatís the annual increase in Break and Enters that begins every year about this time. 

The number of B and Eís always jumps dramatically once the warm weather hits.  The days are longer and the nights are warmer.  People socialize more and spend less time indoors.  They leave their homes vacant as holidays roll around.  And once school is out, young burglars have an extra six hours a day to ply their trade.

You wouldnít know it from sentencing practices, but B and E is a very serious crime and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.  This is a carry over from the Common Law that recognized a manís home is his castle and unlawful entry cannot be tolerated.  In reality, most judges have placed B and E on the other end of the seriousness continuum.  Today, B and E is considered a relatively minor offence and when jail time is handed down, itís generally quite brief.

While this offence is now very common, it wasnít always that way.  Prior to the 1970ís it was actually quite rare.  Break and Enters were far and few between when women were primarily homemakers.  But as they joined the labour force and pursued careers in unprecedented numbers, homes were left vacant during the day.   B and Eís soon became the crime of choice for many thieves.

Career minded women shouldnít get all the blame for the rise in B and Eís though (just kidding).  Technology is also responsible.  It used to be that two strong men, a dolly and a truck would be required to haul away someoneís television and Hi- Fi.  These things were huge and they weighed a ton. 

But Japanese technology revolutionized the industry and soon audio and video components were a fraction of the size and weight they once were.  Consider all the compact electronic booty that awaits todayís thief - camcorders, digital cameras, laptops, DVD players and portable sound systems.  None of these used to exist.  Just as technology has served consumers, itís been most beneficial to burglars.

There are numerous crime prevention strategies aimed at Break and Enters.  Securing doors and windows with heavy-duty bolts and locks, installing security systems, common sense landscaping and working with neighbours to be vigilant are encouraged. 

Although, these are more likely to displace, rather than actually prevent burglaries.

Unfortunately, the forthcoming jump in Break and Enters is inevitable and just as much a part of summer as mosquitoes and horseflies. 

And donít expect the courts to start swatting B and Eíers anytime soon.  

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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