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June 14, 1995

Weapon Involvement in Home Invasion Crimes

Author Affiliations

From the Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Kellermann and Mss Westphal and Fischer), and the Atlanta Police Department (Chief Harvard).

JAMA. 1995;273(22):1759-1762. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520460041032

Objective.  —To study the epidemiology of home invasion crimes and determine the frequency with which firearms are used to resist these crimes.

Design.  —Prospective case series.

Setting.  —Atlanta, Ga (population 402 877).

Methods.  —Between June 1 and August 31, 1994, Atlanta Police Department reports were screened to identify every case of unwanted entry into an occupied, single-family dwelling. Cases of sexual assault and incidents that involved cohabitants were excluded.

Results.  —A total of 198 cases were identified during the study interval. Half (99 cases) involved forced entry into the home. The victim and offender were acquainted in one third of cases. A firearm was carried by one or more offenders in 32 cases (17%). Seven offenders (3.5%) carried knives. In 42% of cases, the offender fled without confronting the victim. Victims who avoided confrontation were more likely to lose property but much less likely to be injured than those who were confronted by the offender. Resistance was attempted in 62 cases (31%), but the odds of injury were not significantly affected by the method of resistance. Forty cases (20%) resulted in one or more victims' being injured, including six (3%) who were shot. No one died. Three victims (1.5%) employed a firearm in self-protection. All three escaped injury, but one lost property.

Conclusion.  —A minority of home invasion crimes result in injury. Measures that increase the difficulty of forced entry or enhance the likelihood of detection could be useful to prevent these crimes. Although firearms are often kept in the home for protection, they are rarely used for this purpose.(JAMA. 1995;273:1759-1762)

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