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Burglary and other crimes: Are current sentences too lenient?

A recently released report showed that violent crime in New Jersey was down in 2011, but that crime overall had increased. The report attributed at least some of this increase to reductions in the number of police officers in many communities in the state.

The report may also have been the reason that a new bill was introduced in the New Jersey legislature to make certain types of burglaries second-degree felonies. Currently, all types of unarmed burglary are third degree offenses.

One State Senator Wants to Increase Penalties for Burglary of an Occupied House 

State Senator Kevin O'Toole thinks that if someone breaks into an occupied house or business to commit a burglary, even if unarmed, the penalty should be greater. Currently, the sentence for a burglary conviction is three to five years in prison, a maximum $15,000 fine, or both. O'Toole wants the sentence raised to 10 years.

Proposal Includes Removing Early Release Option

Moreover, a person sentenced for burglarizing an occupied home would not have the possibility of early release. As O'Toole said, "If you're sentenced to ten years, guess what? You're doing ten years, hard time."

He is seeking the proposed change because of the "...grave physical, emotional and psychological damage endured by victims...... It is imperative that criminal penalties match the severity of crimes. This common-sense legislation will deter burglaries and save residents harm and grief."

O'Toole said that he found out from a Superior Court judge that the current penalty for burglarizing an unoccupied car was the same as for burglarizing a home that was occupied.

Although violent crime was down in New Jersey in 2011, crime overall was up by three percent, and burglaries increased by 11 percent.

Source: NJ101.5, "NJ's Spike In Burglaries The Catalyst For New Bill," by Kevin McArdle, Jan. 2, 2013.

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