Monday, August 29, 2011

When is a robbery not a robbery?

If I come into your home while you are not home and steal your property, I have committed a burglary.

If I come into your home while you are there and steal your property, have I robbed you?

Not according to Undersheriff Zinke and Lt. Popovits of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. This morning McHenry County Board Member Mary McCann and Marengo-area resident Kristin Ottolino were told that it's not a "robbery", if the perps weren't armed.

Robbery is defined in the Illinois Compiled Statutes in Title III, Part C. Offenses directed against property.
Art. 18 Robbery.  "Sec. 18‑1. Robbery.
    (a) A person commits robbery when he or she takes property, except a motor vehicle covered by Section 18‑3 or 18‑4, from the person or presence of another by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force." (emphasis added)

So the Undersheriff was correct, legally. And that's what counts, "legally", when you are talking about laws and law enforcement. But what too many law enforcement officers don't understand is what the public understands when they hear terms such as "robbery". Would it have been better public relations to slow down and explain what the legal definition of Robbery was? See 720 ILCS 5/18-1(a)

If perps enter a home, even allowed in or invited, and then distract the homeowners so that one of them can ransack a dresser and find and steal jewelry, that it going to look and feel like a robbery to the victims. At that point it is essential to "educate" (gently, if necessary) and explain the law.

Now, is a "gypsy raid" something special in Illinois law? Apparently, some gypsies are roaming loose in McHenry County and committing numerous thefts. CAUTION: when someone comes to your door uninvited, do not let them in! Period!

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