Saturday, March 05, 2005

Researcher: People Aren't Ransacking Like They Used To

A rapidly decreasing number of Americans have returned to their homes to find them ransacked in recent years, and Glenn X. Farmer wants to know why.
After analyzing police data from across the country Farmer, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, found that in 2003, the last year for which statistics are available, 2,200 homes were ransacked in the 50 states. That’s down from 3,012 in 2002, and 3,085 the previous year.
"I’m not ready to call ransackers a dying breed," said Farmer. “But that day may be not be far off. The ransacker community is definitely in decline.”
Farmer noted that ransacking homes, which usually falls under the category of breaking and entering, is a felony, usually punishable by up to 5 years in jail, unless accompanied by other charges such as grand larceny.
“I suppose it’s a good thing,” said Farmer of the decline. “At the same time there are some serious questions we need to study: Have anti-ransacking laws, if any, been effective? Has ransacking become unfashionable? Are people just too busy to ransack? I think the criminal justice community owes it to itself to find these answers.”
Preliminary interviews by Farmer with convicts suggest that the most common cause of ransacking is the search for cash, change or valuables for drug money, followed closely by revenge and drunken rage. Only a small number of homes are appear to be ransacked in order to find hidden maps, computer discs, documents, embarrassing photos or other hidden paraphernalia, although that is the leading motive for ransacking seen on TV or in films.
“There are a lot of misconceptions out there,” said Farmer, who is seeking funding to continue his study.
Ransack comes from ransaka, a combination of the Norse words rann, house and saka, to seek.
Waldo Thrace, whose Pittsburgh apartment was one of the relatively few ransacked last year, reacted to the study with ambivalence. “I suppose I’m glad there’s less of them,” said Thrace, 51, a librarian. “On the other hand, you don’t want to see a group of people completely disappear. At least not without knowing why.”


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