ANNAPOLIS – After noticing an apparent rise in violent home invasions in the state, Delegate Susan Lee, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring a bill that would update Maryland law to categorize these offenses as crimes of violence.
In Montgomery County alone, 24 home invasions occurred in 2011, said Captain David Falcinelli of the Montgomery County Police Department at a press conference Wednesday.
A home invasion involves an offender entering a home with the intent of harming an individual or individuals inside.
Many offenders target single women or the elderly. These break-ins often lead to more violent offenses, as homeowners are often raped, assaulted or murdered, said John McCarthy, state’s attorney for Montgomery County.
These cases are different than normal property crimes, McCarthy said.
“They need to be put into a different category. That’s exactly what this bill does,” McCarthy said.
Maryland law now only prosecutes offenders for burglary, with a maximum of 20 years in jail. The new legislation would hold a maximum penalty of 30 years, which would not run concurrently with that of other crimes committed during the burglary.
Offenders are no longer waiting until residents have left their homes, said Allen Myers, president of the Maplewood Citizens Association in Bethesda. Perpetrators often show a weapon, follow a resident in or even impersonate police, law enforcement officials said.
Lee feels the increase in home invasions is caused by the bad economy, and said it is time to act on the issue for the sake of the families and communities involved.
“This is a very disturbing crime because it involves the perpetrator not only raiding the sanctity of the home … but also taking control of its occupants,” she said. “The impact on kids and families, it’s devastating.”