Of Home Invasion and Halitosis

Having deflated the popular myth of 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year, let’s draw your attention to another popular number associated with it: 3.6 million. That’s the number of alleged home invasions that occur every year in North America -which apparently includes such remote outposts as Canada and Mexico. That works out to about 8000 per day. And that’s often accompanied by the equally stark claim that one out of five houses will be the target of a break-in. Pretty scary stuff, huh? Exactly.

As with the DGU nonsense, there are no real statistics to back up such assertions. Law enforcement agencies keep tallies of neither defensive gun use nor home invasion as such, so the marketers of products are free to seize upon whatever figures sound impressive.  Over and over again, you’ll see these questionable numbers repeated with authority, even on websites that have the best of  intentions and generally offer sound advice on crime prevention.

One exception is Home Invasion News, which obviously regards the threat as serious enough to generate an entire website to warn people about, but doesn’t want to go into panic mode:

“Finally, there is this breath-taking statistic: “8,000+ home invasions occur in North America every day.” North America? Including Canada? And Mexico? Every day? C’mon, guys. Nobody has these statistics, not even the FBI. Moreover, judging from the nationwide RSS feed posting every day on Home Invasion News, we aren’t seeing even 80 home invasions, let alone 8,000. Outrageous!”

The writer doesn’t say how many stories are posted per day, but even 80 per day would be only about 29,000 per year.  As with the proposition of violent crime or crime in general that might warrant using a gun, the home defense industry has taken a legitimate risk and amplified it so much out of proportion that it morphs into a totally new (and quasi-mythical) creature.

You’ll see this tactic more than occasionally in the world of marketing: first they create (or magnify) a problem, then they offer the solution. The makers of Listerine struck gold by exploiting the nasty-sounding medical term halitosis, which is just a fancy name for bad breath. They didn’t really coin the term, mind you, but they did make it a household word. And it worked wonders; halitosis just sounds so much more dire and ominous than “bad breath”, and much more in need of a medicinal remedy before it leads to drastic consequences.

Nobody is suggesting that you leave your doors unlocked at night or go jogging through Central Park at midnight or suck on a chunk of Limburger before a big job interview.  But if you blow the risks up out of proportion and live in constant fear, your life is not your own. It belongs to Listerine, the NRA and Madison Avenue.


  1. Once agan, you come up with an interesting post.

    As you know, one of the keys to propaganda is to short circuit the brain by using emotion–in this particular case Fear.

    Home invasion is something which prays on the fear that criminals 9especially armed ones) will come into one’s home. That runs roughshod over the sanctity of one’s castle.

    Of course, the irrational solution is to buy a gun rather than beef up the walls around one’s castle and buy a good security system.

    • Yes. I don’t want to vilify burglar alarms or mouthwash or even guns themselves (although the promoters of guns are often worthy of scorn) but the promotional overkill is definitely a problem.

      • I think the numbers are probably high considering the amount of home robberies in the US. 8000 a day seems a bit crazy of a statistic. I would like to find a more accurate number.

  2. Even if it were 1 home invasion per year in north america, that would not make any difference if it were your home that got invaded. When I was young my house was burglarized. We lived out in the country, in an upper-middle class home. Not in a dangerous area.

    Luckily none of us were home at the time. The kids were in school and the parents were out of the house. But it was blind luck that we were all out. My mother is a stay-at-home parent who did not work, her job was raising the kids and taking care of the home environment. And it never got put in the paper or made any sort of news. We reported it to the police but they never caught anyone. I was 10 or 12 at the time of this event.

    • You’re quite right of course, and nobody is suggesting that you don’t take appropriate precautions. I was once the victim of a burglary myself (which, as I understand it, is not the same as a home invasion) and my parents’ house was broken into three times. None of these incidents, so far as I know, made it into the news. But are these the rule or the exception? And if they are the rule, are they the rule to such an overwhelming extent as to justify the astronomical estimates being proposed? Do they really justify living in constant fear?

    • Yes, it makes all the difference in the world when something happens to you–something I have been trying to make gun advocates realize for years! If they are motivated by the naturally insecure feeling of facing an intruder, and desire to advocate ways their security can be defended, why then, can’t they understand the terrible sadness and grief that plagues and motivates parents who lost their children at New town—or the sadness felt by many who lost their families and loved ones in Aurora? They too want to find a way to prevent tragic losses that happen in places like these! So, how is a parent not to express deeply sad emotions when attempting to promote better safeguards in a system that failed their own flesh and blood? They feel threatened about their own security just as gun advocates do! So, what puzzles me then, is why they feel the need to criticize the role that emotions play in bringing forth change?

      Charleston Heston uses it, Wayne, La Pierre uses it, and if you listen to the recordings of shots being fired during major shootings, like the one in Arizona, in New town, or any other mass shooting, you can’t help but scoff at the suggestion made by gun advocates, that semi-automatic weapons firing one shot per second, as well as other rapidly firing weapons, do not represent intense fire power? Just go to the PBS website and look up the front line video about gun violence and the might of the NRA. No rational person who does so, can claim that the weapons being fired are not rapid and efficient killing machines!

      You may have to log in to hear the recordings, but It cannot help but amaze you if you do!

      It’s hard enough not to feel violated when discovering the aftermath of a home robbery, or upon discovering one’s car has been viciously vandalized? So how can the parents of the murdered children in New Town, not feel such ultimate violation, without becoming angry, desperate, and determined to find solutions?

      Gun advocate have some good arguments and criticisms about why reducing gun violence is so difficult, but why in the Hell do some of them portray grieving parents in New Town as having illogical weaknesses due to their emotional states—especially after being forced to endure such sadness? Sometimes the power of strong emotions, is the only thing that can truly bring about real change–not just continuous political posturing and polarizing rhetoric! Feeling that one is a unique and rational being while thinking others have no rationality at all, is indeed a kind of unique–but all to often, is really a potentially terminal form of uniqueness!

      • Like you said it’s easy to become compelled by emotion and point fingers to what may seem like an obvious culprit. But in reality the mass shooting phenomena is driven by mental illness. The mentally ill and predacious in our population will always pose a threat to society and they span a broad spectrum of capability from bladed weapons, guns, and explosives. In nearly all cases they violate the laws that are enacted to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining weapons. I don’t see any logical reason why a society would restrict ownership of weapons from the law abiding masses to prevent the few who disregard logic and law. After all most of these shootings occur in gun free zones, so the cowardly can face little resistance. By doing so you create a society that cannot police themselves and must rely on a police state. Which is the very reason why they target gun free zones. You effectively trade liberty for a sense of security, freedom for fascism, or a government of the people for a police state. You transfer ownership of the individual’s ability to protect themselves and their community, to a hierarchy which greatly increases the odds of bureaucracy and corruption. Mexico has been overrun by cartels armed with military grade weapons under strict gun control. The UK lost a brave serviceman in the streets to extremists with meat cleavers because even servicemen cannot carry concealed. With growing Islamic extremism how do you expect to defend your communities when the police are allocated elsewhere? We will never be able to stop madmen from carrying out attacks but at least an armed society can defend themselves and their communities.

  3. Okay according to the FBI 2014 report, the US has 5760 home invasions (burglary) a day. Pretty scary even though it’s the truth.

    • Corey, burglaries and home invasions are not the same.

      Burglaries occur when robbers enter an unoccupied structure or property. Robberies occur when said structures or properties are occupied.

      Home invasion involves a combination of robbery and assault: robbers enter with intention to assault, murder, rape occupants, in addition to stealing from them.

      Your statistic is mislabeled. Therefore your point is not valid rebuttal.

      • What’s your point, other than you are trying to marginalize home invasions?

      • You repackaged a common crime stat as a much rarer one. In other words, a bull sh*t stat.

        If people were entering homes, robbing and assaulting occupants 5760 times a day, we’d have a serious problem. In reality criminals are ONLY breaking and entering 5760 times a day. Assault not applicable in the vast number of cases.

        Don’t make things up.

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