You’ll forgive me if I might seem to be a little behind the times on this one. Recently, I worked on a case surrounding a problem I didn’t realize had grown to such proportions. It’s a crime that seems kind of fun and innocent at first until you think about the potential criminal implications.
It’s called “garage hopping,” a common activity among college age young people that’s spreading to high schoolers. For example, these kids are having a party, have had too much alcohol and then decide to seek out new sources of liquid refreshment. They start cruising neighborhoods looking for open garage doors and hoping to spot a refrigerator which might contain beer, wine and other goodies.
Their intent isn’t necessarily evil or nefarious other than to get more alcohol. Being underage, they can’t buy it themselves. But by entering somebody’s house or garage, they are committing a burglary and could even wind up going to prison. Worse, they could wind up dead.
Garage Hopping may sound like innocent fun. After all, what’s the harm in swiping a few beers? However, in this day and age with the implementation of laws like the Castle Doctrine, garage hopping can prove to be a very dangerous act. The property owner could interrupt the beer search, perceive there is a threat to his well-being and use lethal force to defend himself.
As a property owner, there are some common sense steps you can take discourage garage hoppers and protect yourself and your property:
- If you have a garage that has a secondary entrance or service door, keep it locked at all times. Don’t leave the garage door open in the evening, an unfortunate habit that many people have.
- If you think someone has entered your premises or was inside your house, contact law enforcement immediately.
- Home alarm systems are always a good idea. Send the message that you mean business when it comes to protecting your property.
- Make sure you lock up your house and your windows at night.
Again, garage hopping can have very serious implications, the most obvious being charged with a felony burglary or even getting killed because the property owner felt it was necessary to use lethal force to protect his property. Remember, the property owner doesn’t know what you’re doing. He only knows there is someone on his property that may pose a threat. The use of lethal force can be a split-second decision.
Juveniles who are caught face a referral to the juvenile justice system for what we call a delinquency petition. The sanctions are less than for they are for an adult but the juvenile can still be put on supervision, can be put on homebound detention or be put into secured detention (out of the house).
Ask yourself: is any of this hassle really worth trying to swipe a few extra beers?