Sabatina hopes to increase penalties for home invasion crimes

State Rep. John Sabat­ina Jr., who has learned of re­cent home in­va­sions in places like May­fair, Rhawn­hurst and Bucks County, wants to do something about it.

“It seems like there is one hap­pen­ing every week,” he said. Po­lice stat­ist­ics show that is a ser­i­ous un­der­state­ment.

Last week, Sabat­ina held a news con­fer­ence at Po­lice Headquar­ters at Eighth and Race streets to urge pas­sage of a bill he is spon­sor­ing that would in­crease pen­al­ties for people con­victed of home in­va­sion crimes.

Sabat­ina (D-174th dist.) was joined at the May 17 news con­fer­ence by Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey, Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams and state Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th dist.), who has in­tro­duced sim­il­ar le­gis­la­tion.

House Bill 1296, which is un­der re­view by the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, would es­tab­lish and clas­si­fy home in­va­sion as a first-de­gree felony pun­ish­able by a man­dat­ory min­im­um pris­on sen­tence, which Sabat­ina thinks will serve as a de­terrent.

“If you com­mit a home in­va­sion,” he said, “it’s five years.”

For second of­fenses, or for first of­fenses against a vic­tim 62 or older, the min­im­um pen­alty would be 10 years.

A per­son could be con­victed of home in­va­sion if he know­ingly enters, at­tempts to enter or re­mains in a dwell­ing un­law­fully with the in­tent to com­mit a vi­ol­ent crime.

The con­vic­tion would be de­pend­ent on the of­fend­er know­ing someone was in the house; be­ing armed with ex­plos­ives or a weapon, or caus­ing phys­ic­al in­jury to the vic­tim; and com­mit­ting or in­tend­ing to com­mit rob­bery, rape, kid­nap­ping, ag­grav­ated as­sault, murder or man­slaughter.

Sabat­ina, a former as­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­ney, men­tioned some re­cent crimes that would qual­i­fy.

• A 48-year-old busi­ness­man was murdered in Janu­ary when two men burst in­to his home in Hill­town, Bucks County.

• In March, a 94-year-old wo­man was robbed and as­saul­ted by a man in her home on the 2800 block of Un­ruh Ave.

• In April, a man broke in­to an apart­ment on the 7900 block of Lor­etto Ave. and sexu­ally as­saul­ted and beat a 63-year-old wo­man with a ham­mer.

Sabat­ina’s bill is sim­il­ar to one that be­came law in Delaware in June 2012. In all, five states have laws deal­ing spe­cific­ally with home in­va­sion.

“There needs to be six, start­ing with Pennsylvania,” said Stack, who de­scribed home in­va­sion as an “in­si­di­ous” and “hor­rible” crime that ter­ror­izes people.

Wil­li­ams agreed with that as­sess­ment.

“Few crimes are as fright­ful as home in­va­sions,” he said.

Wil­li­ams poin­ted to the May 7 rob­bery and pis­tol-whip­ping of a man in his Roxbor­ough home. Two days later, a man was robbed and pis­tol-whipped in his Ol­ney home.

“These hor­rif­ic acts can­not be tol­er­ated,” said the dis­trict at­tor­ney, who sup­ports the tough­er le­gis­la­tion and hopes it serves as a de­terrent. “We want to make Phil­adelphi­ans feel safe.”

Ram­sey said there were 747 home in­va­sions in 2012. Thir­teen of them res­ul­ted in hom­icides. As of May 17 this year, there have been 251 home in­va­sions, with eight hom­icides re­lated to the crimes.

The po­lice com­mis­sion­er, in back­ing the le­gis­la­tion, said home in­va­sions are vi­ol­ent and hein­ous.

“We have to act and we have to act de­cis­ively,” he said. “We have to send a strong mes­sage.”

Wil­li­ams and Stack said there could be a stum­bling block to en­act­ment of the le­gis­la­tion. Some law­makers, in­clud­ing Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Stew­art Green­leaf of Mont­gomery County, op­pose man­dat­ory min­im­um sen­tences be­cause they take away a judge’s dis­cre­tion.

Still, they think an ex­cep­tion should be made for home in­va­sions.

“The crime is uniquely evil,” Stack said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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