With jump in home invasions, sheriff plans on hosting armed home defense course
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November 07, 2009 11:21 PM
EDINBURG — Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño says he has always been a proponent of home defense.
With that in mind, as well as a jump in home invasions against unsuspecting residents, the sheriff said he plans to launch a series of classes for the public to learn how to arm themselves and defend their families and property.
“If you’re going to buy a gun, well, by God, I want to make sure you know how to use it and abide by the law,” Treviño said.
With just less than two months left in 2009, deputies have investigated 37 home invasions this year — already a 16 percent jump over all of 2008, according to Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office statistics. More than half of those incidents this year were not drug- or gang-related.
“They’re just John Q. Citizen having dinner and the door gets kicked in,” Treviño said. “That has presented to be a problem because they’re harder to track down.”
Those home invasions are tougher to investigate because the victims don’t know their attackers or why they were targeted, the sheriff said. Victims who have ties to drugs or gangs can often identify the suspects or give other possible motives for the attack.
The much-publicized pseudo-cop home invasions — where attackers dress like and identify themselves as police — have doubled this year in the sheriff’s jurisdiction. But with only four home invasions classified as pseudo-cop incidents, the low numbers make it difficult to draw valid statistical conclusions, Treviño said.
“When you’ve only had two (in 2008) and it goes to four (in 2009), it’s not that significant,” he said.
The Sheriff’s office’s clearance rate for home invasion cases was not immediately available, but Treviño said his rate exceeds the national average for robberies, which stood at nearly 27 percent in 2008, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics.
Still, the increase in home invasions targeting people with no apparent ties to crime remains a concern, the sheriff said.
Two recent victims with no gang or drug ties said deputies advised them to consider purchasing a gun to defend their homes.
Treviño has said he can’t confirm that advice was given but said he believes the free home defense course could help educate those who want to defend their families and property with guns.
The classes would include a prosecutor from the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office to explain the state’s “Castle Law,” which gives people the right to use deadly force against an intruder inside their house under certain circumstances. Other topics would include how to secure homes against intruders and how to set up neighborhood watch organizations.
Participants would also have the chance to bring in their guns with their own ammunition for inspection by deputies, who would make sure the weapons are not stolen. Deputies would then take participants to the gun range to improve their aim.
The classes are expected to start in January, the sheriff said. They will be open to all county residents who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The classes are closed to undocumented immigrants, who cannot legally own firearms.
Even apart from the increase in home invasions, Treviño said, “there’s quite an awareness now of gun ownership. People are wanting to defend themselves and there is a need for it.”