Burglars hitting occupied homes may face tougher penalty in N.J.

    A New Jersey lawmaker wants to increase the penalty for breaking into a residence when someone is home.

    The penalties for burglarizing an occupied home are now the same as breaking into an unoccupied car. With the number of home invasions increasing, Sen. Kevin O’Toole says the law must change.

    “You break into a car unoccupied, it has its own consequences. It has its own downside, but it doesn’t look like you’re going to kill the homeowner,” he said. “You break into an occupied home and only bad things are going to happen. Someone could have a heart attack. Someone could get knifed. You can be assaulted.”

    O’Toole, R-Essex, has introduced legislation that would double the current maximum five-year penalty for burglaries of occupied homes. The measure would also make offenders ineligible for early release from prison.

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    “I don’t know if it’s the economy. I don’t know if it’s because the judicial system hasn’t been tough enough,” he said. “With the spike of residential burglaries going up 11 percent last year, something has to be done to deter that.”

    O’Toole says a group known as the James Bond Gang has been terrorizing residents during numerous break-ins at homes in North Jersey.

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