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What’s the Difference Between Burglary and Robbery?

When you’re assessing your region’s crime rates and risks to your business, you’re probably noticing “robbery,” “burglary,” and “theft” being tossed around. Many people (including security experts) use these terms interchangeably. But the fact of the matter is that they all mean different things. 

Let’s say a criminal breaks into your drug store and steals some cough medicine. Is it a robbery, or is it a burglary? Most attribute both terms with theft, but legally, they mean different things and have other penalties. Let’s break it down:


Sometimes referred to as larceny, this is when a person enters a building/business and steals something (money, goods, or other property). 


Also called breaking and entering, this refers to someone who enters a building/business intending to commit a crime. While it is most common for the individual to plan to steal something, they may intend to commit other crimes such as vandalism or arson, in which case it is still a burglary. What’s unique about burglary is that the crime doesn’t even need to be committed or involve theft.


This term refers to when someone forces or threatens to force another individual (typically a cashier, attendant, owner, etc.) to give up something (usually money or valuable items such as jewelry). If the assailant uses a weapon such as a gun or a knife, this is classified as an armed robbery.


So, say someone walks into your pharmacy for cold medicine but realizes it’s too expensive. They put the cough medicine in their pocket and leave without paying. This person has committed theft. 

However, let’s say this person waited until your pharmacy was closed for a few hours, broke in, and stole the cough medicine; they’ve now committed a burglary. If they’ve broken in and didn’t steal the cough medicine because it was locked in a case, they’ve still committed a burglary. 

If, instead of stealing and waiting for the pharmacy to close, this person walked into your pharmacy and demanded the cashier give up the cold medicine, a robbery has been committed. 

The Bottom Line

There are clear differences between burglary, robbery, and theft. One thing that’s for sure is that you don’t want your business falling victim to any of these prevalent crimes. Understanding your business’s security vulnerabilities is essential when it comes to protecting your people, operations, and assets. Starting with a security evaluation, updating your security measures, and following up with regular service with ATS can ensure your ability to continue business operations and prevent these crimes with confidence.


Team up with the security professionals today by calling 414-476-4200.