Property Offenses

Property offenses are perpetrated without personal violence that focus on the entering, taking, or destruction of structures, motor vehicles, or goods. Offenders typically do not use intimidation or physical violence but are more concerned with avoiding detection and recognition. Most offenses in the United States are property offenses.

Burglary is defined as the unlawful entry of a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft. In addition to loss of property, burglary may have emotional and psychological effects on victims. Burglaries are usually the result of planning and premeditation. Motivations include financial reward, lack of legitimate opportunities, thrill-seeking, sexual deviance, lifestyle, and revenge. Target characteristics considered by burglars include occupancy, ease of observation, neighborhood characteristics, accessibility, and the presence of items worth stealing.

Larceny is the legal term for theft, and involves stealing property without the use of force or fraud. It is the most common of all reported offenses. The two main types are petit and grand larceny. The two types of thieves are opportunistic and professional thieves. Pocket-picking is a technique used by thieves that is best dealt with through target hardening. Employee theft is the largest category of retail losses. Shoplifting is also a major expense for retailers, and has many motivations.

Fraud is a known misrepresentation or concealment in a transaction made with the intent to deceive another. Credit and debit card theft may involve stealing the physical card or the information on the card. Check fraud involves cashing bad checks through forgery, counterfeiting and alteration, paperhanging, or check kiting.

Motor vehicle theft is the stealing or unauthorized taking of a motor vehicle allowed on public roads and highways. Professional thieves may choose cars based on the market value of their parts or engage in car cloning. Amateur thieves choose targets based on status and personal taste. Prevention efforts include locking devices, cut-off devices, alarms, and tracking devices.

Arson is the deliberate setting of fires and is the least reported crime according to the UCR. Because it is so serious, it is an exception to the FBI’s hierarchy rule. Motivations include insurance claims, profit, thrill-seeking, and hate crimes. Juvenile fire starters include those who play with matches, cry-for-help fire-setters, delinquent fire-setters, and severely disturbed fire-setters.