Property Crime - Criminology Diploma 4
***Before you continue to read this Hub may I mention that this is my work, written in my words for my Criminology Diploma. By all means read the Hub and absorb it's content but please don't plagiarize my work and present it as your own work towards your own diploma. This has been added as a request from a tutor/examiner of the Criminology Diploma program.***
4.1 Describe the principal forms of property crime.
Burglary. Ones first thought regarding property crime is burglary but this is a category, which includes among other crimes, burglary, theft, vehicle crime, arson, shoplifting and vandalism, some of which will be examined deeper within this exercise.
According to section 9 of the Theft Act 1968 (not 1963 as in course literature), a person is guilty of burglary if they enter, or attempt to enter any building as a trespasser with the intention to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm, rape or cause unlawful damage. Burglary would become Aggravated Burglary (Section 10) should the offender have with him any firearm, imitation firearm, any weapon of offence or any explosive. As this assignment is solely concerning property crime and not violent crime, burglary will be defined as the entering of a building as a trespasser with intent to steal property or cause unlawful damage.
Burglary can be domestic or non-domestic, domestic burglary includes break-ins to all inhabited dwellings, including caravans, houseboats, chalets and also garages and sheds connected to these main buildings. Non-domestic burglary includes burglary of businesses, factories and such outhouses and sheds that are not connected to inhabited property. Approximately 70% of all burglaries use forced entry; a burglar will typically be armed with a simple tool such as a screwdriver or crowbar, not generally to be used as a weapon but to pry open doors or windows, some may actually smash a window or kick a door in. 20% of burglaries are not forced entry; the entry may be made through an unlocked door or open window. Not all burglars actually break into homes, some will attempt to trick or con their way in, these burglars are known as distraction burglars or bogus callers, they generally prey on the vulnerable or aged person.
Burglars are most likely to steal cash and small items of value that can be easily transported and sold on, such as mobile phones, small electronic devices, jewellery and fashion items. Larger items such as TV’s and computers would need some form of transport to move them on. Few burglars will keep the items that they have stolen usually they will be sold on within 24 hours. Either sold on the street, in bars or passed on to the local pawnshop, few burglars use professional “fences”.
Building Site Crime. Accurate crime statistics relating to building site crime have been difficult to obtain until recently as the crime has generally been classed as “residential” burglary or “other” theft. Now categorised as a type of crime but is still believed to be significantly under reported especially where the value of the crime is less than the insurance excess limit. Research has shown that each year in the UK: -
· Construction equipment worth £600million is stolen.
· Thieves steal more than 24,000 items of mobile plant, equipment and tools.
· Site theft costs companies at least £66million, excluding loss of business and insurance premium increases.
· Nine out of ten stolen items are never recovered.
Vandalism is described as the wilful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property. Some acts of vandalism are senseless acts that are done for no other reason than to cause damage, others may be done as an act of revenge or jealousy. Acts of vandalism includes throwing a brick through a window, kicking a hole in a fence, destruction of gardens, tipping over bins and scratching cars etc.
Graffiti, although it is a form of vandalism does not fall into the categories of either a senseless act or an act of revenge or jealousy. Graffiti, the mass noun for its singular graffito has existed since ancient times with examples dating back to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, in its simplest form it describes drawings, patterns or messages painted, written or carved onto walls or other surfaces. Commonly found on walls, bridges, monuments, pavements, vehicles or road signs, graffiti could appear in any place that is highly visible to public view. Four major forms of graffiti are: -
· Gang graffiti: often displayed by gangs to mark their territory and establish recognition, displaying their identity and challenging rival gangs conveying the threat of violence.
· Tagger graffiti: a practiced art that can range from high volume simple hits to complex street art, generally a boast by the tagger to seek fame within the graffiti community.
· Conventional graffiti: often isolated or spontaneous acts of “youthful exuberance” that could sometimes be malicious or vindictive.
· Ideological graffiti: such as political or hate graffiti, which conveys political messages or racial, religious or ethnic slurs.
Vehicle crime can occur in two forms; theft of a motor vehicle such as stealing a car, van or motorcycle or theft from a vehicle such as breaking into a car to steal a radio, sat-nav or other item that has been left in view.
Relating to the theft of vehicles, the perpetrator could be from one of four key groups: the professional, the joy rider, the petty thief or the fraudulent claimant. Most theft from vehicles is opportunistic and can therefore be prevented by not leaving any valuables visible to encourage the opportunist thief. Modern security measures such as immobilisers and alarms fitted to late model vehicles make them extremely difficult to steal by the joy rider or petty thief though the professional will overcome these, the joy rider and petty thief preferring the older models with poor, if any security.
Business crime includes all crime and disorder committed by or against a business. This type of offence can affect business in many different ways, it can be an act against an individual working in a business, it can be an act against a single business or it can be an act that affects a number of businesses either in the same sector or in the same geographical area.
Crimes against businesses property include: -
· Commercial robbery
· Fraud and forgery
· Shop theft and theft by employees
· Violence against shop workers
· Criminal damage to commercial property
· Graffiti and vandalism.
4.2 Analyse when and where they occur.
Burglary. Facts and figures relating to burglary are ever changing and are dependant on many varying factors; burglars do not follow any regular patterns. Generally, figures at present show that most burglaries take place after dark with around 32% committed in the evening opposed to 23% occurring during the night. 20% take place during the afternoon with 10% taking place during late morning. Around 30% of burglaries occur at the weekend. Exact times of most reported burglaries are difficult or often impossible to pinpoint, usually the times of burglaries are estimated within a range of several hours.
Times of burglaries are influenced by factors such as the weather, daylight hours or the occupants of the property. In warm summer months it would be likely that holiday homes would be occupied more than in the cold winter months, on the same thought, family homes could be empty on summery weekend afternoons. Certain homes would be unoccupied during weekday mornings and afternoons as the owners will be out at work or school.
The intent of most burglars is solely to steal and with the exception of the professional burglar who may plan ahead, most are opportunistic. Therefore if the question is “when do burglaries occur?” the answer is “when the opportunity arises”.
The burglars selected target is based on several key factors including: -
· Familiarity with the target and convenience of the location
· Vulnerability and security
· Potential reward
Some of these factors will be more important than others depending on the individual burglar, the main factor being the potential reward.
With the exception of the professional burglar, who would plan and travel to his target, most burglars would work relatively close to home often targeting houses that they would pass during their normal daily routine.
Houses that fall within the boundaries of, or are close to haunts of offenders, such as in high crime areas, around youth congregation areas, close to sports stadia or near to transport hubs would be vulnerable places. Previously burgled houses fall into a higher risk bracket than houses that have never been burgled. If a home has been burgled, it’s location and occupancy would have been factors as to why it was chosen, location of a property cannot be changed and it could prove difficult to totally change the occupancy. Burglars will also return to a previously burgled house knowing what they left behind and presuming that their previous haul will have been replaced through insurance. Once a house falls victim of burglary, the risk to close by houses will increase, offenders will revisit areas where they have had success and will opt for the easiest, least secure property.
Most burglars do not want confrontation and will only prey on unoccupied property, to assess whether a property is empty or not it is believed that offenders will either knock at the door or, if the number is known, make a telephone call. Offenders will survey the area and note times and patterns of occupancy. Most residents will follow a routine pattern, like going out to work at a set time, dropping off and picking up children from school, going to the gym or to the pub, all of these could create a place and time opportunity for the potential burglar to strike, people living alone or single parents would be at a higher risk of being noted in this manor. Other telltale signs of empty property are accumulations of mail and lack of movement/light. Houses with many occupants and high activity and movement, which follow irregular routines and generate noise, are less likely to attract burglary, this has a knock on effect and the risk of neighbouring property being victims will fall. Though human presence is one of the better deterrents to the burglar, the presence of a dog, large or small can have similar effect. Small dogs tend to be noisy and their barking will attract attention that the burglar won’t appreciate, large dogs can also bark to attract attention but they also pose the threat of physical harm.
Burglars do not wish to seek attention and try to be invisible; the risk of being seen will influence selected targets. Houses that can provide any type of dense cover with shrubs, trees or fences and walls could prove vulnerable, especially if means of entrance are hidden from view. Corner houses and houses that are secluded could also influence a burglars target for the same reasons, as would houses with poor lighting that would reduce the burglars visibility to others.
Accessibility will be an important factor to all burglars, side and back entrances away from neighbour’s sight are probable access points though the front door has been proven to be a favourite, homes next to an alley way will provide an additional escape route. A visible open door or window could create an instant “where and when” for a passing opportunist burglar.
Vulnerability and security are factors for the potential burglar to consider. Any weak points, either old and rotten or new and cheap makes a home more vulnerable whereas visible security devices such as deadbolts and window locks, or motion lights and alarms do create a deterrent. Though security devices will not deter some more experienced burglars especially should they know what the potential rewards might be? Any great potential reward can attract burglary, large expensive homes and cars being telltale signs of wealth.
With the exclusion of sheds and garages, likely times for a non-domestic, burglar to strike would simply be when the business premises are empty, likely targets include pharmacies, off licences, public houses and even banks.
Building site crime, similar to non-domestic burglary, would occur during out of work periods, unless of course employees were carrying out the thefts?
Vandalism and Graffiti. Vandalism occurs in many different areas, frequent targets include public transport such as trains and busses, bus shelters, train stations, parks, schools, street signs, street lighting, public and private property. Vandalism can happen any time of day or night, though statistics show that it increases during summer evenings. It could be fuelled by alcohol or drugs and often occurs in relation to sporting contests.
As previously mentioned, graffiti is commonly found on walls, bridges, monuments, pavements, vehicles or road signs, graffiti could appear in any place that is highly visible to public view. The type, size, material and colour of any possible target surface are factors that the artist will consider, these factors matter in relation to the artists material such as liquid paint, spray paint, felt pens or even chalk. Easy to reach targets like road signs are ideal for a quick draw though hard to reach places like motorway bridges create a challenge to the artist and are highly visible. Adding graffiti to a train or bus spreads its message with wider exposure, not really suitable for the territory marker. Places where graffiti will cause intimidation make vulnerable targets along with congregation areas such as pubs, supermarket car parks and residential developments. As graffiti is an offence that can be punished with fines, anti social behaviour orders or even prison the offender will not wish to be openly seen committing the offence so would probably do it under cover of darkness and at quieter times.
Vehicle crime. Vehicles can be stolen from wherever they are parked at any time night or day, whether it is for a few minutes, overnight or a couple of weeks. The professional thief will be in the target vehicle and be driving away in just a few seconds without attracting any attention or suspicion, being a professional the action could have been planned well ahead and all tools or devices required would be at hand. The joy rider and petty thief would likely be opportunists, in this case they would prey on any easy picking that they may pass on their normal daily routine. An ideal situation for the opportunist would be early on a frosty morning, car left on street with engine running, owner popped to the kitchen for some warm water to de-frost, car gone!
Past statistics show the following figures relating to theft of cars: -
Where........................ Overall % ........................In High risk areas %
Street ............................47.9 ...........................................10.5
Car Park .......................14.9 ............................................37.7
Off Street ......................13.3 .............................................9.6
Shopping Centre............ 9.5 ............................................22.0
Railway ...........................5.8 ............................................17.3
Club ................................5.7 ............................................13.4
Other ..............................2.8 ..............................................9.2
Theft from the vehicle again is more likely to be opportunistic and could take place at any time of day, the temptation of visible items left inside the vehicle being the main factor.
Business crime. In general most of the previously listed business crimes would need to occur during the businesses normal working hours and in the business premises. Robbery or armed robbery would occur at banks, jewellers or maybe petrol stations, possibly at times when the prize is at its highest such as at or towards the end of the days trading. Any crimes of assault, harassment or violence towards staff are likely to take place during working hours in the working premises though not necessarily, a staff member could be targeted away from work. Burglary, arson, vandalism or graffiti would more than likely occur after working hours.
Any comments greatly appreciated.