Vol. 77, No. 3Just the facts

Property crime


From burglary to vandalism, property crime is the most commonly recorded offence in most cities. It can be a targeted attack or a random act of crime involving damaged or stolen property. Be it a stolen garden gnome or a smashed car window, property crime can disrupt the integrity of a neighbourhood and make residents question their safety.

  • Property crime can include theft, breaking and entering, burglary, auto theft, arson and vandalism.
  • There are different kinds of property crime, including those that are fraudulent (using deception), stealthy (when the victim is not present), destructive (damaging or destroying property) and entrepreneurial (illegal trafficking of property).
  • According to Statistics Canada, there were more than one million property crime violations in Canada in 2013 — that's over half of all reported criminal offences.
  • Break-and-enters and motor vehicle theft are two of the most common police-reported offences in Canada. Every year, there's about one break-in every three minutes and one motor vehicle theft every seven minutes, according to Statistics Canada.
  • Between 2011 and 2012, property crime rates decreased in most Canadian provinces with the exception of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia. Ontario had the lowest rate at 2,622 property crimes per 100,000 people.
  • Property crimes accounted for four out of 10 youth offences and male youth are more likely than their female counterparts to commit property offences, according to a 2006 report from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
  • The majority of Canadian accused youth in 2012 were involved in non-violent property crime incidents. The most common type of youth crime was theft of $5,000 or under.
  • Between 1991 and 2000, rates of property crime fell by 34 per cent in Canada. This trend was mirrored in the United States, where the Uniform Crime Report showed a dramatic fall in property crime over the last 40 years.
  • The decline in property crime can be attributed to many factors, including greater numbers of police, increased surveillance and security, and an aging population — since youth, males in particular, are most likely to commit property crimes.
  • In New York City, the annual number of car thefts has fallen by 93 per cent over the past 20 years, primarily due to central locking, alarms and circuitry immune to hot-wiring in modern cars, reported The Economist in a 2013 article.
  • Despite these falling crime rates, certain types of property crime, such as pick-pocketing and shoplifting, have risen with unemployment, which may be due to the spread and lure of mobile phones.
  • American property crimes in 2010 resulted in losses estimated at $15.7 billion, according to the FBI. In Canada, the estimated cost for pain and suffering caused by property crimes is $3.63 billion.
  • According to the U.S. National Institute of Justice, DNA is twice as effective as fingerprints at identifying property-theft suspects.
  • New Zealand, Australia and Italy are the top three countries with the highest property crime rates. Canada ranks sixth according to the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.
  • British psychologist Gordon Trasler argues closed-circuit-television cameras are effective for curbing offences such as property crime or robbery, but not as effective for offences such as violent crime — when behaviour is impulsive and there's no time for rational decision-making.
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