4. Focus on property crime
What was the extent and prevalence of property crime in 2016/17?
There were an estimated 481,000 property crimes in Scotland in 2016/17, representing just over two-thirds of all crime experienced by adults.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey estimates that 481,000 incidents  of property-related crime  were experienced by adults in Scotland in 2016/17. This represents around 68% of all crime measured by the SCJS in 2016/17, the remainder being incidents of violence.
As a sample survey of the general public, SCJS results are estimated values with margins of error, rather than exact counts of criminal incidents. Further information on the process used to calculate estimates is contained within the Technical Report. Taking into account confidence intervals, the SCJS estimates that there were between 427,000 and 535,000 incidents of property crime in Scotland in 2016/17. Analysis from this point onwards will focus on the best estimates for results across the survey for each sweep.
The amount of property crime experienced by adults in Scotland has fallen greatly since 2008/09, but shown no change since 2014/15.
Looking at trends over time, the SCJS finds that the number of property crime incidents has decreased markedly since 2008/09, as shown in Figure 4.1  .
Figure 4.1: Estimated number of property crime incidents, 2008/09 - 2016/17
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: INCPROPERTY
- reduced by 34% since 2008/09, from 728,000 to 481,000. This decrease of almost a quarter of a million incidents is statistically significant;
- shown no change since the last SCJS in 2014/15 – the apparent decrease from 502,000 in 2014/15 is not statistically significant.
Table 4.1: Estimated of number of property crimes (2008/09, 2014/15, 2016/17)
|Crime type||2008/09||2014/15||2016/17||Change since 2008/09||Change since 2014/15|
|Best estimate||728,000||502,000||481,000||⇩ by 34%||No change|
|Number of respondents||16,000||11,470||5,570|
As well as the number of incidents falling, the proportion of adults experiencing property crime has also decreased since 2008/09.
The SCJS results show that, as in previous years, most adults were not victims of any crime in 2016/17, with 11.5% experiencing property crime. Adults were nearly four times as likely to have been victims of property crime as violent crime in 2016/17, which was experienced by 2.9% of the population.
As with incident numbers, crime prevalence rates are also estimates derived from a sample survey of the population with associated margins of error around them. Taking into account these confidence intervals, between 10.5% and 12.6% of the adult population were estimated to have experienced property crime in 2016/17, with 11.5% representing the best estimate  . Again, as with incident counts, analysis from this point onwards will focus on the best estimates for results across the survey for each sweep  .
The proportion of adults who were victims of property crime has fallen from 18.0% in 2008/09 and 13.0% in 2014/15 to 11.5% in 2016/17, as shown in Figure 4.2.
Figure 4.2: Proportion of adults experiencing property crime by year
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: PREVPROPERTY
What types of property crime were most commonly experienced?
Vandalism continues to be the most common form of property crime experienced in Scotland, but has reduced markedly since 2008/09.
As shown in figure 4.3, a range of different types of property crime were experienced by adults in Scotland in 2016/17. As in previous years, incidents of vandalism accounted for the largest proportion of property crime incidents (34%) closely followed by 'other household theft (including bicycle theft)' (27%) and 'personal theft' (26%)  .
Figure 4.3: Categories of crime as proportions of property crime overall
Base: SCJS 2016-17 (5,570). Variables: INCVAND, INCOTHERHOUSETHEFTCYCLE, INCALLMVTHEFT, INCHOUSEBREAK, INCPERSTHEFT.
There have been notable reductions in the number of incidents of vandalism, other household theft and motor vehicle related theft since 2008/09, as Table 4.2 below outlines. For example, the SCJS finds that the amount of vandalism in Scotland has more than halved since 2008/09, from an estimated 350,000 incidents to 166,000.
Since 2014/15, the amount of other household theft has fallen by around a fifth, whilst all other categories of property crime have shown no real change in the number of incidents over the short-term.
Table 4.2: Estimated number of incidents of types of property crime (2008/09, 2014/15, 2016/17)
|Crime type||2008/09||2014/15||2016/17||Change since 2008/09||Change since 2014/15|
|PROPERTY CRIME||728,000||502,000||481,000||⇩ by 34%||No change|
|Vandalism||350,000||179,000||166,000||⇩ by 53%||No change|
|Other household theft including bicycle||173,000||158,000||128,000||⇩ by 26%||⇩ by 19%|
|Personal theft||110,000||103,000||124,000||No change||No change|
|All motor vehicle related theft||70,000||40,000||38,000||⇩ by 45%||No change|
|Housebreaking||25,000||22,000||26,000||No change||No change|
|Number of respondents||16,003||11,472||5,567|
Variables: INCPROPERTY; INCVAND; INCOTHERHOUSEHOLDTHEFTCYCLE; INCPERSTHEFT; INCALLMVTHEFT; INCHOUSEBREAK
Looking at the prevalence of different categories of property crime reveals that some sub-types were more commonly experienced than others in 2016/17, as outlined in Figure 4.4.
Similar to the estimated number of incidents, the proportion of the population experiencing vandalism, other household theft and motor vehicle related theft has decreased significantly since 2008/09. In particular, like the incident count, the prevalence rate for vandalism almost halved between 2008/09 and 2016/17 (from 8.9% to 4.6%).
Figure 4.4: Proportion of adults experiencing types of property crime over time
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2016/17 (5,570). Variables: PREVVAND; PREVOTHERHOUSETHEFTCYCLE; PREVPERSTHEFT; PREVALLMVTHEFT; PREVHOUSEBREAK.
Since 2014/15, the prevalence of other household theft has fallen from 5.0% to 3.9%, whilst the victimisation rate for other categories of property crime have shown no change.
How did experiences of property crime vary across the population?
Younger adults, people in the most deprived areas of Scotland and those living in urban locations were more likely to experience property crime in 2016/17.
The SCJS also enables us to examine how experiences of property crime in 2016/17 varied across the population according to demographic and area characteristics. For example, as shown in Figure 4.5, the likelihood of being a victim of property crime in 2016/17:
- Decreased with age;
- Was greater for those living in the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland; and
- Was greater for adults living in urban locations.
Similar to violent crime, the likelihood of experiencing property crime in 2016/17 did not vary according to gender, with males and females found to have very similar prevalence rates (11.6% and 11.5% respectively)  .
Figure 4.5: Proportion of adults experiencing property crime, by demographic and area characteristics
Base: 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: PREVPROPERTY, QDAGE, SIMD_TOP, URBRUR.
The likelihood of experiencing property crime has fallen for many groups since 2008/09.
Looking at trends over time reveals that the prevalence of property crime victimisation has decreased significantly since 2008/09 across many key groups in the population - including both males and females; all age groups; those living in the most deprived areas as well as those living elsewhere in Scotland; and adults in both urban and rural locations  . For example, the proportion of both males and females experiencing property crime has fallen by 6.5 percentage points since 2008/09 (to 11.6% and 11.5% respectively in 2016/17).
Despite a fall in property crime victimisation since 2014/15 at a national level, change in these sub-population groups over the shorter-term was less common. Across these key breakdowns, the only groups where statistically significant changes in prevalence were detected between 2014/15 and 2016/17 were amongst 45-59 year olds (fall from 13.7% to 10.9%) and adults in rural areas (down from 8.5% to 5.8%).
What can the SCJS tell us about repeat victimisation?
As outlined previously, the SCJS estimates that the majority of adults did not experience any crime in 2016/17 and 11.5% of the population were victims of at least one property crime. However, the survey also enables us to further explore how experiences varied amongst victims and examine the concentration of crime, including what proportion of victims experienced a particular type of crime more than once during the year  , known as 'repeat victimisation'.
Further information about the approach taken to process and derive SCJS results, including on repeat victimisation, is provided in the Technical Report.
3.3% of adults experienced two or more property crimes in 2016/17, accounting for more than half of all property crime.
Looking at the volume of crime experienced by individual victims in more detail shows that 8.3% of adults were victims of one property crime only, therefore 3.3% were repeat victims of property crime  .
Table 4.3 highlights the extent of different levels of repeat property victimisation, and the proportion of property crime accounted for by each group. For instance, more than half of all property crime in Scotland in 2016/17 (53%) was experienced by 3.3% of the population who were repeat victims. On average, this group is estimated to have experienced 1.7 property crimes each over the year.
Table 4.3: Proportion of property crime experienced by repeat victims, by number of crimes experienced
Base: SCJS 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: PREVPROPERTY, INCPROPERTY.
Overall, just over one quarter of all victims of property crime were repeat victims (28%), although this varied by crime group – ranging from 13% for housebreaking to 24% for vandalism.
The likelihood of experiencing repeat victimisation has fallen since 2008/09.
Figure 4.6 displays trends in single and repeat property crime victimisation over time. It shows that between 2008/09 and 2016/17 there were decreases in the proportion of adults experiencing:
- single incidents of property crime – from 11.6% to 8.3%;
- repeat victimisation (two or more incidents of property crime) – from 6.4% to 3.3%; and
- high frequency repeat victimisation (five or more incidents of property crime) – from 0.9% to 0.3%.
The fall in the various levels of victimisation since 2008/09 have occurred in line with a decrease in the overall property crime victimisation rate  over the same period, as discussed previously.
Figure 4.6: Proportion of adults experiencing number of property crimes
Base: SCJS 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: PREVPROPERTY, INCPROPERTY.
Over the shorter term, the level of repeat victimisation has shown no change whilst single incident victimisation has continued to fall.
Since the last SCJS in 2014/15, the proportion of adults experiencing single incidents of property crime has fallen, from 9.4% to 8.3% in 2016/17. However, over this period, there has been no change in the prevalence of repeat victimisation – the apparent fall from 3.5% to 3.3% shown in Figure 4.6 above is not statistically significant.
What do we know about the characteristics of property crime?
Most property crime incidents occurred in or near the home of the victim.
Consistent with previous years, the majority of property crime incidents in 2016/17 (65%) took place in and around the victim's home. The most common specific location was immediately outside the respondent's home  representing around half of all property crime in 2016/17 (49%).
Figure 4.7: Where property crime occurred in 2016/17
Base sizes: Property crime incidents (700); Variable: QWH1 / QWH3 / QWH5 / QWH7
The majority of property crime incidents took place on weekdays.
Where respondents provided details about when an incident occurred  , more than three-fifths of all property crimes in 2016/17 (62%) were said to have taken place during the week, with 38% occuring at weekends  . However, this suggests that the incidence per day was greater at weekends.
What do we know about the perpetrators of property crime?
Victims were unable to provide any details about the offender(s) in most instances.
Compared to violent crime incidents, victims of property crime were much less likely to report being able to say something about the offender in their experience. Indeed, respondents were only able to provide any relevant information for just under one-third of incidents (31%) in 2016/17.
As such, the section below presents a high-level summary of the sort of information provided by victims, although these findings should be interpreted with caution as they are not necessarily representative of all property crime incidents. This is particularly the case if comparing with findings from previous years  . Further results are available in the supporting data tables.
Where respondents were able to say something about the person or people who carried out the offence, victims noted that property crimes in 2016/17:
Were mostly committed by males.
69% of incidents involved only male offenders.
Most commonly involved offenders under the age of 40.
Whilst property crimes were committed by people from a range of age categories, only 17% of incidents were noted as having involved offenders aged 40 or over.
Often involved perpetrators known by the victims.
Almost two-thirds of incidents (64%) were committed by offenders who the victims knew or had seen before. Where offenders were known by the victim, two-fifths of incidents (42%) were said to have involved people 'known well'.
Similarly, victims said that someone saw or heard what was going on or had some form of contact with the offender in 21% of property crime incidents. These respondents were asked additional questions about their experience, including the presence of weapons. 10% of such incidents  in 2016/17 were said to have involved perpetrators who possessed weapons.
What was the impact of property crime?
Direct financial costs resulting from property crime were typically of relatively lower value – but the impact of such costs will vary for each victim.
Victims of property crime where something was stolen (58% of property crimes) were asked to provide the approximate value of the items concerned. As Figure 4.8 shows, in more than two-thirds of incidents (68%) where victims were able to provide an estimate, the total value of items stolen was £100 or less. The total value was over £500 in 12% of incidents.
Figure 4.8: Financial impact of property crime where respondents could estimate cost
Base: Property crime incidents where something was stolen (348) or damaged (220); Variables: QSVAB; QDVAB. Excludes those who said don't know to value of items lost or cost of damage.
Considering incidents where property was damaged (44% of property incidents), where victims were able to provide an estimate, victims said the total cost of the damage was £100 or less in 57% of incidents. Looking at instances of more costly damage, 11% of incidents led to damages totalling more than £500.
The most frequent emotional responses to experiences of property crime were annoyance and anger.
Consistent with previous years, victims of property crime most commonly reported being annoyed or angered by their experience (in 61% and 59% of incidents respectively).
What proportion of property crime was reported to the police?
Although most instances of property crime in 2016/17 were considered by victims to be criminal incidents, only one-third of cases were reported to the police.
Victims of property crime described their experience as 'a crime' in almost two-thirds of incidents (65%), with 18% of incidents said to be 'wrong but not a crime' and 16% viewed as 'just something that happens'. Property crime incidents were more likely to be viewed as criminal by the victims compared to experiences of violent crime in 2016/17 (of which 43% of incidents were considered to be 'a crime').
However, the SCJS estimates that only around one in every three property crimes (34%) were reported to the police in 2016/17. The reporting rate for property crime has shown no change since 2008/09, as depicted in Figure 4.9, and was not significantly different from the reporting rate for violent crime in 2016/17 (43%).
Figure 4.9: Proportion of property crime incidents reported to the police
Base: Property crime incidents (700); Variable: QPOL
The proportion of crimes brought to the attention of the police varied according to the type of property crime – for instance, whilst 41% of vandalism incidents in 2016/17 were reported, only 27% of personal theft cases were.
Victims often considered incidents to be too trivial to report to the police.
The most common reason given by victims for not reporting their experience to the police was that the incident was perceived to be too trivial or not worth reporting (46% of incidents). Other commonly cited reasons for not reporting incidents included that the police could not have done anything (28%) and the victim believed the police would not have been interested (20%).
Where crimes were brought to the attention of the police, victims received information or assistance about the investigation and the case (where relevant) from the police in just over half of all instances (54%). Information or assistance was provided by the Witness Service/Victim Support Scotland in one tenth of such cases, whilst in just over one-fifth of incidents (22%) victims said they did not receive information or assistance from any organisation.
What consequences did victims believe property crime offenders should have faced?
Victims were fairly evenly divided over whether they believed the perpetrator should have been prosecuted in court for their actions.
Regardless of whether their experience was reported to the police, victims in just over half of all incidents of property crime in 2016/17 (52%) thought the offender should have been prosecuted in court. This proportion has fallen from 60% in 2014/15, but is significantly higher than the equivalent figure for violent crime in 2016/17 where victims thought prosecution in court was appropriate in 39% of incidents.
Respondents who did not think property crime offenders should have been prosecuted in court (and those who were not sure) were asked about alternatives to prosecution and whether any other course of action should have taken place. The most frequent responses provided by victims were that offenders:
- should have apologised for their actions (cited in relation to 26% of such incidents);
- should have been made to pay the victim(s) compensation (24% of incidents); and
- should have been given some kind of warning (17%).
Notably, victims said that 'nothing should have happened' in relation to only 7% of these property crime incidents ( i.e. where they did not think the offender should have been prosecuted in court). This compares to 42% of violent incidents (where prosecution in court was deemed unnecessary by victims), again adding to the notion that those who experienced property crime were generally more likely to believe perpetrators should have faced some sort of consequences.