4. Focus on property crime
What was the extent and prevalence of property crime in 2019/20?
There were an estimated 369,000 property crimes in Scotland in 2019/20, representing around two-third of all crime experienced by adults.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) estimates that 369,000 incidents of property-related crime were experienced by adults in Scotland in 2019/20. This represents 66% of all crime measured by the SCJS in 2019/20; the remainder being violent incidents.
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 329,000 and 408,000 incidents of property crime in Scotland in 2019/20. Analysis from this point onwards will focus on the best estimates for results across the survey for each survey year.
The amount of property crime experienced by adults in Scotland has almost halved since 2008/09.
Looking at trends over time, the SCJS finds that the number of property crime incidents has decreased by 49% since 2008/09. Figure 4.1 displays the number of property incidents estimated to have taken place by each year of the SCJS since 2008/09, demonstrating a large fall over the past decade or so.
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); 2017/18 (5,480); 2018/19 (5,540); 2019/20 (5,570). Variable: INCPROPERTY.
Table 4.1 examines results from key comparator years more closely and shows that the estimated number of incidents of property crime experienced by adults has:
- almost halved (by 49%) since 2008/09, from 728,000 to 369,000 - the decrease of almost 360,000 incidents is statistically significant
- shown no change since the last SCJS in 2018/19 - the apparent decrease from 408,000 in 2018/19 is not statistically significant
|Crime type||2008/09||2018/19||2019/20||Change since 2008/09||Change since 2018/19|
|Best estimate||728,000||408,000||369,000||↓ by 49%||No change|
|Number of respondents||16,000||5,540||5,570|
Whilst the SCJS has detected no change in the level of property crime since 2018/19, it does find evidence that property crime has continued to fall in recent years with a significant decrease of 14% detected between 2017/18 and 2019/20. Given that it is often more challenging to find significant changes between adjacent survey years, this decrease over the last few years provides some indication that property crime has remained on a declining trend despite the lack of change detected since the 2018/19 SCJS.
The proportion of adults experiencing property crime has also fallen since 2008/09.
The SCJS results show that, as in previous years, most adults were not victims of any crime in 2019/20, with 10.0% experiencing property crime. Adults were around four times more likely to have experienced property crime than violent crime in 2019/20, which was experienced by 2.5% of the population.
As with incident numbers, crime prevalence rates are also estimates derived from a sample survey of the population which have associated margins of error around them. Taking into account this margin of error, between 9.0% and 10.9% of the adult population were estimated to have experienced property crime in 2019/20, with 10.0% 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 survey year.
Looking at trends over time, the proportion of adults who were victims of property crime has fallen in the last decade from 18.0% in 2008/09 to 10.0% in 2019/20, as shown in Figure 4.2.
The SCJS detected no change in experiences of property crime comparing results for 2019/20 with the 2017/18 and 2018/19 surveys. Although it is often more difficult to find significant changes between adjacent years of the SCJS, the fact that there was also no significant change between 2017/18 and 2019/20 suggests that the level of property crime victimisation is seeing more stability in recent years.
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2018/19 (5,540); 2019/20 (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 more than halved in volume since 2008/09.
As shown in Figure 4.3, a range of different types of property crime were experienced in Scotland in 2019/20. As in previous years, incidents of vandalism accounted for the largest proportion of property crime incidents (38%), followed by other household theft (including bicycle theft) (27%), and personal theft (22%).
Base: SCJS 2019/20 (590). Variables: INCVAND; INCPERSTHEFT; INCOTHERHOUSETHEFTCYCLE; INCALLMVTHEFT; INCHOUSEBREAK.
There have been notable reductions in the number of incidents of vandalism, motor vehicle related theft, other household theft and personal 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 139,000.
Since 2018/19, all sub-categories of property crime have shown no change in the number of incidents.
|Crime type||2008/09||2018/19||2019/20||Change since 2008/09||Change since 2018/19|
|Property Crime||728,000||408,000||369,000||↓ by 49%||No change|
|Housebreaking||25,000||25,000||21,000||No change||No change|
|Personal theft||110,000||99,000||80,000||↓ by 27%||No change|
|Other household theft including bicycle||173,000||93,000||98,000||↓ by 43%||No change|
|All motor vehicle related theft||70,000||35,000||30,000||↓ by 57%||No change|
|Vandalism||350,000||155,000||139,000||↓ by 60%||No change|
|Number of respondents||16,000||5,540||5,570|
Variables: INCPROPERTY; INCHOUSEBREAK; INCPERSTHEFT; INCOTHERHOUSEHOLDTHEFTCYCLE; INCALLMVTHEFT; INCVAND.
Looking at the prevalence of different categories of property crime reveals that some sub-types were more commonly experienced than others in 2019/20, as outlined in Figure 4.4.
Similar to the estimated number of incidents, the prevalence rates for vandalism, other household theft, motor vehicle related theft and personal theft have all fallen since 2008/09, whilst the likelihood of experiencing housebreaking has not changed. For example, like the incident count, the prevalence rate for vandalism more than halved between 2008/09 and 2019/20 (from 8.9% to 4.1%).
The prevalence rate for all sub-categories of property crime were unchanged between 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2019/20 (5,570). Variables: PREVHOUSEBREAK; PREVPERSTHEFT; PREVOTHERHOUSETHEFTCYCLE; PREVALLMVTHEFT; PREVVAND.
Note: Prevalence rates for vandalism, other household theft, motor vehicle related theft and housebreaking are presented as proportions of households experiencing each crime type.
How did experiences of property crime vary across the population?
People under the age of 60 were more likely to experience property crime in 2019/20, as well as those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland, and those living in urban locations.
The SCJS enables us to examine how experiences of property crime in 2019/20 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 2019/20 was:
- lowest for those aged 60 and over - with no differences detected amongst different categories of younger adults
- greater for those living in the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland
- greater for adults living in urban locations than rural locations
The 2019/20 found no difference in the likelihood of experiencing property crime by gender. This is back in line with previous survey years, however differs from the 2018/19 SCJS, where females were found to have a higher likelihood than males.
Base: 2019/20 (5,570). Variables: PREVPROPERTY; QDGEN; QDAGE; SIMD_TOP; URBRUR.
Although some inequalities remain, the likelihood of experiencing property crime has fallen for most groups since 2008/09.
Looking at trends over time reveals that the prevalence of property crime victimisation has decreased significantly since 2008/09 across most key groups in the population - including across all the demographic and area characteristics discussed above.
The SCJS detected no change in the prevalence rates for any of the above population groups between 2018/19 and 2019/20.
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 2019/20 and 10.0% 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. This is 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.
2.4% of adults experienced two or more property crimes in 2019/20, accounting for almost half of all property crime.
Looking at the volume of crime experienced by individual victims in more detail shows that 7.6% of adults were victims of one property crime only and 2.4% 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, almost half (45%) of all property crime in Scotland in 2019/20 was experienced by the 2.4% of the population who were repeat victims. On average this group is estimated to have experienced 1.5 property crimes each over the year.
Base: SCJS 2019/20 (5,570). Variables: PREVPROPERTY; INCPROPERTY.
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 2019/20 there were decreases in the proportion of adults experiencing:
- single incidents of property crime - from 11.6% to 7.6%
- repeat victimisation (two or more incidents of property crime) - from 6.4% to 2.4%
- high frequency repeat victimisation (five or more incidents of property crime) - from 0.9% to 0.2%
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.
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); 2017/18 (5,480); 2018/19 (5,540); 2019/20 (5,570). Variables: INCSURVEYCRIME; PREVSURVEYCRIME.
Note: the 'five or more' category is a sub-set of the 'two or more' category.
Since the last SCJS in 2018/19, there has been no change in the level of single, repeat or high frequency repeat property crime victimisation - any apparent falls shown in Figure 4.6 are 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, two-thirds of property crime incidents in 2019/20 (66%) took place in and around the victim's home. The most common specific location was immediately outside the respondent's home, representing half of all property crime in 2019/20 (50%).
Base: Property crime incidents (590). Variables: QWH1 / QWH3 / QWH5 / QWH7.
The majority of property crime incidents took place on weekdays.
Where respondents provided details about when an incident occurred, around two-thirds of all property crimes in 2019/20 (67%) were said to have taken place during the week, with the remainder (33%) occurring at weekends.
Most property crime did not involve a cyber element.
Respondents who had experienced property crime were asked if the incident involved the internet, any type of online activity or an internet enabled device. In 2019/20, only 1% of property crime incidents involved a cyber element, unchanged since 2018/19 (2%), when this question was asked for the first time. Cyber crime is discussed in more detail in Section 8.1.
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 are generally much less likely to report being able to say something about the offender in the incident(s) they experience. Respondents were able to provide any relevant information about the offender for less than one-third of incidents (30%) in 2019/20, compared to 97% of violent incidents.
As such, the section below presents a 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 2019/20:
Were mostly committed by males
71% of incidents involved male offenders only, while 15% involved female only perpetrators, and 11% involved perpetrators of both sexes. In 3% of incidents the respondent did not know the gender of the offenders.
Most commonly involved offenders under the age of 40
Whilst property crimes were committed by people from a range of age categories, only 12% of incidents were noted as having involved offenders aged 40 or over.
Often involved perpetrators known by the victims
Most incidents (53%) were committed by offenders who the victims knew or had seen before. Where offenders were known by the victim, almost half of incidents (46%) were said to have involved people 'known well'.
Respondents who said that someone saw or heard what was going on, or had some form of contact with the offender (the case in 21% of property crime incidents) were asked additional questions about their experience, including the presence of weapons. In 2019/20, 7% of such incidents 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 low value - but the impact of such costs will vary for each victim.
Victims of property crime where something was stolen (55% of property crimes) were asked to provide the approximate value of the items concerned. As Figure 4.8 shows, in almost two-thirds of incidents (63%) where the victim was able to provide an estimate, the total value of items stolen was £100 or less. The total value was over £1,000 in less than one-in-ten (8%) of incidents.
Base: Property crime incidents where something was stolen (290) or damaged (210); Variables: QSVAB; QDVAB. Excludes those who said 'don't know' or 'refused' to the value of items lost or cost of damage.
Considering incidents where property was damaged (47% of property incidents), victims said the total cost of the damage was £100 or less in 36% of incidents where they were able to provide an estimate. Looking at instances of more costly damage, just over one-in twenty incidents (6%) led to damages totalling more than £1,000.
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 63% and 55% of incidents, respectively).
What proportion of property crime was reported to the police?
Although most instances of property crime in 2019/20 were considered by victims to be criminal incidents, only around one-third of cases were reported to the police, similar to previous years.
Victims of property crime described their experience as 'a crime' in three-quarters of incidents (75%), with 16% of incidents said to be 'wrong but not a crime' and 9% viewed as 'just something that happens'. These results are shown in Figure 4.9. Property crime incidents were more likely to be viewed as criminal by the victims compared to experiences of violent crime in 2019/20 (of which 55% of incidents were considered to be 'a crime').
However, the SCJS estimates that only just over one-in-every-three property crimes (36%) were reported to the police in 2019/20. The reporting rate for property crime has shown no change since 2008/09 (36%), but was significantly lower than the reporting rate for violent crime in 2019/20 (48%).
Base: Property crime incidents (590); Variable: QCRNO
Incidents were more likely to be reported if any damaged or stolen goods were insured (46%), compared to cases (30%) where items were not covered.
Victims often considered incidents to be too trivial to report to the police or thought the police could have done nothing about it.
The most common reasons 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 and that it was believed the police could have done nothing about the incident (both 40% of incidents).
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 relation to over two-fifth of all incidents (44%). Information or assistance was provided by the Witness Service/Victim Support Scotland in 9% of such cases, whilst in just over one-in-five incidents (21%) victims said they did not receive information or assistance from any organisation.
What consequences did victims believe property crime offenders should have faced?
Victims believed the majority of cases should have been prosecuted in court, although prison sentences were not considered appropriate in most incidents.
Regardless of whether their experience was reported to the police, victims in almost three-fifths (58%) of incidents of property crime in 2019/20 thought the offender should have been prosecuted in court; this represents an increase since 2018/19 (51%), but is in line with earlier years. This is a higher proportion to the equivalent figure for violent crime in 2019/20 (46%).
Where victims thought an incident should have resulted in a court prosecution, a prison sentence was considered a suitable outcome in relation to just under one-in-every-five cases (19%), similar to the proportion for violent crimes (28%).
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. Victims mentioned a range of alternatives, including that offenders should have:
- been given some kind of warning (29% of such incidents)
- apologised for their actions (cited in relation to 19% of such incidents)
- been made to pay the victim(s) compensation (18% of incidents)
Notably, victims said that 'nothing should have happened' in relation to only 1% of these property crime incidents (i.e. where they did not think the offender should have been prosecuted in court). This compares to 30% of violent incidents (where prosecution in court was deemed unnecessary by victims).