Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2021/22: Main Findings

Main findings from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2021/22.

5. Focus on property crime

What was the extent and prevalence of property crime in 2021/22?

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) estimates that 360,000 incidents[41] of property-related crime[42] were experienced by adults in Scotland in 2021/22. This represents 73% of all crime measured by the SCJS in 2021/22; 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 313,000 and 407,000 incidents of property crime in Scotland in 2021/22. 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 SCJS finds that the number of property crime incidents has decreased by 51% since 2008/09. Figure 5.1 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 15 years or so[43].

Figure 5.1: Property crime in Scotland has shown a declining trend since 2008/09, but is unchanged since 2019/20.

Estimated number of property crime incidents, 2008/09 to 2021/22.

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); 2021/22 (5,520). Variable: INCPROPERTY.

Table 5.1 examines results from key comparator years[44] more closely and shows that the estimated number of incidents of property crime experienced by adults has:

  • halved (by 51%) since 2008/09, from 728,000 to 360,000– the decrease of almost 370,000 incidents is statistically significant
  • shown no change since the last SCJS in 2019/20 – the apparent decrease from 369,000 in 2019/20 is not statistically significant

Table 5.1: The estimated number of property crimes has fallen by around a half since 2008/09 but unchanged since 2019/20.

Estimated number of incidents of property crimes (2008/09, 2019/20 and 2021/22) with percentage change since 2008/09 and 2019/20.
Number of SCJS crimes 2008/09 2019/20 2021/22 Change since 2008/09 Change since 2019/20
Best estimate 728,000 369,000 360,000 Down 51% No change
Lower estimate 679,000 329,000 313,000 - -
Upper estimate 777,000 408,000 407,000 - -
Number of respondents 16,000 5,570 5,520 - -


Whilst the SCJS has detected no change in the level of property crime since 2019/20, it does find evidence that property crime has continued to fall in recent years with a significant decrease of 16% detected between 2017/18 and 2021/22. 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 2019/20 SCJS.

What is the proportion of adults experiencing property crime?

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 2021/22, with 8.7% experiencing property crime. Adults were around five times more likely to have experienced property crime than violent crime in 2021/22, which was experienced by 1.7% 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 7.8% and 9.6% of the adult population were estimated to have experienced property crime in 2021/22, with 8.7% representing the best estimate[45]. 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[46].

Looking at trends over time, the proportion of adults who were victims of property crime has fallen in the last 15 years or so from 18.0% in 2008/09 to 8.7% in 2021/22, as shown in Figure 5.2.

The SCJS detected no change in experiences of property crime comparing results for 2021/22 with 2019/20. Although it is often more difficult to find significant changes between adjacent surveys of the SCJS, the fact that there was a significant difference when comparing 2021/22 to both 2018/19 and 2017/18 suggests that property crime victimisation has fallen in recent years.

Figure 5.2: The proportion of adults experiencing property crime has fallen by 9 percentage points since 2008/09 but is unchanged since 2019/20.

Proportion of adults experiencing property crime (2008/09, 2019/20, 2021/22).

Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2019/20 (5,570); 2021/22 (5,520). Variable: PREVPROPERTY.

What types of property crime were most commonly experienced?

As shown in Figure 5.3, a range of different types of property crime[47] were experienced in Scotland in 2021/22. As in previous years, incidents of vandalism accounted for the largest proportion of property crime incidents (35%), followed by other household theft (including bicycle theft) (34%), and personal theft (20%)[48].

Figure 5.3: Vandalism and other household theft together comprise over two-thirds of all property crime.

Categories of crime as proportions of property crime overall.


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 5.2 below outlines. For example, the SCJS finds that the amount of vandalism in Scotland has fallen by almost two-thirds (64%) since 2008/09, from an estimated 350,000 incidents to 125,000.

Since 2019/20, all sub-categories of property crime have shown no change in the number of incidents.

Table 5.2: There has been a reduction in the number of property crimes across all categories since 2008/09 but no change since 2019/20.

Estimated number of incidents of types of property crime (2008/09, 2019/20, 2021/22).
Crime type 2008/09 2019/20 2021/22 Change since 2008/09 Change since 2019/20
All property crime 728,000 369,000 360,000 Down 49% No change
Housebreaking 25,000 21,000 15,000 Down 43% No change
Personal theft 110,000 80,000 72,000 Down 35% No change
Other household theft including bicycle 173,000 98,000 124,000 Down 28% No change
All motor vehicle related theft 70,000 30,000 25,000 Down 64% No change
Vandalism 350,000 139,000 125,000 Down 64% No change
Number of respondents 16,000 5,570 5,520


Looking at the prevalence of different categories of property crime reveals that some sub-types were more commonly experienced than others in 2021/22, as outlined in Figure 5.4[49].

Similar to the estimated number of incidents, the prevalence rates for vandalism, other household theft, motor vehicle related theft, personal theft and housebreaking have all fallen since 2008/09, For example, like the incident count, the prevalence rate for vandalism more than halved between 2008/09 and 2019/20 (from 8.9% to 3.4%).

The prevalence rate for all sub-categories of property crime were unchanged between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

Figure 5.4: Under 1 in 25 households (3.6%) experienced other household theft in 2021/22, whilst 0.5% were victims of housebreaking.

Proportion of adults/households experiencing types of property crime.


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?

The SCJS enables us to examine how experiences of property crime in 2021/22 varied across the population according to demographic and area characteristics. For example, as shown in Figure 5.5, the likelihood of being a victim of property crime in 2021/22 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
  • greater for disabled adults compared to those who are not

The 2021/22 found no difference in the likelihood of experiencing property crime by sex. This is in line with previous survey years, however differs from the 2018/19 SCJS, where females were found to have a higher likelihood than males.

Figure 5.5: The likelihood of being a victim of property crime is higher for those living in more deprived and urban areas.

Proportion of adults experiencing property crime, by demographic and area characteristics.

Base: 2021/22 (5,520). Variables: PREVPROPERTY; QDGEN; QDAGE; SIMD_TOP; URBRUR.

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[50].

With the exception of adults over 60 years old, whose rate of victimisation decreased by 2.1 percentage points, the SCJS detected no change in the prevalence rates for any of the above population groups between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

What can the SCJS tell us about repeat victimisation?

As outlined in Chapter 3, the SCJS estimates that the majority of adults did not experience any crime in 2021/22 and 8.7% 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[51]. 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.

Looking at the volume of crime experienced by individual victims in more detail shows that 6.5% of adults were victims of only one property crime whereas 2.2% of adults experienced two or more property crimes in 2021/22, accounting for over half of all property crime.

Table 5.3 highlights the extent of different levels of repeat property victimisation and the proportion of property crime accounted for by each group. For instance, over half (51%) of all property crime in Scotland in 2021/22 was experienced by the 2.2% of the population who were repeat victims. On average this group is estimated to have experienced 1.8 property crimes each over the year.

Table 5.3: 12% of all property crime was experienced by just 0.3% of the adult population who were victims of five or more incidents over the year.

Proportion of all property crime experienced by victims, by number of crimes experienced.
Number of crimes % of population % of property crime
None 91.3% 0%
One 6.5% 49%
Two 1.3% 21%
Three 0.5% 12%
Four 0.1% 5%
Five or more 0.3% 12%
Two or more 2.2% 51%

Base: SCJS 2021/22 (5,520). Variables: PREVPROPERTY; INCPROPERTY.

Figure 5.6 displays trends in single and repeat property crime victimisation over time. It shows that between 2008/09 and 2021/22 there were decreases in the proportion of adults experiencing:

  • single incidents of property crime – from 11.6% to 6.5%
  • repeat victimisation (two or more incidents of property crime) – from 6.4% to 2.2%
  • 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[52] over the same period, as discussed previously.

Figure 5.6: The prevalence of repeat victimisation has fallen since 2008/09.

Proportion of adults experiencing a number of property crimes, 2008/09 to 2021/22.

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); 2021/22 (5,520). Variables: INCSURVEYCRIME; PREVSURVEYCRIME.

Note: the ‘five or more’ category is a sub-set of the ‘two or more’ category.

Since the last SCJS in 2019/20 there has been no change in the level of single, repeat or high frequency repeat property crime victimisation – any apparent falls shown in Figure 5.6 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. Almost three-quarters of property crime incidents in 2021/22 (72%) took place in and around the victim’s home. The most common specific location was immediately outside the respondent’s home[53], representing more than half of all property crime in 2021/22 (59%).

Figure 5.7: The majority of property crimes were noted as having taken place immediately outside the respondent’s home.

Proportion of property crime incidents occurring in different locations.

Base: Property crime incidents (540). Variables: QWH1 / QWH3 / QWH5 / QWH7.

The majority of property crime incidents took place on weekdays. Where respondents provided details about when an incident occurred[54], around two-thirds of all property crimes in 2021/22 (66%) were said to have taken place during the week, with the remainder (34%) occurring at weekends[55].

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 2021/22, only 1% of property crime incidents involved a cyber element, unchanged since 2019/20 (1%), when this question was asked for the first time. Cyber crime is discussed in more detail in Section 9.1.

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 one-third of incidents (33%) in 2021/22, compared to 90% 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[56]. 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 2021/22:

  • were mostly committed by males. 61% of incidents involved male offenders only, while 10% involved female only perpetrators, and 24% involved perpetrators of both sexes. In 5% of incidents the respondent did not know the sex 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 16% of incidents were noted as having involved offenders aged 40 or over
  • often involved perpetrators known by the victims. In incidents where the respondent could say anything about the offender, most incidents (58%) were committed by offenders who the victims knew or had seen before. Where offenders were known by the victim, almost half of incidents (39%) 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 22% of property crime incidents) were asked additional questions about their experience, including the presence of weapons. In 2021/22, 3% of such incidents[57] 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 (56% of property crimes) were asked to provide the approximate value of the items concerned. As Figure 5.8 shows, in almost two-thirds of incidents (64%) 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 3% of incidents.

Figure 5.8: Almost two thirds of items stolen were valued at £100 or less.

Financial impact of property crime where victims could estimate cost.

Base: Property crime incidents where something was stolen (290) or damaged (170); Variables: QSVAB; QDVAB. Excludes those who said ‘don’t know’ or ‘refused’ to the value of items lost or cost of damage.

Consistent with previous years, the most frequent emotional responses to experiences of property crime were annoyance (75% of incidents) and anger (49% of incidents).

What proportion of property crime was reported to the police?

Victims of property crime described their experience as ‘a crime’ in over two-thirds of incidents (70%), with 15% of incidents said to be ‘wrong but not a crime’ and 14% viewed as ‘just something that happens’. These results are shown in Figure 5.9. Property crime incidents were more likely to be viewed as criminal by the victims compared to experiences of violent crime in 2021/22 (of which 52% of incidents were considered to be ‘a crime’).

However, the SCJS estimates that only just over one-in-every-four property crimes (27%) were reported to the police in 2021/22. The reporting rate for property crime was stable from 2008/09 (36%) until 2019/20 (36%) but has seen a significant reduction for the year 2021/22. The 2021/22 reporting rate, however, was not different from the reporting rate for violent crime (34%).

Figure 5.9: In over two-thirds of incidents, victim’s described their experience as a crime.

Victim’s description of property crime incidents experienced.

Base: Property crime incidents (540); Variable: QCRNO.

Incidents were more likely to be reported if any damaged or stolen goods were insured (44%), compared to cases where items were not covered (22%).

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 (45%) and that it was believed the police could have done nothing about the incident (29%).

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 almost two-fifth of all incidents (39%). Information or assistance was provided by the Witness Service/Victim Support Scotland in 7% of such cases, whilst in under one-in-four incidents (24%) 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 over half (52%) of incidents of property crime in 2021/22 thought the offender should have been prosecuted in court; this is in line with 2019/20. This is not significantly different to the equivalent figure for violent crime in 2021/22 (44%).

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-six cases (15%).

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 (32% of such incidents)
  • apologised for their actions (18% of such incidents)
  • been given some kind of help to stop them (12% of incidents)

Notably, victims said that ‘nothing should have happened’ in relation to only 4% of these property crime incidents (i.e. where they did not think the offender should have been prosecuted in court). This compares to 13% of violent incidents (where prosecution in court was deemed unnecessary by victims).



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