In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Property Crime

  • Introduction
  • Data Sources
  • Specialized Offenders
  • Active Versus Incarcerated Offenders
  • Drugs and Property Crime

Criminology Property Crime
Richard Wright, Scott Jacques
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0016


Property crime has been defined in a variety of ways. A typical definition mirrors that of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, which defines property crime as the taking of property without physical force or threats. But in the real world, property crime sometimes does entail violence. Although not standard, the broadest and simplest definition of property crime is as follows: illegal activity involving the transfer or destruction of property, including money, cars, jewelry, shoes, drugs, or other forms of wealth, whether or not violence is used or threatened in doing so. The value of not excluding violent forms of theft from the definition of property crime is that it broadens our focus but simplifies our subject matter. There are different kinds of property crime, including violent, fraudulent, stealthy, destructive, and entrepreneurial. Defined thusly, examples of property crime include robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, tax evasion, fraud, burglary, auto theft, shoplifting, vandalism, arson, fencing, and illegal drug trade. This bibliography reviews some of the key data sources, theories, research, and policy discussions for understanding the distribution, causes, and consequences of property crime.

Types of Property Crime

Property crimes can be classified according to whether they involve violence, fraud, stealth, destruction, or entrepreneurialism. Violent property crime is defined here as the use of physical force against a person to take their property; classic examples include robbery and carjacking. Fraudulent property crime is defined as the use of deception (and not violence) to steal property; examples include embezzlement and tax evasion. Stealthy property crime is defined as the nonconsensual, nonviolent, and nonfraudulent theft of property when the owner is effectively absent; examples include burglary and auto theft. Destructive property crime is defined as the illicit damaging or destruction of property; examples include arson and vandalism. Entrepreneurial property crime is defined as the illegal manufacturing, selling, buying, giving, or receiving of property. All kinds of property crime—violent, fraudulent, stealthy, destructive, and entrepreneurial—are quantitative variables that may vary in their rate and magnitude across time and space. The goal of governments is to reduce such crimes; the goal of scientists is to document and explain them.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.