NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 10, 2004

Over the past 10 years, burglary has fallen tremendously in England -- 45 percent according to the British Crime Survey. An article from the Economist details why.

According to the article, many household goods are not worth stealing anymore:

  • Easily carried items like video recorders, DVD players, and stereos are so cheap (in real terms) that they are not worth the risk.
  • Televisions worth stealing are too large to carry.
  • Profitable targets such as credit cards, mobile phones, and cash are more readily found on someone's person than their home.

The decline is also explainable by improved police work. Paid informants have increasingly caught specialist fences that crooks rely on. Intelligence operations have improved -- the imminent release from prison of a skilled burglar will be preceded by a flurry of alerts to watch out for a particular style of burglary.

Finally, the article says that the change in illegal drug culture explains the decline:

  • A study of 3,000 arrestees found that those pulled in for burglary and shoplifting were more likely to test positive for heroin than anything else.
  • Muggers and purse-snatchers were most likely to be using powdered and "crack" cocaine.
  • As powdered and "crack" cocaine continue to overtake heroin as drugs of choice, burglary will decline while street crime will not.

Source: "The decline of English burglary," The Economist, May 29th, 2004.

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