Property crime, usually involving items belonging to an individual, is a blanket term that covers several other crimes, including:
- Burglary – illegally entering a building to commit an offence, usually that of theft
- Larceny – unlawful taking or theft of personal property
- Theft – taking another person’s property or services without permission, consent, or payment
- Motor vehicle theft – stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle
- Arson – willfully or maliciously setting fire to someone’s property, usually buildings or vehicles
- Shoplifting – stealing goods from a retail store
- Vandalism – deliberate destruction of any kind of property
Property crime is not limited to acts by individual criminals – organized crime, activities planned and controlled by powerful groups (the mafia, for example) and carried out on a large scale, takes place in, and across the borders of, all European countries.
Property crime can be defined as:
“ … a category of crime that includes, among other[s], burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, shoplifting, and vandalism. Property crime involves the taking of property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim. Crimes against property are divided into two groups: destroyed property and stolen property. When property is destroyed, it could be called arson or vandalism. Examples of the act of stealing property is robbery or embezzlement. Although robbery involves taking property, it is classified as a violent crime, as force or threat of force on an individual that is present is involved in contrast to burglary which typically takes place in an unoccupied dwelling or other unoccupied building.
The European Commission defines property crime as a volume crime, covering frequently committed crime with easily identified victims. Property crime is a major concern for European citizens, offences usually involve private property and are unlikely to involve physical violence. Examples of property crime are domestic burglary, theft from vehicles, common assault, street robbery, etc.
Property crime is an example of victimisation against households and citizens. Policies to prevent these crimes can often be targeted more at easing the nuisance factor of the crimes than at reducing the number of ‘headline’ offences that are committed.
Victims’ rights in the EU are established under The Victim’s Rights Directive and sets out the 6 key rights available to all victims of all types of crime that take place in any member state. The following link will allow you to familiarize yourself with your rights as a victim of crime: https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/document.cfm?doc_id=43139
Member states each have their own legal code that will apply to property crime. Punishment, whether custodial or financial, will depend on the crime and on the outcome of any court case. However, all victims of crime in Europe are entitled to compensation and restitution under the Victim’s Rights Directive.
As stated above, property crimes range from arson to vandalism and victims of property crime will include people of any age, from any region, and from any background. While there are some simple steps that can be taken to protect your home and your car from theft, it may be more difficult to protect your property against vandalism and arson. These measures include the following:
- Ensuring your doors and windows are fitted with appropriate locks
- Installing a fire alarm and installing CCTV in your home or your business premises
- Consider fitting security devices, such as sensory or automatic external lighting, or a burglar alarm
- Keeping garages, sheds and gates locked
- Asking a neighbour to keep an eye on your home if you are away for any time
- Never letting people, you don’t know, into your apartment block
- Only letting people into your home if you are sure they are genuine – ask for, and check, ID
- Never keeping your valuables in one place
- Keeping your keys in a safe place, don’t leave them lying in plain sight
- Parking your car in a well-lit area
Being a victim of a property crime will leave you feeling vulnerable and emotionally distressed. You may no longer feel safe if your home has been the target of a crime. It may be hard to come to terms with what has happened, and you may have problems coping with the aftermath of the crime. Whether or not you knew the offender, you will question why you were targeted and how you could have prevented the situation – you may feel overwhelmed and this can cause you to withdraw from family, friends and others who can assist you.
If you believe you have been the victim of a property crime, there are several things you can do, immediately, to ease the hurt or loss you feel:
- Report the crime
- Change the locks in your home
- Contact your garage about your car keys
- Make a list of missing items
- Contact your insurance company
- Take photographs of any damage
- Arrange for any damage to be repaired as soon as possible
- Request a replacement driving license/ID/travel pass
- Report the loss of your passport
- Tell your bank if your debit/credit cards have been stolen
- Inform your network provider if your phone has been stolen
It is important that you report the crime as soon as you can, this will assist the police in apprehending the culprit. You should contact the police either by phone or in person. If the crime is under way, you should use the emergency number, otherwise use the non-emergency number to file your complaint. If you decide not to report the crime immediately, you can do so later – contact your local Victim Support organization for assistance.
You will need to give details of the crime, such as:
- Date, time, place of the event
- If known, who carried out the crime
- What was stolen or damaged
- If there were any witnesses, who were they
- Was anyone hurt
You will be given a crime report number and a police investigator will be allocated your complaint. The officer will handle the progress of your file up to and including the trial stage, assuming the criminal is apprehended and brought to justice. You will be informed of your rights as a victim and you will be told what to expect if your case is brought before a jury. Importantly, you have the right to legal assistance in all EU member states and the right to an interpreter if the trial takes place outside your own country.
Being a victim of property crime is an emotional experience, you will be stressed and worried about your personal safety. It is important to reach out for help: there are many organizations ready to support you when you are ready to ask for assistance. Victim Support offers free, confidential advice and help to all crime victims and its staff will work with you in the aftermath of your attack.
If you’ve been affected by a crime, there are a number of ways you can contact support services to get assistance or information.
- Get support locally from your nearest Victim Support team
- Report the crime to your local police station
- Seek help from your local citizen’s advice center