Burglary 'aint what it used to be

Despite fears that the trend is about to go into reverse [that's a different story], crime has been declining in most rich countries, including the UK, for the past quarter century. Theft is no exception to this rule and it appears that not only is the crime declining but also the type of things being stolen has changed dramatically.

As theft has become much less common, the value of items stolen has increased dramatically. One possibility is that, with the ubiquitous use of DNA testing and modern forensic techniques, thieves have to be highly skilled if they are to exploit modern day opportunities and avoid being caught.

Less competent thieves drop out of the game and move on to simpler fields e.g. credit card fraud and those left are looking for better returns. Consequently jewellery and watches are now stolen in about a third of all burglaries, up from a quarter ten years ago, probably linked to the higher price of gold which peaked in 2011 but is still 40% up on 2008.

Alternatively CDs and DVDs are spurned being stolen in just 3% of burglaries. TVs and HiFi equipment as well need to be pretty special to attract the burglar's attention. Smartphones, are still stolen in over half of all burglaries but improved security technology has caused the price of stolen phones to plummet on the 'stolen-gear' market and many are now left on the bedside table after the thief has been and gone; spurned because they are too much trouble for too little reward.

The recent video released by West Midlands Police of a pair of burglars stealing a Mercedes car from someone's driveway by using a relay box held at the front door to pick up the signal emitted by the car's key fob and then using it to open and start the car is an example of high-tech burglary for rich pickings. The theft took just over a minute and the car was worth tens of thousands of pounds. No fingerprints and no DNA were left at the scene but at least it was caught on the owner's CCTV system.