Written By: SafeHome.org Team | Published: January 21, 2021
Since 2006, more than 120 million property crimes were reported to police agencies all over the U.S. While population-adjusted rates of these crimes have fallen in recent years, property crimes impacted approximately one-in-five households in 2020.
That all adds up to a huge financial and emotional toll for those who fall victim to property crimes. In 2019 alone, American homes and businesses sustained nearly $13 billion worth of damage or loss from burglaries and other types of theft.
This report examines more than a dozen years of data from local, state, and federal law enforcement. In addition, we independently surveyed thousands of Americans about the impact of property crime and interviewed police burglary detectives.
The result is a comprehensive picture of property crime and safety in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as thousands of cities and towns from coast-to-coast.
A Word on COVID-19 & Crime Rates
Preliminary data from the FBI for 2020 indicates that property crime declined during the first six months of the year when compared with 2019. This contrasts with reports that package theft has increased, and with the agency's findings that homicides and aggravated assaults have risen. Given that only six months’ worth of data have been reported, it’s too early to say how the pandemic has impacted crime rates.
Our team is analyzing all available data, and we hope to bring you the most recent information as soon as possible.
Table of Contents
- Property Crimes By State
- Property Crimes Over Time
- How Do Burglars & Detectives Think About Property Crime?
- Property Crime Defined
- The Role of Home Security Systems
- Perceptions of Property Crime & Community Safety
- Where Does Your State Stand?
Property Crimes By State
Explore the interactive map below to see each state's average property crime rate, as well as their overall ranking compared to other states.
Property Crimes Over Time
In the interactive chart below, you can explore nationwide property crime rates over time compared to several of the most populous states.
How Do Burglars & Detectives Think About Property Crime?
Safehome.org's managing editor, Rob Gabriele, speaks with retired burglary detective Travis Goodreau about property crime in the U.S. and how detectives think about property crime.
Property Crime Defined
Law enforcement agencies categorize four specific incidents as property crime — arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Mostly these are self-explanatory (you can read the FBI’s definitions here), but there are some important distinctions that can help you better understand these crimes and how they differ from one another.
For example, burglary is defined as any unlawful entry into a structure with the intent of committing a crime. Physically breaking into the structure is not necessary, but if force or the threat of force is used to obtain any items or to gain entry, the incident would be classified as a violent crime, most likely robbery.
Larceny-theft is by far the most common type of property crime because the definition applies very broadly, and attempted larcenies also apply. One important note here is that theft from motor vehicles (as opposed to theft of motor vehicles) is classified as larceny-theft.
Finally, motor vehicle theft applies to automobiles like cars and SUVs as well as vehicles like motorcycles, but aircraft, farm equipment, and watercraft are excluded.
It’s also important to note that our report does not factor in rates of arrests or convictions for any of these crimes, nor do we take into account, at least as far as crime data is concerned, whether any people victimized in property crime incidents got their items back or were compensated for their lost value.
And while our survey data does address whether respondents who had experienced a property crime were able to recover the value of their items, our questions did not specify whether that was because they’d filed an insurance claim. However, any audit of your home’s security level should include an analysis of whether your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance is adequate to cover a loss related to property crime.
The Role of Home Security
From a single doorbell camera to a suite of wired security cams, we’ve done hands-on reviews of hundreds of products from dozens of brands, and not every product is right for every home, but our work has convinced us that home security products improve the safety of the average family and increase peace of mind for those who use them.
You don’t have to take our word for it. Academic studies have repeatedly shown that the obvious presence of home security systems deter property criminals. In one survey, 60 percent of would-be burglars said they’d think twice about hitting a home with a security system.
Perceptions of Property Crime & Community Safety
Your perception of the safety of a given neighborhood affects a ton of decisions — whether you’ll live or work there, even if you’ll park on a particular street. This can include fears of falling victim to violence, but it also extends to how common property crime is.
Incidents like burglary, larceny-theft, arson, vandalism, and others all have an impact on how neighborhoods are perceived by both those who live there and those who might visit. Beyond official government data about these types of crimes, we wanted to understand property crime from the perspective of the average person.
How common is property crime, and how many people have been on the receiving end? What kind of crime was it, what was taken or damaged, and what happened next? To understand these issues and more, we surveyed about 630 people on various topics related to property crime.
Read on for the full results, and check out a few key findings below:
- Just under eight percent of people say property crime is a big problem where they live, but about 74 percent say it’s at least something of a worry.
- About 37 percent of people have improved the lighting around their property to beef up security, while 30 percent limit social media posts and another 30 percent have put in doorbell cameras.
- Among those who have experienced property crime, about 46 percent had packages or deliveries stolen or damaged, while about 43 percent said the crime affected their vehicle.
Levels of Concern
About one in five respondents said property crime isn’t a problem where they live, but few people said it was a big issue in their community. A combined 74 percent of people indicated that property crimes pose at least something of a problem in their city or town.
No significant statistical differences existed along gender lines when it comes to the perception of how big a problem property crime is, but younger people seem far less concerned about the specter of burglary, auto theft, and similar crimes than their older counterparts. The most significant split was between the youngest respondents (18-29 years old) and those between 45 and 60 — there’s a 13 percentage-point gap between those two groups.
The type of property crime most commonly cited as a concern was burglary, and more than one in two respondents said that was a threat in their community. People are least worried about falling victim to arson.
By a slight margin, survey respondents are more concerned about being victimized by future property crime than they are unconcerned. Only 15 percent said they were “very concerned” they’d be hit by a property crime in the future, but combining both “concerned” categories, more than 53 percent are at least somewhat concerned.
Experiencing or hearing about crime nearby had a substantial effect on how concerned respondents were about their own chances of becoming the victim of a future property crime. Those who have been previously victimized by property crime and those whose neighbors have experienced property crime in the past year are much more likely than the average respondent to say they’re either “very concerned” or “concerned” about their chances of experiencing future property crime.
Concern levels are highest for those whose neighbors have been hit by property crime in the past year; about one-quarter of this group said they were “very concerned” about property crime. And the groups outpaced overall respondents in their concern levels by at least 10 percentage points.
Most respondents are taking steps to protect their families and property, including free, easy measures as well as those that are a more significant investment of time and money. Only eight percent of respondents said they weren’t taking any extra steps, and improving the lighting around their homes or property was the most commonly cited measure.
There are a few notable differences between women and men when it comes to the measures they take to protect themselves and their property. For example, women were about 10 percentage points more likely to say one of their security measures was limiting social media posts about where they live or if they’re not currently at home. On the other hand, men were more likely to have security cameras, home security systems, and signage. Both groups were about equally likely to report having a gun as part of their security measures.
Having previously been the victim of a property crime didn’t significantly increase the use of most security measures, but there are a few that buck the trend. Respondents who experienced a property crime in the past were about 10 percentage points more likely to limit their social media posts in an effort to obscure their location, while more than one in four of them use guns as one way to enhance their safety (compared to just under one in five for non-victims). Also, those who said they hadn’t experienced a previous property crime were more than twice as likely to say they don’t have any particular security measures (12 percent vs. five percent).
Just over one-quarter of respondents use home security systems, and even among those who don’t, they get positive reviews. Less than eight percent of respondents said they don’t think home security systems are effective at deterring property crime, while a combined 83 percent said they had at least some ability to deter crime.
However, exposure to property crime, whether directly or in their neighborhood, affected some respondents’ answers. About 37 percent of those whose neighbors have experienced property crime in the past year said home security systems were very effective, while those who previously had been victims themselves said so at a lower rate. Only about 30 percent of respondents overall said security systems had a major effect in deterring property crime.
The type of crime experienced also appears to have an impact. Among prior-crime victims, those who were the victims of arson were far more likely (exponentially, in some cases) to say that home security systems don’t deter property crime.
The rise of porch piracy has people concerned about the safety of their packages and deliveries, and these were the items respondents most commonly said they were worried would be stolen or damaged. Cars came in a close second, followed by personal electronics.
Men and women have similar levels of concern about items being stolen or damaged in property crime incidents, but there are some interesting differences that break down along generational lines.
Half of those between 18 and 29 said they were concerned about their cars being stolen, the highest rate of all age groups (just under 37 percent of those between 45 and 60 years old said the same thing). The youngest age group also had the highest level of concern that their personal electronics would be stolen or damaged — nearly 47 percent; about 39 percent was the next-highest rate, for those between 30 and 44.
Respondents between the ages of 30 and 44 were the most concerned about packages or deliveries being swiped from their porches, as more than 54 percent of this group listed theft or damage to packages or deliveries as a concern. Package theft was the primary concern overall and for all age groups except those between 18 and 29.
Property Crime Experiences
Even if the crime doesn’t involve a person breaking into your home, being the victim of a property crime is at best a hassle and at worst a major personal violation. About 47 percent of respondents said they’d been the victim of a property crime in their lives, and men were slightly more likely than women to have experienced a property crime.
Not surprisingly, personal electronics were the items most commonly cited as having been stolen or damaged in the property crime incidents experienced by respondents. These easy-to-grab items were involved in the incidents for nearly 30 percent of those who reported being the victim of a property crime. Cars and cash were close behind.
Our respondents indicated that getting their items back or being compensated with a payment equivalent to the value was less common than the reverse. Fifty-four percent of people who experienced a property crime at some point did not recover their stolen or damaged item or its value.
The type of item stolen or damaged had a big impact on whether the victim was able to recover it or be compensated for its value. Among the top five items cited by property crime victims, non-recovery rates were highest for personal electronics and cash or other liquid assets — about 60 percent of people didn’t get their items back. Conversely, only about a third of people whose cars were stolen or damaged weren’t compensated or didn’t get their vehicle back.
About three-quarters of property crime victims in our survey filed a police report, but for those who didn’t, the chances of recovering their items or equivalent value was much lower. More than half of property crime victims didn’t recover their items, but for those who didn’t file a police report, that number rose to about 71 percent.
Notifying the police about an incident wasn’t associated with a huge jump in people getting their items or money back, but involving the police did result in the majority of respondents recovering their stolen or damaged items or being compensated with their equivalent value.
Men were slightly more likely than women to file police reports over property crime incidents, and in most age groups, at least 75 percent of people filed a police report. However, only about 63 percent of those between 18 and 29 filed a police report.