Criminal Justice

Crimes Against Property


The present paper is dedicated to the overview of the common crimes against property. There are four types of crime against property, including arson, burglary, larceny, and robbery. Shoplifting is a form of larceny, or theft, which involves unlawful taking of merchandize from shops and other businesses. For shoplifting to occur, the criminal does not necessarily have to leave the shop – the act of concealing the products has to be detected only. Home invasion is a separate crime similar to burglary, but different in the fact that home invaders usually prefer a violent confrontation with home owners, forcing them to give away their precious belongings. A burglary is a form of crime against property involving stealing property from others’ homes; for a burglary to take place, the person does not have to invade the dwelling – inserting a hand or an arm to steal property is a minimum condition for the crime to be considered burglary. Cyber crime is a new diverse form of crime against property involving the use of computers and Internet for hacking, bullying, stalking, and other forms of crime punishable by Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The criminal law of the USA recognizes various types of harm that can be caused by the criminal activities of people; according to the harm or wrong occurring, all crimes are divided into “crimes against person” and “crimes against property” (Gardner & Anderson, 2012, p. 13). The major part of crimes against property involves “unlawfully taking the property of another by stealing, force, fire, or deceit” (Long, 2004, p. 113). Hence, following this definition, one should admit that there are generally four types of crime against property recognized by the American criminal justice system: burglary (unlawful entry of a building with the intent of committing felony), robbery (taking the property of a person by force), larceny (taking and carrying away one’s property for stealing), and arson (the gravest crime against property, involving the intentional burning of someone’s property) (Long, 2004).

Shoplifting is one of common crimes against property involving individuals stealing the property of shops and businesses, and carrying it away from shops (including products, clothes, and other merchandise). As Gardner and Anderson (2012) admitted, there are specific rules that business can lawfully apply in cases the shoplifting instances are suspected. As the State v. Goodman (2007) case showed, the proof of every element of the offense is needed or the charge of shoplifting to be proven; hence, one of the key requirements is the taking requirement. It is stated by the US law that if customers take the merchandise, they are legally entitled to pay the purchase price for it (Gardner & Anderson, 2012). Hence, if the taking requirement is fulfilled, and other elements of crime are present (the merchandise is taken in possession but not paid for), the crime of shoplifting is considered present. Moreover, it is not obligatory for the shoplifter to leave the shop for the shoplifting to occur – the instances of hiding merchandise under one’s clothes, which means concealment of goods, are enough for the shoplifters to be arrested (Gardner & Anderson, 2012).

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that shoplifting as a crime should be proven, and probable cause should be established for the crime to be verified. Taking into account a large number of lawsuits after false accusations of shoplifting, and great damages shops may incur after offending and slandering their customers, private security officers have been trained specifically for handling the suspected cases of shoplifting. To avoid legal prosecution, the private security officers are legally allowed to stop and question the suspected shoplifters, and may follow them after their leaving the shop to determine the person’s identity. Search is also allowed, though only in certain states (Gardner & Anderson, 2012).

Home invasion is another crime against property that differs from burglary or robbery, breaking, and entering one’s home. According to the US criminal law, home invasion is a crime that requires “unlawful entry of the dwelling of another with intent to commit a crime, with persons present in the home, and the use of force or threat of force to commit a crime” (Gardner & Anderson, 2012, p. 391). Home invasion is a rather new type of crime, but it is considered a grave offense because it often involves highly violent activities. The main difference of home invasion from other similar types of crimes is that in the majority of cases, perpetrators try to avoid contact with home owners, while home invaders confront home owners and force them to open safes, and reveal their valuable possessions (Burgess, Regehr, & Roberts, 2010).

Burglary is another form of theft that is defined as “the unlawful entry of another’s building with the intention of committing a felony inside the building” (Long, 2004, p. 113). According to Gardner and Anderson (2012), the old common law regarding burglary required the proof of intent to commit a felony, and defined a burglary as breaking into the residence of another at night with the intent to commit a theft. However, at present, the majority of states and the federal government have broadened the present element, stating that proving the intent to steal is enough for the burglary accusation. Moreover, since burglary is considered trespass, there is a need to prove the unlawful entry into the premises, which may be limited to inserting a hand or arm into the premises. The limitation of burglary to the night time has also been broadened, including any day time. Thus, for instance, inserting one’s hand through a house’s window to steal a purse from a window seal in the afternoon is also considered a burglary.

Cyber crime is a new form of crime that is defined as “criminal acts implemented through use of a computer or other form of electronic communication” (Gardner & Anderson, 2012, p. 510). At present, the US criminal law includes the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U. S. C. § 1030 (CFAA) for targeting specifically the computer-mediated type of crimes. This act covers a wide range of computer crimes including the unlawful access to others’ computers, hacking, bullying, fraud, cyber stalking, etc. Cyber stalking is also a relatively new form of crime recognized as a separate crime form; it involves using the Internet to stalk or harass a person, and in case the stalking and harassment result in the person’s damage (such as suicide or psychological breakdown), the criminals conducting cyber stalking can be legally prosecuted for assault and stalking leading to a person’s death (Gardner & Anderson, 2012).

As one can see from the present account, there are various types of crimes against property, and they include a wide range of violent and non-violent activities of criminals. Shoplifting is one of the most ambiguous and delicate issues for businesses to deal with, since there are many lawsuits in which customers usually win in case they are treated with disrespect, are stopped and searched in suspicion of shoplifting. Hence, management of suspected shoplifting requires due diligence and caution, though it can be detected even before the criminal leaves the shop. Home invasion is a new, separate form of violent burglary because it involves a direct confrontation of criminals with home owners present in the house. A burglary is a crime against property the definition of which has been expanded recently to include not only night time, but any part of the day, and to specify that an intrusion is not a necessary condition for an act of theft to be considered a burglary (any part of the human body, e.g., a hand or arm, inserted in one’s dwelling for a theft is already a sufficient condition for a burglary to be detected). Cyber crime is also a relatively new form of crime that is regulated by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and that involved crimes committed with the help of computers and Internet.


Burgess, A., Regehr, C., & Roberts, A. (2010). Victimology: Theories and Applications. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishing.

Gardner, C., & Anderson, T. (2012). Criminal Law. (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Long, J. A. (2004). Office Procedures for the Legal Professional. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.