Theft had been a crime in decline in the UK, but the latest figures suggest an unwelcome increase -- something insurers are feeling in their claims figures
Among the flood devastation in Derbyshire and south Yorkshire this autumn, one ugly side effect was theft. Householders, farmers and other business owners were quoted as saying they were reluctant to leave their properties for fear of looting -- despite extra patrols and police stating they had no evidence of looting taking place. While the householders may (or may not) have been worrying unnecessarily, the reality is that theft across the UK is on the increase once more.
The impression until recently has been of a country where theft was on the decline. Firstly, people have been better off and poverty has always been a driver of crime. Secondly, the nature of ownership has changed -- instead of having multiple expensive electrical items, people are reducing ownership of goods; the smartphone does it all, they reason.
ON THE RISE
However, the tide appears to be turning once more. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures in October, which showed burglary offences recorded by the police saw a 4% decrease to 417,416, driven mainly by decreases in "residential burglary". But there was a 10% increase in "theft from a person" offences recorded by police for the year to the end of June 2019 (compared to the previous year to end of June 2018) and police-recorded robbery offences saw an 11% increase (to 88,177 offences).
Explaining the figures in more detail, a spokesperson from the ONS says: "The latest estimate of theft offences showed no change in the last year, however, there was an 11% increase (to 3.7 million offences) compared with the year ending March 2017, [and] while the most recent estimate of vehicle-related thefts showed no change, there was a 15% rise in the same two-year period, a volume increase of 787,000 to
The implication is that thieves are increasingly targeting individuals, who may be wearing the device that would have been stolen from a house a decade ago.
Figures from Statista sum up the return of theft as a major issue. "The 85,700 robbery offences that happened in England & Wales in 2018/2019 marked an 11-year high for this type of crime. While this is still far lower than the 110,000 recorded in 2002/03, it has also happened just a few years after there were as few as 50,000 of these incidents reported in 2014/15," a spokesperson from Statista says.
For insurers, the overall impact has been felt in a rise in claims. Digital home insurer Policy Expert is among those that have warned figures for the first half of 2019 show that theft or attempted theft now make up one in five (20%) of Policy Expert's accepted home insurance claims. This is the highest percentage recorded in the last seven years, up from 18% in 2018 and 15% in 2013.
As a result, theft has become the insurer's second biggest source of claims, rising above escape of water and coming second only to accidental damage.
The trend comes as the latest government data showed England and Wales experienced a double-digit rise in overall theft offences from 2016/2017 to 2018/2019 -- bringing an end to a period of declining theft across
Total offences across England and Wales have increased by 13% in the last two years to 3.75 million per year. This has been driven by an 8% rise in domestic burglary and bicycle theft; a 14% increase in vehicle-related theft; a 17% jump in personal property theft; and an 11% increase in other instances of household theft.
More evidence comes from insurer NFU, which reports that, for the second year in succession, rural crime has risen dramatically. In 2018, rural crime cost the UK £49.9m. Compared to the cost in 2017, this is an increase of 12% -- about £5.4m. It means that in the last two years, the cost of rural crime has increased by more than £10m.
"Although a large proportion of the recent rise can be attributed to the huge increase in the theft of agricultural vehicles, the problem is far from isolated. Our statistics show a rise in almost every type of rural crime in almost every area of the UK."
Looking at the overall picture, Adam Powell, co-founder and chief operating officer of Policy Expert, comments: "Improving home security measures were previously credited with helping to reduce levels of property crime."
He suggests insureds and insurers can make better use of technology to stem the new rise in crime. "Today's tech-enabled world offers a range of hardware and software to improve safety and combat theft, from locking down homes to tracing personal possessions. It also introduces new risks, however, that tech itself becomes a target of theft or a source of vulnerability if it fails."
Liz Booth is a freelance journalist
Picture Credit | iStock