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Burglaries recorded by police

Burglary is defined as the ‘unlawful entry of a structure with the intent to commit an offence where the entry is either forced or unforced’ (ABS 2011a: 56). Unlawful entry with intent offences include burglary, break and enter, and some theft (AIC 2013). This included break and enter offences where property was taken as well as where property was not taken, but did not include trespass where there was no intent to steal. In 2011, ABS Recorded Crime—Victims separated ‘burglary’ into ‘actual burglaries or break-ins’ and ‘other’ burglaries, which the ABS defined as ‘attempted burglaries’ (ABS 2013a). In total, in 2011, there were 154,726 residential burglary victims recorded by police (ABS 2012b). Most of those (70%) were actual break-ins, while the remainder (30%) were attempts. The ABS distinguished residential burglaries from non-residential burglaries, the latter of which consisted of burglaries that occurred in community areas, in retail and business areas and other unspecified areas. There were 63,467 non-residential burglaries recorded by police in 2011. Of those, 70 percent were actual break-ins and the remainder were attempts (30%). In total, there were 218,193 residential and non-residential burglary victims recorded by police in 2011 (ABS 2012b).

Crime Victimisation Survey, Australia 2011–12

The ABS CVS for 2011–12 provided data on the number of victims and the number of incidents of attempted break-in and break-in for households, and combines the number of overall victims (victims of one incident are not double counted if they have been the victims of another), for the 12 months prior to the survey collection. There were 372,400 break-ins and 295,200 attempted break-ins recorded in the CVS, totalling 667,600 incidents for 2011–12 (ABS 2013a).

Estimating the number of burglaries

Residential burglary

The CVS (ABS 2013a) estimated 667,600 incidents of burglary and attempted burglary for 2011–12, similar to the number of incidents reported for 2005 (664,800; Rollings 2008), yet considerably lower than for 2001 (819,000; Mayhew 2003b). AIC trend data of recorded crime over the past several years has seen a continual decline in rates of victimisation of property crime between the years 2005 and 2011, with a 23 percent reduction in recorded property crime (AIC 2013). Comparing the difference between police recorded burglaries and crime victimisation data, yields a multiplier for residential burglary of 4.3 (see Table 12).

Table 12 Multipliers for residential burglaries
Category CVS residential burglary incidents 2010–11 (n) Residential burglary victims recorded by police (n)a Multiplier
Break-ins 372,400 108,370 (70%) 3.3
Attempted 295,200 46,356 (30%) 7.1
Total 667,600 154,726 (100%) 4.3

a: Estimated breakdown of break-ins and attempts for residential burglaries

Non-residential burglary

ABS Recorded crime reported that there were 63,467 victims of non-residential burglaries in 2011 (ABS 2012b), although a breakdown of these in terms of completed or attempted burglaries was not provided. ABS Recorded Crime does, however, categorise all unlawful entry with intent offences as ‘involving the taking of property’ (which can be equated to an actual burglary) and ‘other’ (which can be equated to an attempted burglary). Using the proportions of 70 percent actual taking of property and 30 percent other attempted unlawful entry with intent, it is possible to estimate the number of non-residential break-ins and attempts (see Table 13).

Because CVS (ABS 2013a) provides data for incidents of household (residential) victimisation only, it is necessary to estimate the number of non-residential burglary incidents and hence the relevant multiplier, by other means. The CVS provides data on whether victims reported the most recent event to the police, which for actual break-ins was 79.5 percent and for attempted break-ins was 45.8 percent. These data, however, only relate to the most recent event and not to all reported cases. Preliminary findings of the UK Commercial Victimisation Survey for 2012 showed 88 percent of completed non-residential burglaries were reported to police, while only 60 percent of attempted burglaries of non-residential areas were reported to police (Home Office 2013). The earlier UK Commercial Victimisation Survey for 2002 provided separate reporting to police rates for burglary in a retail setting (92%) and burglary in a manufacturing setting (85%; Shury et al. 2005a, 2005b). Estimates used by Rollings (2008) were based on those developed by Mayhew (2003b) that 80 percent of attempts and 95 percent of actual break-ins are reported to police. This difference is due to the requirement to report break-ins to claim insurance. On the basis of these various estimates of reporting rates for non-residential burglary, it is reasonable to assume that 85 percent of actual non-residential burglaries are reported to police and that 60 percent of attempted non-residential burglaries are reported to police. Summary data are presented in Table 14, which shows a total estimated number of burglaries for 2011 of 753,280. This is only three percent fewer than Rollings’ (2008) estimate for 2005 and eight percent fewer that Mayhew’s (2003b) estimate for 2001.

Table 13 Multipliers for non-residential burglaries
Category Estimated non-residential burglary incidents 2010–11 (n) Non-residential burglary victims recorded by police (n)a Multiplier
Break-ins 53,312 44,427 (70%) 1.2
Attempted 32,368 19,040 (30%) 1.7
Total 85,680 63,467 (100%) 1.3

a: Estimated breakdown of break-ins and attempts for residential burglaries

Table 14 Estimated number of burglaries
Category Non-residential burglaries recorded by police Residential burglaries recorded by police Total estimated non-residential burglaries Total estimated residential burglaries Total estimated burglaries
Burglary 44,427 108,370 53,312 372,400 425,712
Attempted burglary 19,040 46,356 32,368 295,200 327,568
Total 63,467 154,726 85,680 667,600 753,280

Estimating property loss

Estimates of property loss due to burglary are made by both police and victims. The extent to which police and individuals can accurately estimate property losses due to burglary is not known. The estimates provided below have been compiled using the best available sources of information.

Attempted and completed burglaries

In estimating the cost of burglaries, account needs to be taken of the fact that losses differ for attempted and completed crimes. There is, however, little evidence to determine what the cost differential actually is. The results of the UK survey of Crime Against Retail and Manufacturing Premises in 2002 (Shury et al. 2005a) found that 40 percent of lost output occurred with attempted burglaries and 60 percent for completed burglaries. In the absence of other data, this proportion has been used to allocate costs of attempted and completed burglaries for property damage, lost output and intangible costs. Actual property loss was only calculated in respect of completed burglaries. The unit value of property recovered was applied only to the number of completed burglaries.

Residential burglaries

Updating the data presented by Rollings (2008) and inflating to 2011 prices yields a range of estimates of the cost of residential burglaries.

UK estimates of residential burglary property loss were £846 in 2005 (Dubourg, Hamed & Thorns 2005). Using a UK inflation rate of 3.3 percent per year between 2005 and 2011 (Bank of England 2013), this would result in an estimate of £1,097. Converting this to Australian dollars using the OECDs pricing and purchasing power parities rate of A$2.20 to £1.00, gave an estimated loss of A$2,413.

Using data provided by New South Wales Police, the median property loss for a residential burglary in 2005 was $800, with a mean loss of $2,700, reflecting the highly skewed nature of the data towards a small number of high-value crimes. Using the median price of $800 inflated to 2011 prices results in an estimate of $957. Victoria Police statistics for 2011 (Victoria Police 2011), recorded a median value of $1,830 for residential burglaries with a mean value of $4,661. Tasmania Police reported a mean value of $1,170 for residential burglaries (Rollings 2008), or $1,400 in 2011 prices. Mayhew (2003b) used an estimate of $1,100 in 2001 which in 2011 prices would be $1,463. Taking the average of these Australian median estimates results in a figure of $1,413 as the unit loss for residential burglaries in 2011. It was decided to use the estimate based on Australian data, rather than the much higher UK estimate as it more accurately reflected the local situation.

Non-residential burglaries

Mayhew (2003b) estimated the cost of an average non-residential burglary in 2001 to be $2,400. This was based on an average of the following data sources. Victoria Police’s average loss for non-residential burglary was $2,290, while the loss in New South Wales was just over $1,630. The UK Commercial Crime Survey showed average losses of the equivalent of $1,710, rather lower than the Scottish Business Crime Survey of the equivalent of $2,990 and the Australian Small Business Crime Survey of $2,480. Since the police figures were not consistently higher than the survey estimates, an average of all figures was taken. None differentiated loss and no-loss incidents (Mayhew 2003b).

Rollings (2008) used the following data upon which to base the unit cost of a non-residential burglary in 2005. New South Wales Police indicated a mean loss of $3,200 and a median loss of $600, while Victoria Police reported a mean of $1,800 and a median of $500. The UK Crime Retail and Manufacturing Premises Survey (Shury et al. 2005b) reported a unit cost of the equivalent of $6,200 for a burglary. Rollings (2008) estimated unit cost for non-residential burglary in 2005 was $2,400. Inflating this estimate to 2011 prices results in a unit cost of $2,871.

Property damage

The cost of burglaries also includes estimates of property damage that may occur when burglaries are committed. Dubourg, Hamed and Thorns (2005) estimated the cost of damage per residential burglary to be £187 which, inflated to 2011 prices, results in a cost of £243. Converting this to Australian prices using the OECD PPP results in an estimate of $535. Estimates of the cost of property damage resulting from non-residential burglaries are based on figures from the UK Crime Retail and Manufacturing Premises Survey (Shury et al. 2005b), which reported a cost of the equivalent of $1,412 in 2011 prices.


When estimating the cost of burglaries, account need to be taken of the value of property that is recovered by victims. Dubourg, Hamed and Thorns (2005) estimated that for each completed residential burglary, £19 worth of property was recovered. Inflating that amount to 2011 and converting to Australian dollars results in an estimated $63 per residential burglary of property recovered. In the absence of an estimate of the amount recovered for non-residential burglaries, the recovery figure of $63 for residential burglaries was inflated by 2.0 to reflect the fact that total non-residential property loss was twice the cost of residential losses. This results in a unit cost of recoveries for non-residential burglaries of $126.

Lost output

As with the previous AIC reports, Australian data on lost output are still not available. Accordingly, UK estimates of lost output due to burglaries were used (Dubourg, Hamed & Thorns 2005), with adjustments made for inflation and pricing and purchasing power parities (OECD 2013). Lost output costs for residential burglaries, derived from UK estimates of victims’ time off work were the equivalent of $100 per incident in 2001 (Mayhew 2003b). Inflating this to 2011 prices results in a loss of $133 per incident.

Lost output for non-residential burglary was based on the results of the UK survey of Crime Against Retail and Manufacturing Premises in 2002 (Shury et al. 2005b) and was calculated on the average hours lost due to a burglary. The average lost hours were multiplied by the Australian average hourly wage in 2011 taken from the ABS labour force statistics of $25.83 hourly rate (ABS 2012c). This resulted in an average loss of $250 per incident. This can be broken down into lost output for an attempted burglary of $145 per incident and for a successful burglary of $364. This is considerably lower that Mayhew’s (2003b) estimate of $1,200 for average lost output for non-residential burglaries.

Intangible costs

The only estimate available for intangible losses is that of Dubourg, Hamed and Thorns (2005) who estimated that the cost of physical and emotional impact on direct victims of residential burglary in 2003 was £646 per incident. Adjusting for inflation and pricing and purchasing power parities resulted in an estimate of $1,746 for 2011. This has been applied both for residential as well as non-residential burglaries. As in the case of lost output, the estimate of $1,746 for intangible costs has been allocated as to 40 percent for attempted burglaries and 60 percent for completed burglaries (see Table 15).

Table 15 Costs of burglaries—property loss, property damage, lost output and intangible losses
Category Per incident cost ($) Total cost ($m)
Property loss Property damage Lost output Intangible Property loss Property damage Lost output Intangible
Residential Complete 1,425 321 80 1,048 531 120 30 390
Attempta Nil 214 53 698 nil 63 16 206
All 531 183 46 596
Non-residential Complete 2,871 847 364 1,048 153 45 19 56
Attempta nil 565 145 698 nil 18 5 23
All 153 63 24 79
Total Complete 684 165 49 446
Attempta nil 86 21 229
All 684 251 70 675

a: Using a rate of 40 percent for property damage and lost output of attempts and 60 percent for completed burglaries

Total costs

The overall costs of burglary are presented in Table 16.The total cost was calculated by adding the total property loss, property damage cost, lost output and intangible costs set out in Table 15 and deducting an estimate of the value of property recovered for completed burglaries. The total cost of burglary in 2011 was $1.6b.

Table 16 Overall costs of burglary
Category Total losses ($m) Total recovereda ($m) Total ($m)
Residential 1,356 23 1,333
Non-residential 319 7 312
Total 1,675 30 1,645

a: Unit costs for recoveries were $63 for residential and $126 for non-residential burglaries


Last updated
3 November 2017