Crimes Against Property

Crime against property is any criminal act that destroys another's property, or that deprives an owner of property against the owner's will. The criminal law generally considers these crimes less serious than violent crimes, or crimes against persons, but they can still constitute very serious felony charges.


Arson and vandalism are examples of crimes that destroy another's property. Examples of crimes that unwillingly deprive an owner of property are far more abundant, including larceny, embezzlement, receiving stolen goods, extortion (blackmail), robbery (a combination of violent crime and crime against property), burglary, and industrial espionage, to name just a few. There are also a wide range of crimes that fall under the domain of intellectual property law, and the occurrence of these is rising sharply as information becomes a stronger and stronger motive force in the economies of the developed and developing world.

Common Law Changes

At early British common law, there was only one kind of crime against property, larceny. There was also only one punishment for larceny in those times: death. As time went on and judges became more and more reluctant to execute people for pick-pocketing and petty theft, many crimes that bore striking resemblance to larceny were classified as something else so that the death penalty could be avoided.

In the United States today, where life and liberty are categorically valued above property, no crime against property is considered serious enough to warrant the death penalty.