Breaking and Entering Crime in Sydney


Although crime rates have declined drastically over the past few years in this region, there are specific issues that are still very common and are causing unrest in the population. The police force has a duty to come up with ways on how to deal with these issues once and for all so as to maintain them at a low level. This paper seeks to provide a police strategy that will be used to address the issue of breaking and entering. First, it aims to introduce the problem effectively while also determining its urgency in the society. Second, it will feature a description of the potential police strategies that may be used to deal with the problem. Lastly, the police strategies will be applied to the crime once its effectiveness and validity has been determined.

Breaking and Entering Crime

Residential break and enter is among the top crimes experienced in Sydney, NSW. Every year, approximately 40,000 reports are made to the police (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). This offence is a significant issue for households and Sydney and it also results in substantial costs for both the community and the Government as well. Unlike the many other offences, this crime is of urgency as it features a high reporting rate. Approximately three in four victims record statements with the police authorities in Sydney (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

Residential break and enter is also referred to as burglary. It is defined as ‘the unlawful entry of a structure with the intent to commit an offence, where the entry is either forced or unforced’ (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011b). In Australia, the typical measure for break and enter is by statistics obtained relating to the crime and court cases. These statistics include those offenses that have been reported to the police authorities and also those who have been apprehended and presented before the criminal justice system. It is also measured by the crime victimization surveys. These surveys feature those that have been conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The surveys are conducted annually, and they seek to answer specific questions such as what was the extent of victimization? Did these victims report to the police? What are the characteristics of the victims and their most recent problem situation? What perceptions do individuals living in Sydney have on social disorder in the area?

The Urgency of the Break and Enter Crime

According to the United Nations (2010), this country has recorded one of the highest rates of residential break and enter compared to other countries, with a rate of 763.9 for every 100,000 population. Australia falls closely behind New Zealand which has a rate of 965.7 per 100,000 population. The United Kingdom, Belgium and the United States have a similar rate of 501.5 per 100,000 population. (United Nations, 2010). In 2009 to 2010, an estimated figure of 254, 500 (3%) households in Australia were reported to have fallen victim of at least one break in either in the house, garage or shed; Of these incidents, 76% were reported to the Police (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).  Although rate of property crime offences have declined significantly over the past few years, break and enter is still relatively high. The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) conducted a research which showed that residential break and enter in the NSW have reduced by approximately 50% between 2001 and 2010 (Goh & Moffatt, 2011). Despite this positive trend, it is evident that the crime of break and enter still ensures that property crime is considered a significant issue for the NSW community.

Figure 1: Number of B&E Incidents

This 10 year reduction in residential break and enter may be related to other property offences which are all at a record low. However, it is very difficult to relate the decline to a specific intervention. The use of Heroin has always been linked to property crime as the addicts use any means possible to fund the drugs (Moffatt, Weatherburn & Donnelly, 2005). In 2001, measures were taken to reduce the availability of Heroin in NSW by reducing its impurities and drastically increasing the price. In addition, the Government also held a Drug Summit in 1999 which led to significant funding for drugs treatment programs. Quite a number of users showed up to enroll for the treatment, hence reducing the number of possible criminals of break and enter in the region. Locally, a factor that contributed to the reduction may be attributed to the fact that there was an increase in the number of victims reporting to the police. Also, the police practices may have changed positively. Therefore, despite the fact that the volume of offences is still very high, it is evident that these factors have all contributed positively to the great reduction of break and enter crimes.

Characteristics of the Break and Enter Crime

            Of all the breaking and entering incidents reported, the criminal makes way into the building through the back door, ground floor front, or the window. These are the most common points of entry. However, the offenders have been noted to use any available means that will enable them to get to their target. Hence, they can also climb the roofs or go through the garage windows despite the fact that the previously mentioned three are the most preferable points of entry as it is an easier approach.

In relation to offender profile, only a small number are caught and presented to court in Sydney. For example, in 2010 a total of 2,848 charges were presented before the local courts of Sydney, 970 were presented before the high courts, and a total of 2388 were presented before the Children’s court (Goh & Moffatt, 2011).  Over half of the number of people who were accused in the Local courts were found to be guilty of the breaking and entering crime (1,339). The main form of punishment given to these offenders was imprisonment as 626 of them were sentenced to averagely 8.9 months (Gelb, 2017). However, other forms of punishment were also offered. 164 offenders were offered bond without supervision and 137 others were offered community service (Gelb, 2017). Of the 961 offenders who were found guilty in the Children’s court, 355 were offered bonds, 258 were offered probation orders, and 191 others were offered control orders (Gelb, 2017). According to statistics in 2010, 88% of these offenders of break and enter were male, while 41 % were under aged individuals (Goh & Moffatt, 2011).

Another characteristic to consider is the offence times. Most breaking and entering occur in the morning hours of weekdays as these are the most ideal times when dwellings are empty and vulnerable (See figure 2). In 2010, the time between 6am to 12 pm on a Tuesday were the most common for the break and enter offences in Sydney. This day was followed closely by 6am to 12 pm on Monday and Wednesday mornings (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

Figure 2: Break in Trend for three Days

With relation to the stolen items, cash is dominantly the target. In 2001 and 2010, a total of 22.6 percent and 31.4 percent of the breaking and entering incidents were reported (Fitzgerald & Poynton, 2001: BOSCAR, 2011). A reason why this is the main target is that it is the only item that manages to retain its full value even after being stolen. Laptops fall closely behind and are becoming even more common over the past few years. For instance, in 2010, 26% of the break and enter incidents resulted in the loss of laptops compared to a 5% occurrence back in 2001 (Fitzgerald & Poynton, 2001). Next, Jewellery is also among the top stolen items with a percentage of 22.6%, followed by Cameras at 15.3% and mobile phones at 14.6% (Fitzgerald & Poynton, 2001). According to BOSCAR (2011), the rise in theft of laptops may be attributed to two factors. First, most people today have laptops. This means that there is more to steal in one house compared to previous times when their availability was scarce. For example, in NSW, the Federal Governments Digital Education Revolution Program added approximately 130, 000 laptops in the NSW region (BOSCAR, 2011). Second, the retail price of laptops has also been maintained. Therefore it is still viewed as valuable to offenders as their prices are high, compared to other electronics which have dramatically reduced (Fitzgerald & Poynton, 2001). Surprisingly, the rate of theft for jewellery in break and enter crimes has always been stable. Since 2001 to 2010, only a slight increase has been experienced with the theft increasing from 21.5 to 22.6 (BOSCAR, 2011). This is despite the rapid rise of gold prices over the past years.

Lastly, with regards to the disposal methods, different measures are used by different offenders. For example, some keep the items for personal use, others sell or exchange them online, sell them to business and even exchange the item for the illicit drugs they are using (Nelson, Collins & Gant, 2002). The time it takes an offender to dispose of the stolen iutems varies significantly depending on the possible method of disposal. For most drug users, the goods were traded with the drug dealers for illicit drugs. This is the most common and fastest means of disposal which occurs approximately 5.5 hours after the goods are stolen (Ferrante & Clare, 2006). Transacting with legitimate businesses such as pawnshops showcased the longest time of disposal. Averagely, it took 35.5 hours after the crime for the offender to finally pawn the item (Ferrante & Clare, 2006). According to research, 36% of the offenders disposed the goods within an hour after stealing, and 82% disposed the goods within 24 hours (Stevenson, Forsythe, Weatherburn, 2001).

Police Strategies

The police strategies to be used to deal with the crime if break and enter include; Rapid response policing, hot spots policing, and problem oriented policing. In rapid response policing, the number of police and police patrols will be increased in Sydney, Australia. This strategy is based on the assumption that increased surveillance from the police will keep the potential offenders at bay and even identify burglary offences while still in action. Although it is difficult to maintain the level of coverage required to deter the criminals, this may be used in corporation with other responses such as the police disruption of secondhand dealer markets, and the use of DNA technology to identify breaking and entering criminals. All these approaches have been used successful in the past in different policing environments in Australia and even internationally.

Hot Spot policing refers to an approach that features a spatial concentration on the crime, or on a specific location that is experiencing increased levels of crime over a sustained period of time (Townsley, 2000). In such areas, repeat victimization is often identified in such areas of high crime rates. Specifically, there seems to be a lack of research on the characteristics of hot spots in Sydney, Australia, NSW. Therefore, since most professionals view hotspots as regions of high breaking and enter crime, as well as the regions with increased risk for repeat victimizations, it is often suggested that such regions be given high priority in terms of employing critical actions in crime prevention (Demers, S. (2016). These author argues that focusing on hot spots is one of the five critical points for action in the prevention of crime. In addition, a similar research conducted by Bennett and Durie (1999) featured the application of a wide range of initiatives which included Cocoon Neighborhood Watch, loan of burglar alarms, offering the community security advice, fitting additional locks to doors and windows, engaging in targeted police patrol, and many others. The result from their research indicated that in the targeted hotspots, the crime rates reduced by up to 4%, while reducing in the wider community by up to 19% (Bennett & Durie, 1999). Therefore, even as Townsley’s (2000) suggests, most crimes tend to impact other related crimes in neighboring regions.

Problem oriented policing is a process through which the police coordinate with other agencies so as to evaluate the underlying features of a crime and the problems systematically so as to implement and evaluate responses that will enable a long term solution by addressing the underlying problems. According to research by Read and Tilley (2000), problem oriented policing is well known to be a successful approach for the reduction of crime problems internationally. Different locations have employed this approach with varying degrees. However, not all areas showcased outstanding results as there were still several cases of crime. This does not mean that the strategy should not be employed. On the contrary, when employed side by side with other strategies, the best results can be expected.

Application to Break and Enter Crime

All the above mentioned strategies will be used side by side. None will be employed alone. Rapid response policing will be achieved by giving priority to property crime. The police section will transfer more police to patrol Sydney both day and night. The police who are assigned to other duties, will be reassigned here. However, more police officers will be dispatched during the morning hours of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This is because it is between 6 am and 12 noon that most breaking and entering crimes are experienced. In addition, the police will not only patron the regions but also conduct research on drug syndicates. Once identified, the police will conduct an operation to arrest the leaders and disperse the gang. The companies which sell second hand products will also be researched thoroughly so as to ensure they are not the one’s funding the breaking and entering criminals.

In relation to hotspot policing, the police who are assigned to patrol the region will identify the neighborhoods where the crime keeps on occurring. These will be labeled the hot spot areas where the police will put great emphasis with regards to criminal activities monitoring. Lastly, problem oriented policing will be used hand in hand with the other strategies so as to ensure the police will find a long lasting solution. While conducting their research and policing functions, the police will also be keeping an eye out for the possible reasons as to why breaking and entering is so high in Sydney, Australia.

The above strategies are valid and effective considering the fact that they have been in use in various places before. Since it is based on police functions, it can easily be implemented while the police are carrying out their daily roles. The use of three complementing strategies will ensure that the weaknesses of individual strategies are countered through the use of other strategies. In addition, the strategies employed are relevant considering the problem of breaking and entering which tends to occur more quietly, hence it can only be identified when the police are patrolling.


The purpose of this paper was to provide a police strategy that will be used to address the issue of breaking and entering. There were different aims including; to introduce the problem effectively while also determining its urgency in the society. To feature a description of the potential police strategies that may be used to deal with the problem. And to apply the police strategies to the crime once its effectiveness and validity has been determined. All these factors have been addressed effectively in the paper. A thorough description of the problem of breaking and entering has been given before relevant police strategies were presented to deal with the problem.



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