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US Study: Treating More Thefts as a Less-Serious Crime did not lead Property Crime to Increase

9th March 2016

Since 2001, more than 30 states in the US have raised the threshold on what theft offences can be charged as a serious theft (and be punished more heavily), instead of a non-serious theft. So, for example, before 2001 Oklahoma treated any theft of $50 or more as a serious theft but, after 2001, that threshold was raised so that only thefts worth $500 or more would be charged as a serious theft. Similarly, in 2010 South Carolina doubled its threshold on what theft offences could be charged as serious, from $1000 or more to $2000 or more.   

Some warned that raising the bar on what could be punished as a serious theft might cause property crime to rise. The PEW Charitable Trusts decided to test this claim and reported their findings in the brief. Overall, they were able to arrive at “three important conclusions”:

1) Raising the threshold on what could be charged as a serious theft has no impact on overall property crime rates;
2) Property crime rates have been falling over the last two decades in the US, and the states that increased their theft thresholds reported roughly similar average decreases in crime as the states that did not change their theft laws;
3) The amount of a state’s theft threshold has no bearing on its level of property crimes.

The brief can be read here.

viewed here