Organised Acquisitive Crime Title. Shows image of person approaching a house at night.

Please note that all content for this threat is provided by the Opal, who are the national intelligence unit for organised acquisitive crime.

Organised acquisitive crime focuses on high-harm and cross-border burglary, vehicle crime, robbery, heritage and cultural property crime, plant and agricultural thefts and metal and infrastructure crime, amongst other crime types. 2022 saw an overall increase in organised acquisitive crime reporting when compared with 2021. This is reflective of international COVID-19 pandemic travel and EU exit trade restrictions leading to increased difficulty in offenders’ movement and disposal of property. 

It is highly likely that all areas of organised acquisitive crime will increase in the coming years due to increases in the cost of living. It is anticipated that there will be a correlation between the volume of offending and increased value of property. 

19% increase in car theft in 2022 compared to 2021. Source: Opal.There were 110,739 vehicle thefts recorded in 2022 compared with 93,006 during 2021, a 19% increase. The most frequently stolen vehicles remain the Ford Transit and Ford Fiesta, often used to commit further organised acquisitive crimes.

Methods of theft have continued to evolve, with offenders turning to new technology to facilitate thefts such as electronic compromise thefts often committed by organised crime groups. Offenders continue to employ traditional methods of theft such as car key burglaries. High levels of organisation have been demonstrated through the use of new technologies and subsequent disposal via ‘chop shops’ and exports. The high levels of organisation make it difficult for law enforcement to recover vehicles with criminals using further methods such as tampering with vehicle information to avoid detection. Additionally, the breaking down of vehicles into component parts again reduces the chances of a vehicle being recovered, making identification more difficult.

Catalytic converter thefts have fallen significantly throughout 2022 with 22,902 offences recorded compared with 36,739 for 2021, a decrease of 37.7%. The decrease is likely due to lower market values for platinum-group metals and increased value of second hand vehicles. Older hybrid vehicles remain the most often targeted vehicle, with offences most likely to occur in large public car parks with low security, during the hours of daylight. Car parks are targeted due to the higher volumes of vehicles and therefore increased profits available. Whilst the number of offences has fallen, the relative ease to carry out the offences and availability of tools makes catalytic converter thefts attractive for smaller organised crime groups.

In 2022 residential burglaries increased by less than 1%, with 164,537 offences in 2022 compared to 162,958 offences in 2021, with an 11.8% increase in commercial burglary offences with 63,843 offences in 2022 compared to 57,109 in 2021. Jewellery and cash remain the most frequently targeted items with residential burglaries, and cigarettes, alcohol and cash the most targeted items in commercial burglaries.

Family gold burglaries reduced by 52.6% to 576 offences in 2022 compared with 1,214 offences in 2021. Offences appear to correlate to the market value for gold, 2022 has seen relatively stable gold prices and therefore lower levels of thefts.

30% increase in cable theft in 2022 compared to 2021. Source: Opal.Copper is the most frequently targeted metal with cable thefts reporting a 24.6% increase for 2022 with 1,563 offences, compared to 1,254 in 2021. Offences reduced in the latter half of 2022 but the quantity and value taken during each offence increased substantially. Offences show a strong correlation to the market value of materials and therefore offences are expected to increase into 2023.

Lead thefts from church roofs increased in 2022 by 6.8% from 162 offences recorded in 2021 to 173 offences recorded in 2022. The harm caused by these offences is substantial and leads to significant loss of heritage along with expensive repair costs to listed buildings. 

Reporting of agricultural and construction equipment thefts has increased by 14% with 3,446 offences in 2022 compared with 3,022 offences in 2021. There are seasonal offending trends with many thefts reporting foreign national offender organised crime group involvement and international disposal of property.

2022 saw a 22.6% increase in fuel theft reporting, likely due to changing legislation regarding red diesel sales. As cost of living pressures increase it is likely that these offences will continue to increase into 2023.

What You Can Do 

To improve our understanding of organised acquisitive crime it is important that all such offences are reported to police.

You can report to local police by calling 101 or 999 if there is an immediate risk of harm or danger. Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, please contact Crimestoppers.

When reporting such offences ensure that accurate details of the offence are provided including descriptions of property, method of offending and descriptions of offenders/offending vehicles. 

Ensure that your property/business is secure and has up-to-date security measures to prevent thefts from occurring. In the event of a theft ensure that any CCTV imagery is shared with police to assist in apprehending offenders. 

If you suspect that a crime is taking place do not put yourself at risk, instead call the police and report what you have seen.

For crime prevention advice visit your local police website, where resources will provide advice on safety tools, property marking systems and other methods of keeping property and public safe.

Case Study

Opal image showing police at a scrap metal dealer as part of the operation as described in the case study.Catalytic converters, which clean harmful gases before they exit a vehicle's exhaust pipe, are often targeted by thieves because of the precious metal they contain. 

In February 2022, police forces across the UK visited over 600 premises, including catalytic converter process plants, scrap metal dealers (as shown in image), vehicle dismantlers and catalytic converter buyers, and made 30 arrests as part of a crackdown on metal crime and money laundering in the waste industry. 

British Transport Police coordinated the operation, which saw police forces join experts from the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, Smartwater Group, and motor industry to carry out this synchronised enforcement action. 

Robbery and Business Crime are Increasing

Graphic showing robbery and business crime are increasing. Shows line chart comparing 2021 with 2022, where 2022 is above 2021 levels. The increase is in line with the rising cost of living.