Larceny-theft Content Updated 02/17/06


The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines larceny-theft as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another; attempts to do these acts are included in the definition. This crime category includes shoplifting, pocket-picking, purse-snatching, thefts from motor vehicles, thefts of motor vehicle parts and accessories, bicycle thefts, and so forth, in which no use of force, violence, or fraud occurs. Excluded from larceny-theft is motor vehicle theft, which is classified in a separate offense category; also excluded are crimes that involve embezzlement, confidence games, forgery, and worthless checks—all of which are UCR Part II offenses.


Year Number of offenses Rate per 100,000 inhabitants
2003 7,026,802 2,416.5
2004 6,947,685 2,365.9
Percent change -1.1 -2.1

National Volume, Trends, and Rates

In 2004, larceny-theft accounted for an estimated 67.3 percent of the Nation’s property crimes. (See Table 1.) Trend data showed that the number of larceny-thefts decreased 1.1 percent from the 2003 estimate, a slight 0.3 percent from the 2000 estimate, and 13.1 percent from the 1995 estimate.

Two-, 5-, and 10-year trend data also showed a decline in the frequency of larceny-theft per 100,000 inhabitants. With an estimated 6,947,685 occurrences of this offense in 2004, there were 2,365.9 larceny thefts per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide. This rate reflects declines of 2.1 percent from the 2003 estimate, 4.5 percent from the 2000 estimate, and 22.3 percent from the 1995 estimate. (See Tables 1 and 1A.)

Figure 2.12
Percent Change from 2000
Figure 2.12: Larceny-theft Percent Change from 2000

Regional Offense Trends and Rates

The UCR Program defines four regions within the United States: the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, and the West. (See Appendix III for a geographical description of each region.) A comparison of 2003 and 2004 data showed that both the estimated number and the estimated rate of larceny-theft offenses declined across all regions. (See Tables 3 and 4.) The following paragraphs provide a regional overview of larceny-theft.

The Northeast

The region with the smallest proportion (18.6 percent) of the U.S. population in 2004, the Northeast experienced the fewest larceny-theft offenses nationwide: an estimated 13.1 percent. (See Table 3.) The estimated number of offenses (907,670) declined 0.6 percent compared with 2003 data, and the estimated rate of occurrences (1,663.3 per 100,000 inhabitants) declined 0.9 percent. (See Table 4.)

Table 2.26

Larceny-theft by Month
Percent Distribution, 2000-2004

Month 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
January 7.6 7.7 8.1 7.9 7.9
February 7.3 6.8 7.0 6.7 7.1
March 8.2 7.8 7.8 8.1 8.3
April 7.9 8.0 8.1 8.3 8.2
May 8.6 8.6 8.6 8.7 8.5
June 8.8 8.6 8.5 8.6 8.7
July 9.2 9.1 9.2 9.2 9.0
August 9.2 9.1 9.1 9.0 8.9
September 8.5 8.4 8.6 8.6 8.4
October 8.8 9.1 8.9 8.8 8.8
November 8.0 8.3 8.0 8.0 8.1
December 7.9 8.4 8.1 8.2 8.1

The Midwest

Accounting for 22.4 percent of the population in 2004, the Midwest had an estimated 21.7 percent of the Nation’s larceny-thefts. (See Table 3.) The estimated number of offenses (1,507,171) declined 2.3 percent compared with 2003 data, and the estimated rate of occurrences (2,293.0 per 100,000 inhabitants) declined 2.8 percent. (See Table 4.)

The South

With more than one-third of the U.S. population (36.1 percent) in 2004, the South had the Nation’s highest percentage of larceny-theft offenses: an estimated 41.3 percent. (See Table 3.) There were an estimated 2,870,994 offenses, which reflected a 0.8-percent decline from the 2003 estimate. The rate, estimated at 2,709.9 larceny-thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, decreased 2.1 percent from the 2003 estimated rate. (See Table 4.)

The West

In 2004, an estimated 23.0 percent of the U.S. population lived in the West, which accounted for 23.9 percent of the Nation’s larceny-theft offenses. (See Table 3.) Occurrences of this offense declined 0.9 percent from the 2003 data, down to an estimated 1,661,850 larceny-theft offenses. The rate, estimated at 2,465.3 larceny-thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, declined 2.3 percent. (See Table 4.)

Table 2.27: Larceny-theft Percent Distribution by Region, 2004

Community Types

The UCR Program aggregates crime data by three community types: Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), cities outside MSAs, and nonmetropolitan counties. By definition, an MSA has a principal city with at least 50,000 inhabitants. It includes the county that contains the principal city and adjacent counties that share a high degree of economic and social integration with the principal city and county as measured by commuting. Cities outside the MSAs are mostly incorporated areas, and nonmetropolitan counties are composed of unincorporated areas. (For additional information regarding community types, see Appendix III.)

In 2004, most of the Nation’s population (an estimated 82.9 percent) lived in the MSAs, where an estimated 86.7 percent of the larceny-theft offenses occurred. Cities outside the MSAs (with 6.8 percent of the population) had 8.9 percent of the offenses, and nonmetropolitan counties (with 10.4 percent of the population) had an estimated 4.4 percent of the offenses. (Based on Table 2.)

Population Groups: Trends and Rates

To calculate 2-year trend data for population groups, the UCR Program reviewed reports from all agencies that submitted statistics on larceny-theft offenses for at least 6 common months in 2003 and 2004. (For an explanation of population groups and the number of agencies contributing to the UCR Program, see Appendix III; for the methodology used in tabular presentations, see Appendix I.)

Figure 2.13
Larceny-theft Categories
Percent Change from 2000 Figure 2.13: Larceny-theft Categories Percent Change from 2000

In cities collectively, occurrences of larceny-theft in 2004 declined 1.9 percent compared with 2003 data. Among the city groups, cities with populations of 250,000 and over had the largest decrease (3.4 percent) in larceny-theft offenses compared with 2003 data; cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999 had the smallest decrease (0.1 percent). In metropolitan counties, the decline was 0.7 percent, and in nonmetropolitan counties, 0.5 percent.

Based on reports of larceny-theft offenses from U.S. law enforcement agencies submitting 12 months of complete data for 2004, this offense occurred at a rate of 2,418.1 per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide. In cities collectively, the rate was 2,884.4 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. Among the city population groups, cities with populations of 100,000 to 249,999 experienced the highest rate of larceny-theft: 3,218.7 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. Cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999 had the lowest rate: 2,519.3. In metropolitan counties, the estimated rate was 1,619.6; in nonmetropolitan counties, it was 1,030.6 offenses. (See Table 16.)

Figure 2.14
Percent Distribution.1 2004
Figure 2.14: Larceny-theft Percent Distribution. 2004

1 Due to rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.

Offense Analysis


Thefts from motor vehicles accounted for the majority of offenses in the category of larceny-theft: 25.3 percent. Table 23 provides a further breakdown of larceny-theft offenses, including shoplifting, thefts from buildings, thefts of motor vehicle accessories, thefts of bicycles, thefts from coin-operated machines, purse-snatching, and pocket-picking. “All other,” a category that includes the less-defined larceny-theft offenses, accounted for 31.6 percent of the total.

Loss by Dollar Value

Larceny-theft offenses cost victims an estimated $5.1 billion in lost property in 2004, up from $4.9 billion in 2003. (Based on Tables 1 and 23.) The average value of property stolen was estimated at $727 per offense, up 4.2 percent from the 2003 figure. The category with the highest average loss in dollar value was theft from buildings ($1,106 per offense). Thefts from motor vehicles were valued at $697 per offense; thefts of motor vehicle accessories, $428; purse-snatching, $416; pocket-picking, $360; thefts from coin-operated machines, $244; thefts of bicycles, $240; and shoplifting, $156.

Offenses in which the stolen property was valued at more than $200 accounted for 39.1 percent of the crimes in the category of larceny-theft. Table 23 provides a further analysis, including the average dollar value per offense, of all offenses in the overall category of property crime.


In the UCR Program, an offense can be cleared either by arrest or by exceptional means, i.e., when conditions beyond the control of law enforcement prevent placing formal charges against the offender. (For a further explanation of clearances, see Section III.) In 2004, law enforcement agencies across the Nation collectively cleared 18.3 percent of reported larceny-theft offenses.

Among the population groups, law enforcement in cities collectively cleared 18.4 percent of reported larceny-theft offenses. The highest percentage of larceny-theft offenses cleared (22.5 percent) occurred in cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999. The lowest percentage of larceny-theft offenses cleared (14.7 percent) took place in cities with populations of 250,000 and over. Law enforcement agencies in metropolitan counties cleared 18.0 percent of offenses in this category, and those in nonmetropolitan counties cleared 17.7 percent. (See Table 25.)

An analysis of clearances by region shows that law enforcement agencies in the Northeast cleared the largest proportion of their larceny-theft offenses: 21.9 percent. Agencies in the South cleared 18.4 percent; in the Midwest, 17.9 percent; and in the West, 16.6 percent. (See Table 26.)

Clearances and Juveniles

In certain circumstances involving juveniles, a law enforcement agency may report that an offense is cleared by arrest even when no physical arrest is made. This type of clearance must meet the following criteria: the offender is under the age of 18 and is cited to appear in juvenile court or before other juvenile authorities. When a clearance involves both adult and juvenile offenders, it is classified as an adult clearance.

In 2004, of the total number of larceny-theft offenses cleared nationwide, 19.8 percent involved juveniles alone. In cities collectively, 20.6 percent of such clearances involved only juveniles. Law enforcement agencies in cities with populations of 50,000 to 99,999 reported the highest percentage of clearances that involved solely juveniles, 23.0 percent. The lowest percentage of such clearances (17.0 percent) occurred in cities having a population of 250,000 and over.

In metropolitan counties, agencies reported that 16.7 percent of clearances for larceny-theft offenses involved only juveniles; in nonmetropolitan counties, 14.2 percent involved only juveniles. (See Table 28.)


Table 2.27

Percent Distribution by Region, 2004

Type United
Northeast Midwest South West
Total 1 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Pocket-picking 0.4 0.7 0.4 0.4 0.4
Purse-snatching 0.6 1.3 0.5 0.5 0.6
Shoplifting 14.5 15.9 13.8 14.0 15.1
From motor vehicles (except accessories) 25.3 20.0 21.6 23.7 32.5
Motor vehicle accessories 10.8 8.8 10.2 11.4 11.1
Bicycles 3.6 4.6 4.1 2.8 3.8
From buildings 12.4 15.5 14.0 10.3 12.7
From coin-operated machines 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.8 0.6
All others 31.6 32.6 34.8 36.3 23.2

1 Because of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0