Theft and Property Crimes

In the state of Delaware, theft and property crimes seem to be on the rise in all of the major cities. From Brandywine to Wilmington, property crimes have started to become the dominant topic of conversation for citizens and law enforcement officials. There are many different ways to look at property crimes in Delaware, but we can start this discussion with a look at the very basic statistics for 2012.

  • Number of thefts reported in Delaware in 2012 – 21,878
  • Number of burglaries reported in Delaware in 2012 – 7,531
  • The Delaware state median for property crimes per 1,000 residents – 34.11
  • The United States national media for property crimes per 1,000 residents – 29.10

Since Delaware is a physically small state, its high crime numbers tend to stand out from the rest of the United States. As an example, we can look at the theft and property crime number per square mile in  Delaware and then compare that to the rest of the United States.

  • Property crimes per square mile in Delaware – 91
  • Property crimes per square mile in the United States – 40

It can sometimes feel unfair to compare the crime in Delaware to the rest of the country because the landmass of Delaware is so small and there are nearly 1 million residents packed into that small space, but it is relevant to compare ratios when trying to understand the property crime issue in Delaware.

For example, the number of motor vehicle thefts in Delaware in 2012 was 1,530. In the United States as a whole, there were 715,373 motor vehicle thefts. When you put the numbers side by side, it tends to diminish the issue for the state of Delaware. But when put in the proper context, these numbers really stand out. In Delaware, there are 1.69 auto thefts for every 1,000 citizens. In the United States, the ratio is 2.30. That means that the overall auto theft ratio for the state of Delaware is very close to the ratio for the entire country.

We can break this discussion down further by getting an understanding of what kinds of theft crimes we are talking about. Burglaries would include home invasions and any incidence where items were removed from a car without the owner’s consent. Theft instances include shoplifting, stealing office supplies, taking someone’s cell phone without consent or any crime where you took something that did not belong to you and did not have permission. The difference is that burglaries involved forced entries, where thefts usually do not involve any kind of force.

Some of the theft and property crime numbers that come from Delaware can be attributed to the state’s close proximity to Philadelphia and other large cities that suffer from high crime rates. When the criminals in Philadelphia decide to cross over to Delaware, especially into Wilmington, and set up shop, it can cause a lot of problems for the law enforcement officials in Delaware. The frustrating thing is that the crime rate in Philadelphia does not seem to drop very much, even though there are some criminals from Philadelphia who are trying their luck with Wilmington and other smaller communities.

This close proximity to major crime areas has been a large contributing factor to the theft and property crime rate in Delaware. As an example, there were 12,057 burglaries in Philadelphia in 2011. That makes for a ratio of 788 per 100,000 residents for that city. The city of Wilmington, Delaware only has a population of approximately 72,000 people. If just a small percentage of the property crimes that were being committed in Philadelphia were committed in Wilmington, the little city’s crime rate would skyrocket. It is an unfortunate side effect to having your small state located so closely to a large population area. Yes, the city of Wilmington sees its fair share of revenue and commerce from being so close to Philadelphia. But there is also the added element of crime to deal with, which can more than offset the positive effects of the commerce.

Another element that has added to burglaries and property crimes in Delaware is the unemployment rate in the state. As an example, the unemployment rate in the city of Wilmington in 2011 was 14 percent. The national average was approximately nine percent. The unemployment troubles in Delaware seemed to arrive the same time that the 2008 recession started. Much of Delaware’s commerce was tied to the financial services industry. When that industry collapsed, the state was thrown into financial turmoil and crime rates rose.

The residents of Delaware are doing their best to reduce crime and the efforts do seem to be having some positive effects. But it is obvious that the one thing that will reduce theft and property crimes in the state of Delaware is a drop in the unemployment rate and that does not seem to be on the horizon any time soon.