Temptations, Techniques and Typologies: Insights from a Western Australian Sample of Young People Who Burgle

Published date01 December 2023
AuthorSuzanne Rock,Natalie Gately,James McCue,Nathalie St Martin
Date01 December 2023
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
Youth Justice
2023, Vol. 23(3) 311 –331
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/14732254221122617
Temptations, Techniques and
Typologies: Insights from a Western
Australian Sample of Young People
Who Burgle
Suzanne Rock, Natalie Gately ,
James McCue and Nathalie St Martin
A significant amount of property crime is committed by young people. In this novel qualitative study, 50
young people were interviewed to obtain an insight into their motivations to burgle. Decisions were based
on peer pressure, opportunity and perceived need. Bennett and Wright’s typologies of adult burglars
were applied to young burglars. Young burglars were more prone than adults in Bennett and Wright’s
study to commit opportunistic burglaries, but were deterred by similar target characteristics. The social
and psychological factors are strong motivators for youth burglary and should guide the development of
intervention and deterrence strategies.
burglary, typology, young burglars, young offenders, youth justice
Burglary offences remain of particular concern to law enforcement agencies, individuals
and the broader community (Mawby, 2013). Burglary crimes result in significant costs to
victims and the wider community. Victims experience financial burdens associated with
the loss of items as well as the psychological injury caused by an unknown person violat-
ing their private space (Beaton et al., 2000; Bjørgo, 2016; Brown and Harris, 1989;
Grabosky, 1995; Mawby, 2013). From a community perspective, the significant costs of
burglary are associated with investigating burglary, recovering stolen items, prosecuting
offenders and increases in insurance premiums (Cummings, 2005; Gately et al., 2014).
However, burglaries do not happen by chance (Grabosky, 1995). The risk that homes will
Corresponding author:
Natalie Gately, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, WA 6027, Australia.
Email: n.gately@ecu.edu.au
1122617YJJ0010.1177/14732254221122617Youth JusticeRock et al.
Original Article
312 Youth Justice 23(3)
become targets depends on the opportunities and motives of prospective offenders
(Grabosky, 1995).
In Australia, burglary 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 [ABS], 2011: 56). It can include breaking and entering offences regardless of
whether property has been stolen. Historical data for burglary offences indicates the
overall rates have been declining since 2001 (ABS, 2018). The reduction in burglary
offences may suggest that crime prevention strategies are generally effective in combat-
ing this crime (Grove, 2011; Morgan et al., 2012). However, the Australian Bureau of
Statistics showed there were still nearly 170,000 reported victims of burglary in 2018
(ABS, 2018a).
A substantial proportion of property crime is committed by young people. Furthermore,
burglary remains the most common offence young people present for in the Children’s
Court of Western Australia, with rates remaining steady for the past 5 years (Department
of Justice, 2019a). Young people who are apprehended and sentenced for burglary offences
in Western Australia are overwhelmingly Indigenous (Tubex et al., 2018). Mandatory
sentencing legislation in Western Australia for burglary offences has been argued to be
discriminatory and to have increased rates of incarceration for young Indigenous people
(Tubex et al., 2018). While not the focus of the article, it is an important consideration
when examining young burglars in Western Australia (Figure 1).
Given the extent of burglary offences, representatives from the Western Australia
Police Force requested assistance from independent researchers to explore young bur-
glars1 who had recently committed a burglary offence to garner the experiences of young
burglars, their modus operandi and motivations to burgle. The term ‘young burglars’ is
used to refer to the young people in this study aged between 11 and 18 who reported
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600
Offences against justice procedures
Traffic offences
Public order offences
Property damage and environmental offences
Weapons offences
Illicit drug offences
Fraud offences
Theft offences
Unlawful entry, burglary etc.
Robbery offences
Abduction, harrassment etc.
Dangerous/negligence offences
Sex offences
Acts intended to cause injury
Homicide offences
Figure 1. Criminal case lodgements by offence type.
Source: Department of Justice (2019a).

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