What is Property Crime?

man committing property crime

When someone talks about crime, they may be talking about a wide range of things. Crime can be anything from theft to murder. In the United States, these crimes have multiple labels and groupings. One of the ways the justice system in PA categorizes them is as violent crimes and property crimes. The difference between them may seem obvious in some ways, but not so much in others.

For example, there are three types of theft, and you would think that all of them would be property crimes. It makes sense logically to think that a crime defined by stealing property would be a property crime, but actually, robbery is a violent crime, not a property crime.

Violent crimes and property crimes in PA carry different consequences you should pay attention to. You don’t want to face the wrong criminal charge if it’s worse than what you were originally accused of. This is even before you start building a case to prove your innocence. You need to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam for help with your case before it’s too late.

What is Property Crime?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines property crimes as crimes where: “the object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.” In layman’s terms, you have to be stealing, damaging, or destroying property without ever putting someone in harm’s way.

There are many property crimes you should be aware of because they almost always carry lesser punishments than violent crimes.

Burglary & Theft

Theft crimes include burglary and theft. These are all cases of someone directly stealing objects and/or physical money but without the use of force. While someone may not sustain a serious injury from robbery, physically touching someone at all without consent is paramount to assault.

Burglary and theft (also known as larceny) include taking someone’s belongings without coming into contact with the owner. Burglary is when you break into someone’s home and steal something or break in with the intent to steal something.

Burglary can be a property crime or a violent crime. If you harm someone as you break into their house to steal something, it’s a violent burglary, but if you don’t, it’s a property crime burglary. It cannot be both at the same time, but you can have multiple burglary charges where one was a violent crime and one was a burglary crime.

Theft is when you take someone’s property without consent. Theft can be in public places where you steal something without a struggle or by taking something from a place you’ve been invited to.


When people hear the word vandalism, most people think of street art on buildings without permission. While this is one of the most common forms of vandalism, it is not the only one.

Vandalism is any deliberate act of destroying or damaging public or private property. This means teepeeing your friend’s house, keying your ex’s car, or throwing a brick through a business’s window are all acts of vandalism.

As long as no one is hurt during the act, it would be considered a property crime. While you can become responsible for someone’s hospital bills if they are injured while cleaning up or inspecting the damage, your charge shouldn’t change into a violent charge. In the worst scenario, you may find yourself with an additional but separate charge.

If you destroy someone’s property by accident, this is something you would be sued for in civil court.


Arson is a serious crime that can be a property crime or a violent crime. This is when someone purposely sets a property on fire on purpose for any reason. If no one is harmed by the fire or is almost harmed, then arson is considered a property crime. Pets are considered property so if a pet’s life is lost in an arson fire, it is still considered a property crime.


Extortion is another serious crime that can be a property crime or a violent crime. Extortion is when someone obtains money or objects of value through threats or force. When it’s through threats, it’s a property crime, but when it’s through force, it’s considered a violent crime.

What separates extortion from typical assault is that someone was assaulted because they wouldn’t pay the extortion cost. A threat does not warrant a designation as a violent crime.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at MVSK Law For Help

Property crimes come with a leaner criminal charge since they don’t include violence or anyone who is physically harmed. You don’t want to want to face a violent criminal charge as a jury and a judge are less likely to look favorably at someone accused of hurting someone else.

To ensure you are being charged fairly, and to build a defense in your case, you need a criminal justice attorney. The attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam have the experience and skill to help you through a difficult situation. Contact us today.

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