Exploring the practices of steal-to-order burglars: a different brand of offender?


This research helps shed light on the largely overlooked practices amongst steal-to-order offenders, with a view to identifying ways in which steal-to-order offences may be disrupted through targeted intervention. Interviews were conducted with a sample of incarcerated burglars who have previously engaged in steal-to-order offences. In addition to highlighting a number of parallels between steal-to-order and non-steal-to-order offences, this paper illustrates the nature of professionalism exhibited by offenders during steal-to-order offences. Moreover, this paper reveals a behavioural continuum amongst offenders engaging in steal-to-order offences: those who steal-to-offer, those who steal-to-order more general items, and those who steal-to-order more specialist goods. The paper also highlights the potential lack of flexibility experienced by steal-to-order offenders, and the implications of this in challenging criminological theory of offender decision making. The paper concludes by discussing how steps at both a residential and organisational level may be taken to effectively disrupt the practices of offenders during steal-to-order offences.

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  1. 1.

    Based on 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales (Shaw et al. 2015).

  2. 2.

    The ‘Market Reduction Approach’ is a multi-disciplinary approach which seeks to reduce levels of acquisitive offending through the disruption of stolen goods markets (Sutton et al. 2001).

  3. 3.

    Offenders in the broader sample had an average age of 34 years, compared with an average age of 36 years in the current sub-sample, and held an average of 17 convictions for an estimated average of 73 burglary offences, compared with an average of 18 convictions, for an estimated average of 111 burglary offences.

  4. 4.

    At the time of an individual’s arrest, they may be asked by the police to confess to any other similar offences, on the understanding that it will not be possible to prosecute the individual separately for these offences, but that they shall instead be taken into consideration at the time of sentencing for the original offence. Though it may be the case that a court will increase a sentence as a result of these TICs, this will usually be less severe than if they had been prosecuted separately for these offences (Sentencing Council 2011).

  5. 5.

    Network sales relates to friends or contacts of an offender who they would draw on to either buy the stolen goods for their own use (or to sell on themselves), or who would pass knowledge of the item’s availability to their own contacts, until a buyer was found (Sutton 2008).

  6. 6.

    Such offences are termed ‘Hanoi’ burglaries after ‘Operation Hanoi’, a West Yorkshire Police operation which was the first UK police operation targeting this particular type of offence (The Yorkshire Post 2009).

  7. 7.

    Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is used by law enforcement agencies across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to help detect, disrupt, and deter criminal behaviour across national, regional, and local levels (www.police.uk 2018).


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This research was supported through an ‘Innovations in Quantitative Methods’ Scholarship from the University of Leeds. The authors are grateful to Professor David Best, Dr James Banks, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Thanks are also extended to HM Prison Service for enabling access to the offenders in this study, and, in particular, to the staff and prisoners who gave their valuable time in order to support this work.

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Correspondence to Nicholas Addis.

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Addis, N., Evans, A. & Malleson, N. Exploring the practices of steal-to-order burglars: a different brand of offender?. Secur J 32, 457–475 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-019-00174-w

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  • Burglary
  • Steal-to-order
  • Stolen goods
  • Crime prevention
  • Modus operandi