In 2019, US law enforcement arrested over 800,000 people for larceny/theft. This is separate from burglary. It’s safe to say that theft is a major crime in the US and it’s the crime with the third highest arrest rate after DUI and drug-related crimes. Knowing that will help give this list a little context as there are some staggering theft statistics in the world at large.
10. Millions of Pets Are Stolen Every Year
Some things are more desirable to thieves than others. Or at least it seems like they should be. Cash has to be the most tempting item for any thief. Then you have things like cars, electronics, sneakers, drugs, and so much more. It turns out that pets are pretty high on the list as well. People will absolutely steal your pet.
It’s hard to put precise numbers on pet theft since it’s also possible a pet ran away, got lost, and then someone adopted it thinking it was a stray. Or maybe the animal wandered off and came back and the owners thought it was stolen but returned. So stats are fuzzy, but in 2017 around 360,000 residents in the UK were convinced someone had stolen their cat. Of those, 55% got their cat back.
In America the numbers can be fuzzy as well. The Humane Society merges stats for stolen and lost pets together. Their stats say 10 million pets are lost or stolen every year. The American Kennel Club has more refined numbers and estimates two million dogs were stolen from their owners in 2020. That number rose in subsequent years and was blamed on a rise in demand during the pandemic.
9. One Million Parking Cones are Stolen Every Year
Parking cones are a ubiquitous part of the driving experience. We see those orange cones on the side of the road constantly during construction or around worksites and accidents. Most of us probably don’t think twice about them, but someone sure does. One million traffic cones are stolen per year in America.
If you’re struggling to figure out why anyone would steal a parking cone, you’ll be equally surprised to learn many towns have had to deal with this for years. It got so bad in Coventry, Connecticut that local authorities started begging thieves to bring them back. The town would set them out after storms to warn residents of downed trees and power lines and the next day almost all would be gone.
In the UK, police have sometimes resorted to amnesty days where people who have taken cones can return them with no questions asked hoping to recoup losses. The cones can cost around $20 and it’s taxpayers who foot the bill.
8. 10% of Employees Admit to Stealing Toilet Paper From Work
Have you ever stolen from work? If you said no, you’re in the minority. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 75% of employees have stolen something from their work. But what does that mean? Are they stealing cash from the till? Fries from the fryer? Computers from the office? Well, it’s a tough one to break down.
Aside from things of great value, small things are just as likely to be targeted. Maybe more so, because you might figure no one would miss something insignificant like toilet paper. In one survey, 61% of office workers admitted to stealing from work and one in 10 of them was stealing toilet paper.
It’s not just office workers, of course. A hotel cleaner was caught with a garbage bag full of 66 toilet paper rolls he stole from his job in 2020. He claimed to be donating them to a friend who was out of work.
In some contexts, stealing toilet paper makes a little more sense. Recall the early days of the pandemic when people were hoarding toilet paper and there were even fights over in stores. In 2020, police recovered a truck loaded with 18,000 pounds of stolen toilet paper.
7. Thieves Once Stole $18 Million in Maple Syrup
One quart of organic Vermont maple syrup costs about $22 from Walmart. That’s a good amount of syrup, too. It should last a while, depending on your penchant for pancakes. So keep that in mind in relation to this story about a team of thieves in Canada who stole $18 million worth of maple syrup.
Between 2011 and 2012, a group of thieves worked together to make off with 9,600 barrels of maple syrup from a Quebec warehouse. Officials thought nearly $30 million had been stolen at first but a recount of missing barrels brought it down to that slim $18 million.
After the suspects were caught, authorities reclaimed around 70% of the stolen syrup but the rest was believed to have been sold to Americans. So over $5 million in purloined syrup found its way to US waffles.
6. Up to 380,000 Guns are Stolen Every Year in America
In 2020 it was estimated that there were 433.9 million guns in America. That’s 1.3 guns for everyone in the country. With that many guns around you just know someone has to be stealing them, and they definitely are. There are up to 380,000 guns stolen from private owners every year in America.
The ATF’s numbers show that, between 2017 and 2021, over one million guns were stolen. They also pointed out that these were reported thefts and there is no federal law requiring you to report a stolen gun and most states don’t have one, either. That means the true number of stolen guns is likely a lot higher.
Gun theft is not just a big city crime, either. The town of Jonesboro, Arkansas, with a population of under 80,000, had reported over 40 gun thefts in 2022 by April of that year.
5. One in Five Americans Had Their Identity Stolen in 2021
By now most of us are aware of identity theft and that we need to be careful when sharing sensitive information, especially online. Less well known may be how prevalent identity theft is. In the year 2021, one in five Americans were the victim of identity theft. That cost people about $56 billion in losses. Around 33% of all Americans had experienced identity theft by the year 2018.
In a global sense, Americans are definitely leading the pack, suffering identity theft at twice the global average. The research also showed a lot of this was because of poor habits relating to security. For instance, 44% of people who took part in the survey that produced these results didn’t have password-protected wi-fi at home.
Another alarming stat is that, in 2016, 11% of victims of identity theft didn’t want to file a police report, likely out of embarrassment. As these types of crimes have become more and more common, it’s a reasonable assumption that there are also higher numbers than being reported for this same reason.
4. Porch Thieves Steal 260 Million Packages Per Year
If you spend a lot of time online, you have no doubt heard of porch thieves. Videos of these thieves taken from Ring cameras and other home security have been around for years. These are thieves who see a package left on someone’s porch, something from Amazon or other kinds of package delivery, and will simply walk up and steal the box before the rightful owner gets home.
The reason there are so many videos of this kind of crime is because there’s just so much of this kind of crime. In 2021 alone it was estimated that 260 million packages were taken off of porches. In 2016 that worked out to 1.7 million packages being pinched from porches every single day.
Security firm Safewise conducted a survey to determine San Francisco was the worst city in America for porch thefts. Over 75% of Americans have experienced porch theft and losses are up to $19.5 billion with average packages valued between $50 and $100.
3. Millions of Bicycles Are Stolen Every Year
In 2021 about 51 million Americans rode bikes. It’s even more popular in Europe where you can find enormous populations of cycling enthusiasts in major cities. It’s estimated 90% of the people in the Netherlands regularly cycle. As with anything that’s popular there are thieves waiting in the wings to ruin it for everyone.
It’s estimated that around 4 million bicycles are stolen every year in Europe, many of them unreported. In the US, that number is around two million. The under-reporting of bike theft makes it hard to get concrete numbers, with at least once registry services estimating that only one in five thefts is ever reported.
2. $75 Million in Used Cooking Oil is Stolen Every Year
There’s an old saying that goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and that’s very true in the world of oil. Used cooking oil from restaurants was once considered nothing but a trash by-product from making french fries and chicken. Now it’s a huge business.
Old cooking oil, which restaurants sometimes store outside in sealed barrels until it can be picked up, can be used for many purposes if it’s cleaned and recycled but the biggest one is biodiesel. It is just old oil and not that much different from the oil we already refine into gasoline.
While gas prices have continued to rise over the years, biodiesel is actually even more expensive. In April 2023 a gallon of gasoline in America averaged $3.69 but the most expensive kind of biodiesel averaged $4.95 per gallon. If it can be made from buckets of trash behind fast food restaurants, you can see why some people might want to steal it. And steal it they do.
America produces over 2.5 billion gallons of used cooking oil every year. About $75 million in used oil is stolen in the same time period. The whole industry was set up to be very tempting to thieves. Restaurants can’t legally just throw the stuff out, it has to be taken somewhere to be processed. There are laws requiring that a certain amount of biodiesel be used every year, too, so the demand continues to grow.
1. Dairy Farmers Lose Up To $100 Million a Year in Milk Crate Thefts
How many milk crates have you seen in places that weren’t grocery stores in your life? Milk crates in basements, garages, backyards, wherever. Those plastic cubes are used the world over for storing and organizing people’s junks and, of course, for shipping milk. But most of those crates that don’t have milk in them are supposed to. They were never purchased; they were stolen, and the expense is part of the reason you pay as much as you do for milk.
Dairy farmers pay for those crates and when they get stolen, new ones need to be purchased. Every year, dairy farmers lose up to $100 million in milk crate theft, a number which is hard to comprehend given what we’re talking about.
The number of crates works out to between 20 to 25 million. Just try to imagine what people need with 25 million milk crates if they’re not in the dairy industry already. The problem had a bit of light shined on it back in 2021 when the Milk Crate Challenge became a thing on TikTok and people were sharing videos of themselves stacking precarious milk crate structures and trying to climb them.
Each crate costs about $4 and they only end up at the grocery store to ship the milk. Stores are meant to return them so they can be reused but, obviously, that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.