Criminal Law


  • Pocket-picking
  • Purse-snatching
  • Shoplifting
  • Thefts From Motor Vehicles
  • Theft of Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories
  • Theft of Bicycles
  • Theft From Buildings
  • Theft From Coin-operated Device or Machine
  • All Other

Definition: The unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another. Constructive possession is defined by Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed. as "where one does not have physical custody or possession, but is in a position to exercise dominion or control over a thing."

Larceny and theft mean the same thing in the UCR Program. All thefts and attempted thefts are included in this category with one exception: motor vehicle theft. Because of the high volume of motor vehicle thefts, this crime has its own offense category.

For the UCR Program, agencies must report local offense classifications such as grand theft, petty larceny, felony larceny, or misdemeanor larceny as larceny-theft. Also, agencies must report all larceny offenses regardless of the value of the property stolen.

Agencies must not classify as larceny the offenses of embezzlement; fraudulent conversion of entrusted property; conversion of goods lawfully possessed by bailees, lodgers, or finders of lost property; counterfeiting; obtaining money by false pretenses; larceny by check; larceny by bailee; or check fraud. Each of these crimes falls within one of the Part II offense categories, defined on pages 139-147 of this handbook.

The UCR Program divides the category larceny-theft into the following subcategories, which are included on the Supplement to Return A reporting form under the heading Additional Analysis of Larceny and Motor Vehicle Theft (6X).


Definition: The theft of articles from a person by stealth where the victim usually does not become immediately aware of the theft.

Pocket-picking includes the removal of such items as wallets from women's purses and men's pockets. It usually occurs in a crowd, public conveyance, or other similar situation to disguise the activity. Reporting agencies must also include theft from a person in an unconscious state, including drunks, in this category. However, if the victim is manhandled or if force beyond simple jostling is used to overcome the resistance of the victim, the offense becomes a strong-arm robbery and must be so classified.

The following scenario illustrates an incident known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as pocket-picking (6Xa):

  1. While standing in a crowd watching a parade, a man was jostled by someone who stole his billfold containing over $200.


Definition: The grabbing or snatching of a purse, handbag, etc., from the custody of an individual.

The purse must be in the physical possession of the victim in order for the theft to be classified as purse-snatching. If more force is used than is actually necessary to snatch the purse from the grasp of the owner, or if the victim resists the theft in any way, then the offense is classified as a strong-arm robbery. If a woman leaves her purse unattended and a thief steals it, the offense is classified as Theft From Buildings (6Xg) or All Other Larceny-theft Not Specifically Classified (6Xi).


Definition: The theft by a person (other than an employee) of goods or merchandise exposed for sale.

By definition, the offender in a shoplifting incident has legal access to the premises and, thus, no trespass or unlawful entry is involved. The category includes thefts of merchandise displayed as a part of the stock in trade outside buildings such as department stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, fruit stands, and gas stations.

The following scenario illustrates an incident known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as shoplifting (6Xc):

  1. Two persons entered a hardware store together. While one engaged the clerk in a discussion in the back of the store, the other stole a power saw valued at $125.

Theft From Motor Vehicles (Except Theft of Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories)

Definition: The theft of articles from a motor vehicle, whether locked or unlocked.

This type of larceny includes thefts from automobiles, trucks, truck trailers, buses, motorcycles, motor homes, or other recreational vehicles. It also includes thefts from any area in the automobile or other vehicle including the trunk, glove compartment, or other enclosure. Some of the items included in this theft category are cameras, suitcases, wearing apparel, cellular phones, MP3 players, and packages. Agencies must take care not to report items that are automobile parts and accessories since these fall under the category Theft of Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories (6Xe).

Certain state statutes might interpret theft from motor vehicles as burglaries. For the UCR Program, however, agencies must classify these thefts as Theft From Motor Vehicles (6Xd).

The following scenario illustrates an incident known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Theft From Motor Vehicles (6Xd):

  1. A tractor trailer parked in the company parking lot was broken into, and 20 cases of canned food were taken.

In larceny situations where both motor vehicle parts and accessories and articles from the motor vehicle are stolen, agencies must report the offense resulting in the greatest value of property loss.

If a theft from a motor vehicle occurs in conjunction with a motor vehicle theft, reporting agencies must classify the incident as a motor vehicle theft.

Theft of Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories

Definition: The theft of any part or accessory attached to the interior or exterior of a motor vehicle in a manner that would make the part an attachment to the vehicle or neces- sary for the operation of the vehicle.

Thefts of motors, transmissions, radios, heaters, hubcaps and wheel covers, manufacturers' emblems, license plates, inspection stickers, registration tags, radio antennas, side-view mirrors, gasoline, compact disc players, air bags, citizens' band radios, radar detectors, etc., are included in this category. Agencies must be careful to report only parts or accessories that are attached to the vehicle. If items being transported in the vehicle are stolen, reporting agencies must classify the offense as a Theft From Motor Vehicles (6Xd).

The following scenario illustrates an incident known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Theft of Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories (6Xe):

  1. A thief broke into a locked car and was attempting to remove an expensive compact disc player when the owner of the car returned. The owner called the police, who arrested the man.

Theft of Bicycles

Definition: The unlawful taking of any bicycle, tandem bicycle, unicycle, etc.

The category Theft of Bicycles includes all bicycle thefts reported to law enforcement agencies. The UCR Program classifies thefts of motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, etc., as Motor Vehicle Theft—Other Vehicles (7c).

Theft From Buildings

Definition: A theft from within a building that is open to the general public and where the offender has legal access.

The category Theft From Buildings includes thefts from such places as churches, restaurants, schools, libraries, public buildings, and other public and professional offices during the hours when such facilities are open to the public. This category does not include shoplifting and thefts from coin-operated devices or machines within open buildings; these offenses must be classified according to their separate larceny categories.

Agencies must report a theft from a structure accompanied by a breaking or unlawful entry without breaking (trespass) as burglary, not as larceny-theft.

Theft From Coin-operated Device or Machine

Definition: A theft from a device or machine which is operated or activated by the use of a coin.

Coin-operated or currency-operated devices or machines (operated through use of coins, paper money, tokens, etc.) include candy, cigarette, and food vending machines; telephone coin boxes; parking meters; pinball machines; video machines; and washers and dryers located in laundromats where no breaking or illegal entry of the building is involved.

Agencies must classify as burglary incidents in which a building is broken into or illegally entered and a coin-operated or currency-operated device or machine in the building is rifled for money and/or merchandise.

All Other Larceny-theft Not Specifically Classified

Definition: All thefts which do not fit the definition of the specific categories of larceny listed above.

The category All Other Larceny-theft includes:

  • Theft from fenced enclosures
  • Theft from boats and airplanes
  • Theft of jet skis
  • Theft of animals
  • Theft of lawnmowers
  • Theft of lawn furniture
  • Theft of hand tools
  • Theft of farm and construction equipment where no breaking or entering of a structure is involved
  • Theft following illegal entry of a tent, tent trailer, or travel trailer used for recreational purposes
  • Theft of airplanes, bulldozers, and motorboats
  • Theft of gasoline from a self-service gas station

NOTE: The UCR Program considers only incidents in which an individual leaves a self-service gas station without paying for gasoline as larceny-theft. Purchasing gasoline from a full-service gas station implies a tacit agreement with the service attendant. Therefore, agencies must classify incidents in which a driver leaves a full-service gas station without paying the attendant as fraud, not larceny-theft.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as All Other Larceny-theft Not Specifically Classified (6Xi):

  1. A local airport reported the theft of a single-engine airplane by a mechanic who did not have permission to take the plane. The police apprehended the subject.
  2. Two 17-year-old boys boarded a rowboat at dockside and stole a fishing rod and reel. The police apprehended both boys, but no charges were formally filed.