Cheap goods see burglars move to muggings

LONDON Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:56am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - An influx of cheap electronic goods from China and the Far East has prompted British burglars to turn to other crimes such as robberies and muggings, according to research published on Wednesday.

Criminology lecturer James Treadwell from the University of Leicester in central England said the fall in the cost of traditional household goods had made burglars "redundant."

In the last decade, domestic burglaries have fallen by more than 50 percent according to the British Crime Survey, which estimates the number of offences based on interviews with the public.

The Labor government has heralded the fall as an example of a successful crackdown on the crime. But Treadwell said the decline also reflected a "career change" by criminals.

He explained that in the 1980s and 90s, criminals could make a profit by breaking into homes to steal video recorders. But cheap Labor in China had changed all that.

"Gradually, the prices of such goods has fallen so low as to they almost have no resale value. If you can buy a DVD player for 19.99 pounds, it's simply not worth stealing," he said.

Instead of burglary, crooks were now looking to steal smaller but pricey items, such as mobile phones and ipods, which people carried about with them.

"It is these expensive, personal items, which are the most attractive to thieves today as they still retain value and can therefore be sold on, igniting a career change for criminals from the more traditional household burglaries to personal muggings," Treadwell said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Keith Weir)

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