• Center for Problem oriented policing

POP Center Tools Understanding Theft of 'Hot Products'

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What Are Hot Products?

Frequently stolen (or hot) products have the qualities captured by the acronym ‘CRAVED.’2

The Elements of ‘CRAVED’

Concealable Things that are small enough to quickly hide or those that may be taken  without attracting attention

Removable Things that are easy to carry or are themselves mobile

Available Things that are more likely to be abundant and accessible in one way or another

Valuable Things that are valuable, particularly when thieves intend to sell the stolen items

Enjoyable Things that are enjoyable (e.g., laptops) more so than those that are more functional (e.g., refrigerators)

Disposable Things that are easy to trade, sell for cash, or that can be used immediately without risk

Hot products have one or more of these qualities and, as a rule of thumb, the more an item has the more likely it will be coveted by thieves. Examples of highly CRAVED items include cash, mobile phones, multimedia devices, and jewelry. Still CRAVED, but perhaps with some difficulties to overcome are bicycles (which can be difficult to conceal but, once taken are highly removable); disposable razors (which are more functional than enjoyable, and not particularly valuable, although they are expensive for a disposable product); and larger household goods, such as televisions, microwaves, and desktop computers (which are harder to conceal and remove).

The lists of commonly stolen products focused upon in this guide are not exhaustive and there are many other items that are stolen worldwide every day, including the following (readers are referred to other publications where applicable):

  • Products and information stolen via on-line theft†
  • Scrap and precious metals‡
  • Handguns
  • Business devices3 (e.g., service delivery devices such as ATMs or parking meters, furnishing and fixtures such as park furniture or hotel room equipment, or cash containers such as vending machines or cash registers§)
  • Livestock
  • Rare and endangered species

† See Problem-Specific Guide No. 21, Check and Card Fraud for further information.

‡ See Problem-Specific Guide No. 58, Theft of Scrap Metal for further information.

§ In many of these cases it is the contents of the product (cash) rather than the product itself which is targeted.

Product Life Cycles

Products have life cycles that are related to crime patterns4 as follows:

  • When a product is launched (consider a phone with novel functionality), it is likely to be expensive and desirable, but limited availability reduces the opportunity for theft. This is referred to as the product innovation stage. Stolen products at this stage can be difficult to dispose of as they are easier to identify (as stolen) than more commonly available products.
  • In the growth stage, prices are lowered, and through increased consumption, the product becomes more widely available.
  • Products that sell well reach the mass-market stage and become more affordable. These last two stages are when products may be stolen in large volumes, resulting in what has often been referred to as a “crime harvest.”5
  • If sales of a product continue, the value of the product will typically decline as market saturation occurs. At this point, those who want a product probably own one, and the reduction in price means that purchasing one legitimately becomes affordable. As a result, levels of theft of the product are likely to decline.
Example 1: A Variation in Theft in Product Life Cycles

In one U.K. county at the beginning of the period between 1997 and 2003, video cassette
recorders (VCR) were frequently stolen during burglaries, but later, DVD players were a
much more common target. This switch occurred as legitimate VCR ownership was at
its peak and prices were decreasing: VCRs had reached the market saturation phase. In
contrast, at the same time, DVD players were at the innovation and growth stages and
became the new hot product.6

Often there is a predictable crime-change cycle when new products are introduced to the market.7 This cycle has three stages:

1. The change is introduced (e.g., the product is manufactured and launched) with little thought of potential consequences for criminal opportunity

2. These consequences become evident if there is a high volume of theft associated with the product

3. The change is revoked or a partial solution is retrofitted in response to the problem

In such cases crime control is nearly always reactive rather than proactive. However, this does not have to be the case and, given what is known about hot products, it is hardly a socially responsible approach to business.

From a prevention perspective, it is useful to monitor theft levels for particular items so that proactive steps can be taken if a crime epidemic is a possibility. Even better would be to consider the security features of products at the point of design and manufacture (see www.designagainstcrime.com for inspiration).

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