The figure includes £9,500m a year on court and prison costs, with each taxpayer contributing the equivalent of £422 a year for the criminal justice system and every household about £120 a year for business crime.
About £10m worth of property is stolen every day. Other areas of expense include car crime and the booming private security industry - worth £2bn.
Labour, which compiled the study from existing surveys and official statistics, yesterday accused the Government of failing as the party of law and order.
The report is unusual because it attempts to calculate all the costs of criminal activity that affect individuals, taxpayers, businesses and local authorities. A previous study in September by Coopers & Lybrand put the total figure at £16.7bn - significantly less than the latest amount. The study breaks down the £3.5bn goods taken in 1993 as burglary (£994m), robbery (£56m) and theft (£2,419m). The amount has increased by 62 per cent since 1988 after figures are adjusted for inflation,Labour says.
The total is likely to be greater because only a fraction of crime is recorded by the police, although about one-third of goods are recovered. It also shows the cost of house and car insurance rose by more than 20 per cent in real terms between 1988 and 1992 to an average of £556 a year.
However, more than half of households are not insured against loss. The biggest bill is for the criminal justice system, with £9.3bn spent in 1992-93, according to Home Office figures. That included policing (about £6bn), prisons (£1.6bn), magistrates' courts (£356m), the probation service (£449m), the criminal work of the Lord Chancellor's department (£707m), and £257m on the Crown Prosecution Service.
The Confederation of British Industry estimated that in 1991 business lost £5bn-£10bn as a result of crime. Companies lose 2-5 per cent of their turnover to fraud, including scams using stolen credit cards and cheques. In 1993-94, the Serious Fraud Office was investigating £5bn of suspected fraud. Arson is calculated to have cost more than £300m in 1993. Local authorities lose vast sums from crime, particularly from theft, arson and vandalism, but the total is difficult to calculate.
Jack Straw, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said: "Our report shows the huge financial toll that crime imposes on us all. The costs are staggering and underline just why the Government has lost all claim to be the party of law and order.
"Since only one in 50 crimes results in a conviction it is imperative that we have effective policies to prevent crime as well as to deal with those who break the law."Reuse content