Contact with the police
Twenty-one per cent of the sample had never come to police notice—15 of them under 18 years old. Twenty-five had been caught once, and 15 twice; fourteen had come to police attention more than eight times. The chance of having been caught increased with age; few older offenders had escaped the attention of the police allogci her. All told, four out of five of the sample had been caught by the police at least once, though given the nature of the sampling this is little guide to 'true' apprehension risks.
At the lime of interview, 60 per cent of the sample (n = 97) said that they were not now involved in car crime, though it is uncertain, of course, how many of these were giving a 'desirable' answer—and in any event two-thirds of the desisters had given up only in the last few weeks. Twenty subjects (21%) said they had desisted for six months or more—fairly evenly spread throughout the 15 to 25 year age group. Six of the 18 desisters aged 21-25 years had stopped for more than two years. Desistence is considered further in Chapter 3.
Experience of other crime
The extent to which car crime offenders form a discrete group specialising in car crime or also engage in other types of crime is considered in Chapter 3. Suffice it to note here that many of the sample had been involved in other crimes including burglary (35%), ramraiding (20%) and 'other thefts' (11%).
A number of recent studies of car crime acknowledge the importance of looking at the social background of offenders. For example, McCullough and Schmidt (1990), describe the historical and political context of car crime in West Belfast and suggest that structural and long lasting problems such as unemployment cannot be ignored. Spencer (forthcoming) identifies inadequate schooling, unemployment and poor leisure facilities on the Pennywell estate in Sunderland as contributing factors, and Briggs (1991) also draws on the theme of social deprivation, highlighting problems of inadequate opportunities for excitement and status.The present research was designed to explore three particular aspects of offenders' social background—home, school/work and leisure. It should be noted, as pointed out in Chapter 1, that as the sample mostly came from the lower socio-economic groups the data presented here reflects that bias.
Mostbf the sample (76%) were living with parents or in homes of their own at the time of the interview; six per cent were currently living in children's homes and nine per cent were in hostels. Not surprisingly, most of those aged 19 or under (70%) lived with one or both parents; 44 per cent lived with both parents and usually siblings, and 26 per cent lived with one parent and, in most cases,