It's usually arranged the night before. Someone rings up and says 'Do you want to go for a ride?' I say 'See you all tomorrow morning' and I knock off school for the day.
As found in the Sunderland study (Spencer, forthcoming) many people said they did not see the point of going to school and some had been expelled:
It was just boring, I really didn't like it. Once 1 had a week off and I got caught but it still don't bother me. My Nan used to say 'you know you've got to go to school' but she couldn't really make us go. We jusl used lo go out and sit in the park or stay in the house watching telly.
School was also mentioned as a place where car parts might be bought and sold.
Of those who had left school officially or unofficially (n = 94) a few (3) said they had stopped attending school as early as 12, most (63) did so between the ages of 14 and 16. Only three stayed on at school until they were 17 or 18. At the time of the interview most of the sample were no longer at school and over half of them were unemployed, albeit some attached to motor projects (Table 2.2).
Table 2.2 Current occupation (n = 100)
At School Employed Unemployed Motor Project Special Needs courses Youth/Employment Training Other
6 6 49 10 10 16 3
Not surprisingly, unemployment was frequently mentioned as a major problem:
There's nothing to do round here for young people—no jobs. Everyone's bored and skint.
It's pretty horrible because there's no work here, there's no work anywhere else and I don't think we're going to come out of the recession as quickly as everyone reckons.
Nothing to get up for. No job in the morning. No money at the end of the week. You know you have to find some way of getting money and nicking cars was usually the easiest way.
However, some acknowledged that employment would not necessarily stop people earning money by stealing cars:
If you've got a job, you've got money and you go out and buy whatever you want. You spend the money then you want more, so you got to go and get more off a car, then you steal another car for more wheels.
In contrast, others suggested that having a steady job would be one of the main things that would stop people taking cars:
If they're in work, they give it up—it's all money.
Whilst (raining schemes were seen as a way of gaining qualifications, some people said they could noi afford lo live on the allowance:
You're seventeen years old, you get put into training for a good job and you're ihere for a year. You're nearly as good as a trained bloke—you get aboul £35 a week when he's taking home £130. What can you do nowadays for £35? Kair enough, you're learning a trade, but I still think you should be given a bit more money.
Didn'l Ihink about it
Motor mechanic Something to do with cars
Rally driver Army/Navy Other professional sports Police force Bricklayer
8 6 5 3 3
Professional artist Medicine Fire service Chef Carpenter/decorator
3 3 2 2 2
When asked for their career aspirations; over a third of the sample (35%) mentioned car-related occupations. The question may of course mean rather different things to a young teenager than to someone already in their 20s, but Table 2.3 nonetheless gives the results.
Table 2.3 Employment aspirations (n = 92)
Despite the preference for car-related occupations, 20% lacked any employ- ment aspiration at all, and there was little difference between younger and older thieves in this respect. Some said they deliberately avoided thinking about the future:
At school when they were talking about careers and all that, I used to hate it. I always used to think of myself as a failure for not getting anywhere. The future used to frighten me—even talking about it.