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HOME OFFICE RESEARCH STUDY NO. 130 - page 16 / 46

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Rally driver

13

Something to do with cars

12

Mechanics

10

Sport

10

Other manual job

8

Long distance lorry driver

5

Drive legally

4

Travel/go on holiday

4

Having lots of money

4

Social work

4

Other

18

Don't know

8

Table 2.6 Ideal activity (n = 94)

%

being the most popular. Those who mentioned social work often said they wanted to work specifically with people on motor projects (Table 2.6). Sports ranged from football and fishing to adventure sports, deep sea diving and flying. There are clearly differences in responses to this question, with some answering about ideal jobs, others about their general aspirations.

It is perhaps hardly surprising, given the prevalence of car-related activities (48%) and the desire for excitement, that some people described taking and driving stolen cars as a dangerous sport in its own right, requiring courage, dexterity and practice:

It takes a lot of time to learn how to do these things. To display a car well isn't just going up and down the road handbraking. A lot of the small kids think it should go backwards and forwards handbraking—it isn't that at all. There are a lot of other manoeuvres like a reverse flip where you steam backwards down the road and you flip the car round and put it into first before the car's finished moving. It takes a lot of practice and co- ordination.

Summary

Most of the sample became involved in car crime in their mid-teens, and thought others did so too—rather older than suggested by more imbalanced recent press coverage. The sample generally claimed an extensive career in terms both of length of involvement with car crime and number of offences committed. Four-fifths had been in contact with the police, although it seemed clear that many had escaped police attention for much of their offending. Six out of ten claimed to have given up car crime, but only 20 claimed to have desisted for more than six months. Many of the sample had committed offences other than car theft.

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Parents appear concerned about their children's involvement in car crime. Some attempt to prevent it happening; others appear powerless to stop it. For most of the sample school appeared to them of little value. Career aspirations were low or non-existent and unemployment high, with little prospect of finding work in Ihe immediate future.

Despite the abundance of spare time, leisure activities were severely restricted by lack of money and the inadequacies (perceived or real) of local facilities— which offenders themselves linked to their criminal activities. Time hung heavily on their hands, and seemed likely to do so in the future.

The social background of the offenders in the survey mirrors that of young offenders generally. Many strong illustrations were provided of the hopeless- ness of growing up in a lower working class environment, and frequently offered a perspective in which delinquency was an obvious repsonse to limited social and economic opportunity. This accords with the view of McCullough et al., (1990) that for those who have no identity conferred by work or education and no real hope for the future, existence is grim and car crime becomes an exciting option.

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