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HOME OFFICE RESEARCH STUDY NO. 130 - page 22 / 46

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Sometimes I don't believe what people leave in their car like—they leave bags, sports bags, brand new coats, coats in the back seat and that . . . brand new leathers and handbags and that sitting in the back of a car.

Stealing from cars was an activity that ran parallel to stealing cars themselves. Seventy-six per cent of subjects said that they had broken into cars merely lo steal items without intending to steal the car itself. Of these, nearly half did ii regularly, and for the duration of their car theft career; only 22 per ceni said they had done this occasionally. Eleven subjects said that their involvement in car crime had started with theft from cars.

While a great number of incidents resulted in driving the car away, the financial rewards of stealing from the stolen cars was obviously seen as an essential perk by at least a third of the sample. Some even saw it as an essential source of income:

I'm not working and my social at the moment's been stopped. Normally, I go out once a week and do a stereo run and I'll nick about 40-50stereos in a night. They're all to order—I don't nick cheapies anymore.

'Professional' car crime

A tenth of the sample mentioned specifically that a feature of their career development was that they went on to selling cars for profit—one of the activities conventionally seen as a component of 'professional' car crime (Clarke, 1991). Selling cars or their parts for profit also arose in connection with questions about the destiny of cars once they had been stolen. Thirty-five per cent of the sample (n = 98) reported that having taken a car they used it for 'professional' theft activities. (It was clear that many of these engaged in more than one of the following activities, but stated their preferred one.) Most often this involved taking the car to a garage to strip it and sell the parts (n = 15), or taking it to a receiver (n-10). Six subjects mentioned 'ringing' the car— changing its identity using false number plates and documents and selling it on. Four subjects mentioned experience of doing 'insurance jobs'—ie, destroying a car so that the owner could claim from an insurance policy.

Though nine out of ten of the sample made money from car theft by selling radio/cassette players and items found in the car, the third of 'professionals' (as they shall be termed hereon) represent a departure in terms of career and motivation to activities more obviously linked with organised financial gain. The following quotes illustrate the range of their activities:

I look for wheels, smart interior, things like that because I strip the cars I do, and sell the parts.

I've learnt through the years that I can make a lot of money out of cars. Say you asked me for an RS Turbo and you wanted the engine, interior, bonnet, back hatch and wheels. I'd say £1000. You couldn't buy it for that, it would cost you six.

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First of all it was for 'joyriding' and impressing friends and then it progressed up to stealing cars for the money . . . people wanting cars to sell on . . . 1 used to phone someone up and he used to tell me what car he would want, what colour, year, make . . . so I'd go out and steal a car like an XR3 which is nippy, will stick to the road and could be handled very easily, so if I did gel a chase I could get away. And then I'd look for Cosworths, turbos, Mercedes, BMWs, those sorts of cars . . . sometimes they were going abroad.

1 change all the number plates and sell it as a new car. I'd buy a knackered out Mark 2 liscori for £30 so I've got the documents, then I go and nick a tidy liscori but with the number plates and aluminium plates cut out of the chassis of the old car. 1 lake ii up to a car auction and 1 sell it.

Though age and experience were implicated in theft for profit to some degree, they had less influence than might be expected. Half those who mentioned stripping cars for parts were relatively young, at 16 to 18 years old. Similarly, those who had been involved in 'ringing' cars were evenly distributed between ages 16 and 22. One of the respondents doing 'insurance jobs' was 16. The single activity where age and experience appeared more strongly implicated was selling the car to a receiver. Those involved were mostly aged between 18 and 25, and eight out of the 10 had been involved in theft for four years or more. Numbers are small for definite conclusions, but there is a suggestion within subjects' reports that a reputation as a good car thief had to be achieved before being approached by a receiver to steal to order:

. . . through the people you know and meeting other people, it progresses from 'I know someone who wants those wheels' to 'I know someone who wants the whole car'.

I'm just starting to get into the serious part of pinching cars now like ringing them up by myself and that . . . This bloke just came up to us, I knew him anyway, and says can you pinch us an XR2 and I'll give you £150. I said no problems and I asked him what he was doing like and he explained everything, how to get plates everything . . . I still pinch odd ones just to frisk about in for a bit of fun.

Ramraiding Using a stolen car to smash into and steal from commercial premises is a difficult activity to locale on the professional/non-professional continuum. Whilst one aim of ramraiding is unquestionably to make money, the stolen car is not itself the source of profit, but rather a means to it, albeit lending a strong element of excitement to the escapade as well:

I love doing it . . . I would do the driving in the van. We'd take two cars like six people, three in one, three in the other. I would drive up, drive in the shutters, pull out . . . four people running in the shop filling the cars

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