1 tried other things like burglaries, theft from shops, commercial burglaries and I never really got into it. I couldn't get to grips with the way to do it. With cars it was so easy. You'd just walk up to it, put a screwdriver in the lock, unlock it, put a scaffold bar in the ignition, whack it off, black box it . . . the car's started and you're off. With things like burglaries there's more to watch out for. If the house or shop is alarmed, you have to cut the alarm and they're more difficult than on cars.
There was no strong evidence that those wilh experience of 'performance driving' were more likely to be specialists, or that specialists engaged more in 'professional' theft—with the exception of those who worked for receivers who were more likely to be specialists.
However, some distinctive features of those who defined themselves as specialists emerged. First, they had longer than average experience (Figure 3.5). For instance, 25 per cent had a career span of at least five years, whereas this was the case for only 15 per cent of those who were 'into' burglary (n = 26), and two out of 11 of 'other thieves'. Secondly, specialists were more likely to begin their criminal career with car theft (92% had done so, as against 42% of others). Thirdly, while specialists did not begin to offend any earlier than others, they drove illegally on the road earlier: 40 per cent had done so by the age of 14 (the youngest at 10), as against 28 per cent of non-specialists (the youngest al 12). Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, specialists appeared to offend more often. For instance, 61 per cent said they stole cars at least two or three times a week—much higher than among non-specialists (37%). The greater criminal activity of specialists is no doubt a factor in stronger parental reaction to their offending. A full 63 per cent of specialists said their parents felt angry or upset by their thieving, in contrast to 37 per cent of non-specialists.
Specialisation appears to have roots in an unusual degree of interest in cars before thieving starts. (Sixty per cent of those who ended up as specialists had a childhood interest in cars, as against 37 per cent of non-specialists.) This early interest was reflected in their job aspirations when younger: 40 per cent of specialists aspired to some car-related occupation—be it motor mechanic, rally driver or simply 'something to do with cars'—as against 18 per cent of non- specialists. This early interest in cars maintained itself too: 59 per cent of the specialists most wanted to be currently engaged in a car-related activity, a higher figure than for others (41%).
In sum, then, just over half the sample considered themselves to be car crime specialists, concentrating more or less exclusively on stealing cars. They were more likely to have been interested in cars from an early age and aspired more strongly to (legal) car-related jobs when young. They were much more likely to have begun their offending career with car crime, and to have sustained a more active career, offending for longer and more often.
To what extent might the degree of specialism in this group of offenders be unusual? Several studies have looked at the degree to which offenders