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4 Crime prevention issues

This chapter brings together results which have implications for 'physical' crime prevention. The information is presented under two headings: (i) (he vulnerability of cars to theft in terms of where and when they are parked, and make and model; and (ii) vehicle security.

Vulnerability Io car crime

An accurate indication of the vulnerability of cars parked in different places at different times would need to take into account the total number of cars parked at various locations and how ihis varies by night and day. Without these baseline figures, the offenders' accounts reported here (and indeed the findings of most other studies) can only be suggestive as regards where and when cars are at greatest risk.


This said, previous research has identified residential kerbside parking and public car parks as the most common sites for car crime and this was largely supported by the present study.1 Gulliver (1991) and McCullough el al. (1990) suggest residential kerbsides may present higher risks, whereas the present study identified public car parks as a preferred car crime site for 37 per cent of the sample, with residential kerb side parking mentioned by only six per cent. However, a large proportion of respondents did not specify where they took cars from—28 per cent taking cars from 'anywhere' and a further 18 per cent from 'somewhere quiet':

We just take them from different places like, we used to go to the hospital or somewhere like that and take them from the big car parks, that sort of thing, or down the car park in town, by the quayside.

Car parks were identified by Briggs (1991) as high risk (53%) and in a self- report study of offenders in South Wales, 66 per cent cited car parks as favoured crime sites (Gow&Peggrem, 1991). Spencer (forthcoming) found too that 'the majority felt that car parks anywhere were likely targets'.

1 For a recent analysis of car crime in public car parks, see Webb el al, 1992. 46


Forly per cent of offenders operated after dark, with only eight per cent saying that they operated exclusively in the daytime. The remaining 52 per cent said they operated at any time. Those that operated after dark were mostly unoccupied during the day, suggesting (hat they chose darkness to reduce visibility. This was, indeed, evident in many of their accounts. Other studies, however, report a higher proportion of offenders who limit their activities to after dark (though Spencer (forthcoming) and Smyth (1990) are exceptions). The lower level of night-time offences here may be partly explained by the large number in the sample who look vehicles from car parks:

If it were dark we'd take it from anywhere . . . if it were daytime we'd take 'em from car parks.

Of those who favoured car parks as a location 69 per cent operated 'at any time' but 80 per cent of those who targeted vehicles parked outside houses did so only after dark:

I'd do it in the daytime but you wouldn't go outside people's houses in the daytime—not unless it was alright. If it had the keys in it you'd just jump in, you wouldn't try and break in outside their house in the daytime.

Perhaps the most significant finding is that almost half of the offenders (47%) did not restrict their offending to either times of day or to particular locations.

Type and make of vehicle

A sizeable minority of this sample were also indiscriminate about which cars they stole. When asked whether there was anything about a particular vehicle that would put them off taking it, 29 per cent of the sample replied no. Of those who said there was, 12 per cent (mostly aged under 18 years) mentioned factors such as unpopular makes and for one interviewee:

Sometimes colours and things like that—if it's not a very good colour—I wouldn't drive about in a pink car or something like that.

Most significantly, 49 per cent (spread over all age groups) responded that they would be put off taking a car if it was fitted with an alarm. The full range of responses can be seen from Table 4.1.

The Home Office Car Theft Index (Houghton, 1992) presents the risk of illegal taking and theft of (but not from) fifty volume-produced type of cars, adjusted for the relative numbers on the street. (The Index is based on offences recorded in England and Wales in 1989-90.) Fords and Vauxhalls dominate the high and medium risk groups, while the likeliest cars to be stolen come from a small category of usually older models—Capris, Cortinas, Escorts, Fiestas, Metros and Astras. Cars from this category, it was estimated, may be at up to four times greater risk of theft than other cars. Higher performance cars, it was suggested, were up to three times as likely to be stolen as lower performance


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