Even among those who claimed that alarms could be defeated or were in any case ineffective, many would prefer not to take an alarmed vehicle:
I prefer to take a car without an alarm because it's less hassle, just jump in and drive away.
I wouldn't bother with it if it had an alarm on it I'd just go and look for one that had no alarm, less hassle really.
Car alarms can put me off, they're quite effective. Certainly, if me and me mates were walking around and we'd seen a car with an alarm on we'd leave it just for the sheer aggravation of having to deal wilh it.
But for the more determined offender:
If there was a good enough car you'd take it. If it had an alarm you'd disconnect the alarm.
In sum, while the findings indicate that alarm systems can be an effective deterrent, more information is needed about the relative efficiency of types and makes. The ability of offenders to deactivate alarms also needs to be further tested.
The interviewees offered some comment on one of the two systems recently developed to protect audio equipment: 'pull outs'—radio/cassette players which are slid out of the dashboard and taken from the car. Many of the offenders found that owners often do not bother to remove the radio-cassette, especially when leaving the car for short periods, else they leave it under the seats or in the boot of the car. Thus, some broke into cars even though the cassette player was not in its casing, expecting, often correctly, that it was hidden in the car. One described doing 'stereo runs'—targeting residential streets around 5pm to 7pm when 'people haven't bothered to take out their stereos and are having their tea'.
In Vehicle Watch initiatives, motorists are asked to display a Vehicle Watch sticker on the front and rear windscreen of their vehicle, to indicate to the police that the vehicle should be stopped if seen on the road late at night—usually between midnight and 6am.
Responsibility for organising Vehicle Watch schemes rests with the police. Different forces, and divisions within forces, operate the schemes in different ways. Not surprisingly then, interviewee knowledge of Vehicle Watch was subject to regional variations. For example, 78 per cent of those from the Thames Valley area and 69 per cent of those from the North of England had not heard of Vehicle Watch, while 87 per cent from South Wales and 84 per cent from the Midlands had. Of the whole sample just over half (55%) had heard of Vehicle Watch.
After ensuring that interviewees understood the nature of Vehicle Watch they was asked if they thought the scheme would be effective in stopping cars being stolen. Most (82%) replied no; 15 per cent yes. A small number had taken cars carrying Vehicle Watch stickers and said they were not deterred by them. One 'didn't actually see the sticker' (No 115) until he had finished with the car. While another:
Only used to nick cars with Vehicle Watch stickers in because as its got the slicker in they [the police] never bother.
Several suggested that the stickers could be peeled off (various methods were employed to achieve ihis) or covered up wilh another sticker, presumably put on ihe outside of ihe windscreen. And Ihat in any event:
When you go past you see coppers and they're just in the lay-by, not looking at you for Vehicle Watch stickers on.
In sum, the findings here offer little support for Vehicle Watch. They suggest ihat Vehicle Watch suffers from both theory failure—stickers do not appear to deter offenders—and implementation failure—as evidenced by offenders' lack of knowledge of the scheme. Two evaluations of Vehicle Watch are currently underway.
Of the present sample, over a third said car parks were their most favoured site for car theft—though many did not specify where they took cars from, or whether they chose different places during the day and at night. There is a recognisable bias in the vulnerability of certain makes and types of cars, but this is not as straightforward as some other studies have implied, being based on a combination of ease of theft, familiarity, owner behaviour, and offender preference. (The motive behind the theft will also affect which car is stolen—see Chapter 3.)
Vehicle security is seen as lamentably weak, offenders having little or no trouble in overcoming door and ignition locks. Alarm systems appear to be more effective in deterring offenders, but more information is needed on their relative effectiveness. The findings for Vehicle Watch from this study were not encouraging, though results from fuller evaluations will soon be available.