Because it's not your car. I respect cars now I've grown up a lot, I didn't respect them then. When you've got your own car—I mean a lot of the kids if they had their own car they wouldn't like it stolen.
A point graphically reinforced by one young man:
You're taking somebody else's property. I actually know what it's like for somebody to steal my car and my motor bike—I went out and kicked their face in because I knew who it was.
Interestingly, eight of the sample (n = 95) reported that the inconvenience caused for the car owner and the guilt that this generated was the worst part of their experience of car crime.
Despite an overwhelming view that taking cars was wrong, the majority of Ihe sample (73%) did not consider car crime offences as serious:
I see a lot of fuss going on with the joyriders robbing the cars and it's just property and I don't see no fuss aboul people themselves when they get bashed or murdered. At the end of the day you can kill someone and it's serious but you didn't go out to kill no one. Whether you've got a licence or not it's still an accident.
You can always say there's a more serious offence. If you get a group in— like we've done this in probation—and put a list of offences on the board and say which is acceptable and which isn't things like stealing off your parents, you never do that, or rape. Murder is quite unacceptable.
For some, the fact that they caused little damage made the offences less serious:
When I was nicking cars I was just parking them up . . . the damage I caused amounts to £150 tops. That's the door lock and ignition.
Eighty per cent of the time the car comes back not damaged or a little bit of a snap here, it's not as if you're losing grands.
A few mentioned insurance:
If you're insured, I wouldn't worry about it. If you're not insured it's tough shit—you should have been insured.
Nine and a half out of 10 have got their cars insured, so if you steal their car or damage it or anything like that then they got their insurance. Sometimes I steal a car and set it on fire . . . so the people get their insurance, so it helps them out in a way.
One interviewee realised that having insurance might not be enough:
I know you've got insurance but some people take a lot of pride in their cars and they put a lot of extras in it.
Of the 23 per cent who did feel that the offences were serious some based this view on the fact that offenders are often:
Too young and irresponsible to drive on the road. You are not cautious enough, you don't realise that you are dealing with a machine that can cause death and serious injury.
A small number of offenders expressed the view that attitudes to the offence had recently hardened:
When I was doing them, they weren't serious offences, but now they are. They've pinned down on them now. They're getting too hot.
Al ihe time I did it, it wasn't seen as all thai serious. It wasn't seen as a big sin.
Why should this be? Two reason were suggested: first, that widespread media attention relating to road casualties involving stolen cars had increased awareness of the dangers of joyriding; and secondly, that the increased penalties and the fact that offences may now be triable in the Crown Court marks them oul as more serious.
Although 22 per cent of the sample had a feeling that they would be caught in the end, 74 per cent thought either that they would not be, or put it out of their mind:
When you actually do it, you don't think you are going to get caught. You think 'I'm not going to get caught'. You know if there was any risk of it you wouldn't do it.
Many felt that there was little chance of getting caught as 'the police have more important things to do'. And several said that if they drove sensibly and did not panic when they encountered the police there was little chance of them being apprehended:
As long as you drive normally you are usually ok—there's less chance of getting stopped. Some people when they see the police, they panic and put their foot down and they get noticed and the police check and find out its a stolen car.
Some claimed to have escaped apprehension so many times that they had ceased to worry about it:
Oh yes it goes through every joyrider's mind. For a while it used to put me off but I didn't get caught and it just went to the back of my mind.
At first yes. But if I can nick 300 cars in a month without being caught it doesn't say much for the police does it?
Such cavalier attitudes must be judged against the fact that only a fifth of the sample had in fact escaped contact with the police, 40 having been caught once or twice and 37 more than twice (Chapter 2). It may be that although many had