need for early diversionary strategies. These are considered in the next section of this chapter.
The second group of preventive options aims to reduce the motivation to offend, rather than to obstruct or deter motivated offenders.
The social background of offenders
Chapter 2 painted a grim but familiar backdrop against which much young offending occurs: high truancy rates, low educational attainment, high unem- ployment, lack of leisure facilities and so on (cf Briggs, 1991; Spencer, forthcoming). A third of our sample came from families in which offending was common, and whilst only a small proportion of parents were unconcerned about their children's involvement in crime, many were reported as powerless to intervene. Thus, on the one hand, there were few legitimate opportunities for excitement and financial gain to match the pay-offs from car crime; and, on the other, the social pressures to prevent criminal involvement were weak.
The strong contrast between the offenders' views of the skill and daring involved in their car crime activities and the aimlessness and lack of commit- ment with which they claim to approach the rest of their lives needs to be understood more fully and is perhaps central to any offender based policy initiatives.
Some would see widespread crime to be an inevitable fact of life in the socially- deprived areas from which most of our offenders came; and they would argue that the only solution lies in improvements in educational provision, employ- ment prospects, and housing. Leaving aside the question whether expenditure in 'urban renewal' always achieves the desired effect, there are obvious difficulties in raising sufficient money to have any impact on a national scale. Whatever the case, considerations of crime reduction are likely to play only a secondary role in the development of social and economic policies to tackle deprivation.
Another approach to reducing criminality is to target efforts on those who have already been identified as offenders. The orthodoxy of the 1970s and early 80s was that very little could be done by way of effective rehabilitation, (Martinson 1974, Brody 1976). However, it now seems clear that the research evidence does not support the generalisation that 'nothing works', and several studies have been able to demonstrate some success for various forms of probation supervision. It is beyond the scope of this report to review this body of research as it relates to 'generalist' offenders—which will include many people who have been convicted of vehicle crimes. Summaries of relevant work are to be found in
Raynor (1988) and Roberts (1989). Schemes targeted at car crime offenders specifically are considered below.
Car crime offenders
Our research has underlined three distinctive features of car theft. First, it offers adolescents an unusual and potent mix in terms of excitement, status and self-esteem. Many other acquisitive crimes have an element of psychological pay-off (eg burglary: Nee and Taylor, 1988; Bennett and Wright, 1984; and robbery: Feency, 1986), but I hey do not compare with the thrills attainable in driving a stolen 'performance' car at speed. (Some of those interviewed reported thai the fear and speed of a chase further increased excitement.) Secondly, Ihere is a considerable degree of specialisation amongst those involved in car theft, in thai their involvement in crime is largely restricted to offences involving vehicles. If their accounts are genuine—and they are at least consistent—the criminal activity of specialists is rooted in a strong interest in cars; they have early and sustained aspirations to jobs involving cars; and they begin driving illegally on the road at an early age.
The challenge for effective offender-based intervention is to find some form of legal alternalive to car theft which manages to provide groups of young car- obsessed offenders (or those at risk of offending) with comparable excitement and interest. 'Motor projects' may be an option with the right ingredients. These are increasingly being set up by probation services as well as by some voluntary groups. Although they take several forms, they generally involve the teaching of driving and car maintenance skills, interspersed with messages about the risks of car theft, the impact on victims and the consequences for offenders. Some of the more elaborate schemes are linked with 'banger racing'. A well-run motor project might be seen as an example of 'reintegrative shaming' (Braithwaite, 1989). Braithwaite suggests that in order for law effectively to reduce crime, an element of shaming is necessary. And in order to reduce deviant behaviour, the shaming must be 'reintegrative' rather than 'disintegrative'. In other words, its procedures must aim to redirect the individual back into the non-offending community rather than reinforce his links and identity with the criminal subculture. No formal evaluations of motor projects are as yet available, though some Home Office-funded research is under way.
A third feature of car theft revealed by the research is the ease of progression from casual and hedonistic involvement to more organised profit making at a very early age. Offenders consistently referred to an 'apprenticeship' stage of the car crime career, both in this and other research (McCullough et al., 1990). This suggests that there may be an important and short period of time- apparently some six months to a year after initial involvement in car theft— within which to divert young offenders before they become skilled and well- entrenched in the habit.