CAR THEFT: THE OFFENDER'S PERSPECTIVE
nearly 15 million older targets available.1 Older vehicles may be increasingly targeted due to displacement from better-secured, newer vehicles, as happened with the introduction of steering column locks in the early 1970s (Mayhew et al., 1976).
What advice can be offered to those who own the older vehicles? Publicity campaigns have been mounted to increase public awareness of car crime. Owners have been encouraged, among other things, to secure their cars and remove valuables, or at least lock them out of sight in the boot. This may reduce risks but not eliminate them. Findings from this study show that locked cars are easily broken into and many offenders mentioned looking in car boots for property to steal ('booting' as they termed it)—an easy task in hatchbacks and in modern saloons with access available through the rear seat back.
Owners need to be given fuller information on car crime to enable them to assess their vulnerability to car theft. Such information could usefully be based on theft risks for particular vehicles and parking locations, augmented by better promotion of available types of security equipment. This should allow owners some control over the risks they run. For example, a person who leaves an older, high-risk vehicle in a quiet street at night, and in a public car park all day would be well advised to fit an alarm or even change models.
Better information is needed on alarms, and this should be publicly available. Owners may be reluctant to purchase or be confused by the bewildering variety and complexity of the systems on offer. Offender responses here indicate that some alarms are more effective than others. Informed owner choice is essential.
In sum, then, the limits of situational prevention must be recognised. Not everybody is willing or able to take the most effective preventive steps. Some offenders will be thwarted by physical measures, some will overcome them, and others will simply target more vulnerable vehicles. Nevertheless, important advances are being made for new vehicles which offer the prospect of lower risks for their owners at least.
Estimated from Department of Transport, 1991: 1(8.
In the early days of the motor car the charge brought in cases of wrongful taking of vehicles was theft of the petrol which had been used. But, as offences multiplied with the increasing volume of motor vehicles on the roads, concern grew over the inadequacy of the law to properly cover such conduct. By the end of the 1920s there were more than two million vehicles registered in Britain and much disquiet expressed about unauthorised joyriding. New legislative pro- visions contained in s 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1930 introduced the offence of taking and driving away 'any motor vehicle without having the consent of the owner thereof or other lawful authority* (TDA). The maximum penalty was 12 months imprisonment.
By lhe 1960s the number of motor vehicles licensed had passed 10 million, car ownership had widened its base considerably and the motor car had become the symbol of prosperity. Unauthorised taking of vehicles had also escalated. Yet the law contained in the 1930 Act remained basically unchanged. The TDA provisions had been re-enacted bys 217 of the Road Traffic Act 1960 and were later amended by the Road Traffic Act 1962 to include a 'passenger' 'who knowing that a motor vehicle has been so taken . . . drives it or allows himself to be carried in or on it', but this was not sufficient to silence the critics.
The 1960s which saw rapidly expanding vehicle numbers and the highest ever level of road casualties in peacetime (7,985 deaths in 1966) precipitated several inilialivcs aimed ;i( bctler regulalion of motor vehicle use and misuse. New provisions were introduced by s 12 of the Theft Act 1968, which made it an offence to take a conveyance without the owner's consent or lawful authority. The maximum penalty was three years imprisonment.