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risk of being caught or of punishment—which is of particular interest with the advent of the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act in 1992.

There is also a need for better information on the process of stealing cars, particularly as it relates to crime prevention issues, such as ihe deterrent value of alarms and the ease of overcoming locks. Alarms are especially important, as research results are mixed as to whether they deter, the extent of any displacement effect, and the relative merits of various types and makes of alarm.

Methodology

Semi-structured interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis with 100 young people who were or had been involved in car theft offences. Aimed al avoiding the inconsistencies associated with the self-completion of question- naires, the interviews were designed to address specific topics, while allowing the interviewees room to expand upon issues and introduce specific topics of their own. The major drawback of such a methodolgy is, of course, fhal it is both time-consuming and resource-intensive—effectively limiting the number of interviews that can be conducted. However, despite the limitations of a sample size of 100, the interviews provided more detailed qualitative data than is generally available. An additional benefit is that the researchers were able to have direct contact with the sample, thus increasing confidence in the validity of the responses.

The fieldwork was carried out over the period January to April 1992. Interviews were conducted with a sample of 98 boys and two girls aged 14 to 35 with a history of car crime involvement.

Selection of sample

The majority of the sample was located through motor projects and probation day centres; others came through bail hostels, NACRO training centres and other day or training centres for juveniles. Most were from the lower socio- economic groups: those who often find themselves on the receiving end of the criminal justice system. The study is therefore uninformative on car offending within other social groups. Similarly, although some of the sample taken from motor projects, youth centres and community arts projects had avoided formal contact with the criminal justice system, the study is recognised as being biased towards apprehended offenders. It may therefore say little of relevance to those skilful or lucky enough to avoid getting caught. Further, as many thieves came from rehabilitation projects, it may overrepresent offenders thought more suited to such programmes than others.

The research sites1, spread throughout England and Wales, fall into five geographical areas (Table 1.1).

1 Bailey, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Frome/Wells, Leicester, London, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Oxford, Plymouth, Port Talbot, Swansea, Swindon, and Telford.

2

14

1

15-16

21

17

23

18-20

24

21-25

24

over 25

7

Table 1.1 Areas from which sample selected (n = 100)

Total

100

Types of car crime

The term 'car theft' covers various patterns of offending typically categorised in the literature (Clarke, 1991) into six types:

  • 1)

    theft from vehicles;

  • 2)

    theft of vehicles for so called 'joyriding';

  • 3)

    for use in the commission of other crimes (eg, ramraiding or getaway

cars);

  • 4)

    for immediate transport;

  • 5)

    for longer term transport;

  • 6)

    as part of insurance frauds.

These types of offending will often overlap—a 'joyrider' may steal from a car he has taken and offenders may progress from one type of car crime to another.

3

Table 1.2 Age of sample (n = 100)

Midlands

21

North uf England

32

South Wales

15

Soutli West

22

Thames Valley

10

Tolal

100

Sample age

Criminal Statistics show the vast majority of apprehended vehicle offenders to be male and the peak age for offending to be between 14 and 20 years. To chart changes through this range the sample was grouped for the purpose of analysis by age (Table 1.2).

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