Nevertheless, it is necessary in considering policy options to recognise the distinct categories of crime involved. As will be seen, the study addresses the categories above to varying degrees.
Two types of offender studies are already available, the first of which are self- report studies of offending. These provide detailed information on some aspects of car crime, but generally suffer from small sample size, single geographical location and, in some cases, a less than rigorous methodology. Secondly, there are semi-structured offender interviews. Two domestic studies are available (Briggs, 1991; Spencer, forthcoming) though both use a relatively small sample size drawn from a single research site.
Offender studies have concentrated on young offenders who have usually been apprehended—an easier sample to locate than those who have nol been caught. They mostly focus on the where, why and how of car crime and many have come up with similar findings. Five of the most interesting have been carried out in Sunderland, Greater Manchester, Northumbria (two) and Northern Ireland.
The Sunderland study (Spencer, forthcoming) was conducted in 1990 under the Safer Cities initiative. Of particular interest is its use of a general sample of young people, rather than the more usual offender-based group. The sample— 86 boys aged 10 to 16—was made up of schoolchildren from the Pennywell Estate and surrounding area—areas with much higher than average rates of car crime, extremely high unemployment, and severely overcrowded housing conditions. The study took the form of a self-report questionnaire. Among the findings were that 52 per cent knew someone who had stolen a car or stolen from a car; 80 per cent thought boys did it for the money; 80 per cent thought it was a group activity; of those involved, 45 per cent did so with older boys; and the main target was fast cars that are easily stripped. When asked what they thought could be done to stop boys getting involved with car crime, only about half responded, and most said that more activities for young people would help.
Spencer also held a car crime discussion group at a youth club with nine young people, as well as interviews with 17 car offenders (aged 13-19 years) selected through the probation service. The data collected reflected other findings on the car crime process, but also looked at motivations and the social backgrounds of offenders. Early motivation was said to be primarily to 'experience driving', but this changed as offenders got older and more experienced—when money took over as the primary motive. One thief had been expelled from school, and seven said that they could not see the point of going to school. Better leisure facilities were said to be a possible way of preventing them from becoming involved in car crime.
The Manchester study (Smyth, 1990), using a sample of 86 car crime offenders (most aged 18-21), formed part of a joint police/probation car crime campaign
and was therefore fairly crime prevention orientated. Among the findings were thai 74 per cenl look Fords and Vauxhalls; 52 per cent said they would be put off by an alarm and a further 40 per cent by an 'Autolok'. The main reasons given for taking cars were excitement (58%), financial gain (47%), and liking driving (43"/o). A majority of the sample (72%) said that they always took cars with I heir males and when inside a car the radio/cassette player was the first (hing Nicy would atlempt to steal (77%). The sample was not very specific about the places I hey took cars from, but backstreets and car parks seemed to be targeted most.
The first Norlhumbria-based research was a probation-led study of 56 young 'car crime specialists' referred to the probation service for social inquiry reports (Gulliver, 1991). The results are broadly similar to the Manchester study. An attempt was made to categorise offender types by motivation into "pro- fessionals', 'marginals' and 'obsessionals'—not dissimilar to the offender hierarchy noted by Briggs (below).
The second Norlhumbria study was that of Briggs (1991) who interviewed 30 convicted TWOC offenders aged 11-17 years to provide a 'profile of the juvenile joyrider'. Several common social factors were identified—disrupted family backgrounds; unemployment; poverty; below average academic ability; abbreviated school careers; and socially deprived inner-city residence. Similar backgrounds apply to the majority of those apprehended for juvenile offending and as such are not surprising. More interesting is the meaning ascribed to 'joyriding' by those interviewed. Briggs found evidence of a hierarchy of activities which carried correspondingly increased kudos for the participants, the higher they progressed up the ladder, and the more publicity their exploits received in the media. This gave rise to expressions of pride in and boasting about the activities in which members of the sample engaged. Further, Briggs suggested that 'skilled' operators would act as teachers and role models for other less adept or 'amateur' participants.
The Northern Ireland report was produced by the Extern Organisation (McCullough et al., 1990). It contains results from two statistical studies (relating to South Belfast and Northern Ireland) and an interview study of offenders and professionals working in West Belfast. While much of the Extern data coincides with that produced by mainland research, the particular political situation obtaining in West Belfast makes cross-over comparisons difficult. Having said that, the discussion of policy implications from the study makes for interesting reading and many of the findings are worth considering.
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 presents the criminal biography and social background of the sample. Chapter 3 examines the car crime career—how it starts, develops and stops. Chapter 4 considers results of particular relevance to crime prevention— where, when and what vehicles are vulnerable, and car security. Chapter 5 discusses the criminal law response and the effectiveness of sanctions as a