U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Cars and Robbers: Has Car Theft Crime Prevention Worked Too Well?

NCJ Number
Antony Altbeker
Date Published
March 2006
21 pages
This paper analyzes the relationship between rates of recorded car thefts/hijackings and rates of recorded robberies in South Africa since 1994.
The main argument emerging from the analysis is that the rate of recorded robbery continued to rise more than any other form of criminality in South Africa until 2003/04 in part because it became increasingly difficult for criminals to profit through car theft. Other factors leading to the increases in robbery in South Africa include improvements in car security and policing, the proliferation of tracking technology for vehicles, and improvements in car registration and re-registration systems. The findings suggest that crime prevention programming focusing on particular crimes may serve to simply displace crime, rather than eradicate it. The author makes his argument by first analyzing trends in car thefts and car hijackings in South Africa, which revealed that both types of offenses have declined since 1998. The relationship between the rise in robberies and the decline in car thefts was statistically analyzed by police station jurisdiction in order to examine whether the two crime rates were significantly related to one another. The author notes that one challenge to this analysis is the argument that the increase in the rate of recorded robberies is merely a crime reporting phenomenon and does not indicate an actual increase in robberies committed. The author also cautions that crime displacement cannot account for the entire increase in aggravated robbery in South Africa. While there are numerous reasons for the decline in certain crime rates and the rise in others, the statistical analysis revealed that greater declines in car thefts in certain areas corresponded to greater increases in aggravated robberies in the same areas. Figures, tables, endnotes