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Key to Auto Theft: Emerging Methods of Auto Theft From Offenders' Perspective

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2006 Pages: 917-934
Heith Copes; Michael Cherbonneau
Date Published
September 2006
18 pages
In an attempt to help direct crime prevention efforts, this British study interviewed auto thieves to determine their strategies for obtaining keys.
The results of this study are consistent with those who have found that offenders exhibit at least some degree of rationality when offending. The rationality shown by key thieves suggests: (1) that these offenders are keenly aware of the perceived difficulty in stealing cars with advanced target hardening and (2) in response to increased security, offenders are likely to engage in some sort of behavioral change, through either discouragement or displacement. Accounts given by those interviewed revealed that stealing cars with keys involved more than simply stumbling across random opportunities. Offenders’ accounts show that while some of them simply found keys left in cars, many took more active steps in locating and stealing keys. These active steps or strategies included: burglary, robbery, or fraud. Owners must make efforts to protect their keys and not solely rely on built-in security measures. Those who control access to keys are in the best positions to successfully reduce opportunities for key thefts and, thus, the overall scale of the auto theft problem. This study sought to combat the trend of auto theft through accounts of auto thieves who used keys to steal vehicles, shedding light on the techniques and strategies that they employed to obtain the keys. The study consisted of using semi-structured interviews with two groups of auto thieves. The first group consisted of 42 individuals on community supervision in Tennessee. The second group consisted of 12 auto thieves incarcerated in 2 medium-security prisons in Louisiana. References