A rational choice perspective on the targets of automobile theft

R. V. Clarke, P. M. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This paper applies the concept of choice structuring properties to the study of why certain models of automobile are at higher risk of theft than others. Official and automobile industry data from the USA were used to produce three indices ranking 121 models according to (1) risk of theft for stripping of parts; (2) theft for temporary use; and (3) theft for permanent retention, resale or chopping. Important differences were found among the top-ranking models in each index: those in (1) were predominantly German-made cars with good audio equipment; in (2) were sporty, American-made vehicles; and in (3) were a mix of very expensive high-performance and less expensive foreign sports cars. These differences were explicable in terms of each model's choice structuring properties relating to the three broad categories of security, availability and attractiveness for theft. While the results underline the need to take account of specific theft motives when designing prevention strategies, it was concluded that further research to elucidate the relationship between motive and target choice is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-42
Number of pages18
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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