Youth Crime and Youth Culture in the Inner City

By Bill Sanders | Go to book overview
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Robbery, burglary, theft

In the years 1996-2002 Lambeth had relatively high rates of what might be called 'acquisitive' offences, such as theft of or from motor vehicles, shoplifting, burglary and street robbery. 1 This chapter explores what these offences mean to those in my sample. The analysis is organised around four interrelated themes: motivation, planning, the young people's knowledge of 'associates', and how they felt after committing offences. The first section analyses what the young people said motivated them to commit acquisitive offences. The second section looks at how much time they spent planning such offences. The third addresses the young people's knowledge of associates, which here refers to adults and 'businesses' they knew were involved in some degree of illicit activity, such as those who buy and sell stolen merchandise. The final section of the chapter explores how the young people said they felt after committing acquisitive offences. Here the aim is to determine the extent to which they expressed remorse or concern, if any, over such behaviour. This chapter does not give rise to large theoretical claims, but rather focuses on the various shades of interpretation offered by different young people, and explores how acquisitive offences fit in with the rest of their lives. It addresses 'foreground' considerations or 'the immediate phenomenological context in which decisions to offend are activated' (Jacobs and Wright 1999:150; see also Gibbons 1971; Groves and Lynch 1990; Hagan and McCarthy 1992; Katz 1988; Shover 1996). Additional aims of the chapter are to expose and address the similarities and differences amongst the young people based on the four identified themes, and offer analytical discussions on their interpretations of their acquisitive offences.


Exploring what motivates someone to commit a crime is a traditional criminological concern. However, pinpointing motivation is a daunting task. For instance, Jacobs and Wright (1999:149) described motivation as 'criminology's dirty little secret - manifest yet murky, presupposed but elusive, everywhere and nowhere'. Here I aim to find out more about this 'dirty little secret'.

In this section I illustrate that those more involved in offending offered relatively instrumental reasons for their acquisitive offences. Most of them said they had committed (with some still committing) robberies and burglaries with the sole


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