Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves

By Neal Shover | Go to book overview

5
Career Changes and Termination

One of the most striking characteristics of those who commit much of the robbery, burglary, and theft that occur in contemporary America is their youth. 1 Adolescents and young adults swell the ranks of thieves; children and those who are middle-aged or older are represented at a level far below their proportionate share of the general population. 2 In 1990, for example, 59.7 percent of all persons arrested for the crimes of robbery, burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft in the United States were age 24 or younger; only 36.5 percent of Americans were this young. 3 Whereas 16.1 percent of those arrested for property crime in 1990 were age 35 or older, 46.1 percent of the general population were this old. 4 Use of arrest statistics to document the youthful age of thieves understandably is open to challenge because the tallies omit the characteristics of offenders who were not arrested. The same age imbalance is found, however, in the reports of street-crime victims who are confronted by or otherwise chance to see their offenders. The perpetrators were age 20 or younger in 50 percent of the 14 million personal robberies reported to the National Crime Victimization Survey between 1973 and 1984. 5 The fact that these data provided by victims reflect a stage of the crime-and-response process that precedes the decision whether or not to report to police strengthens confidence in the overall picture of street-level thieves as predominantly juveniles and young adults.

Of all male juveniles who ever engage in serious delinquency, most do so infrequently and do not persist at it more than a few months or years. Few are or become chronic offenders. Put differently, the age when they begin committing crime is followed quickly by the age when they cease such activity. Investigators from the University of Pennsylvania used school, police, and court records to examine the delinquency histories of all boys who were born in Philadelphia in 1945 who also resided there from ages 10 to 18. Analysis showed that only 6 percent of the boys and 18 percent of those with a record of delinquency accumulated five or more

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Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1- Pathways of Persistent Thieves 1
  • 2- Origins, Options, and Preparation 29
  • 3- Changing Criminal Opportunities And the Unskilled 49
  • 4- Identity, Lifestyle, and Character 77
  • 5- Career Changes and Termination 119
  • 6- Threats, Decisions, and Confinement 151
  • 7- Crime Control and Persistent Thieves 175
  • Appendix: Materials and Methods 189
  • Bibliography 197
  • About the Book and Author 213
  • Index 215
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