Young car joyriders likened the adrenalin rush from car theft to the effects of drug or alcohol use.
Some noted, yet often disregarded, fears of death or injury as the result of a car accident.
And the prospect of gaining, or losing, a job is a stronger motivator than incarceration for joyriders.
These are some of the findings by the Australian Catholic University in a study of north Queensland teenagers who engaged, or were considered at risk of engaging, in car theft.
The resulting report is delving more deeply into suggested remedies that in Alice Springs are often limited to curfew or lock’em up and throw away the key.
ACU criminology lecturer Shannon Dodd was one of the architects of the six-week course in Townsville designed for people aged 13-17 and with a specific focus on at-risk First Nations youth, according to a media release.
Is says giving young offenders something to lose – such as a job – can be a more effective than jail time.
Dr Dodd says participants dismissed the spectre of police charges as a deterrent and instead were motivated to change unlawful and unsocial behaviour by the prospect of paid employment.
“Rehabilitation also encourages young people to see their potential for the future,” she says.
Participants attended weekly sessions beginning with educational talks from experts in medicine, policing, or psychology, together with talks delivered by crime victims.
There were additional hands-on recreational activities, such as panel beating workshops, designed to channel participants’ interest in cars in a positive, safe, and legal manner.
Participants typically reported they were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while joyriding.
It can increase a young person’s perceived social status and provide an opportunity to “show off” to their peers.
Participants were “mostly dismissive” of the idea that the thought of getting in trouble with their parents or police would deter young people from joyriding.
Although de-identified for ethical and privacy reasons, participants’ interview responses were recorded in the report.
When asked if having a job would make a difference to the likelihood of re-offending, one participant said: “If I had a job, then that’s something for me to look up to as well. I can be my own role model.
“If I keep doing [joyriding] then I won’t be my own role model.”
Dr Dodd says youth crime is a “complex and acrimonious topic but calls to get tough on offenders failed to address the root causes.
“These young people are often not engaged in education, come from volatile environments, have had negative experiences with police and they feel powerless.
“Do we want to help them towards a safer, happier life? Or are we intent on throwing the book and entrenching them further into the criminal justice system?”
PHOTO from the report: Car damaged through joyriding awaiting repair.