Why do people steal cars? This study examines car theft at the local level in Maryland and focuses on what motivates someone to steal a car. Ten individuals are interviewed, including attorneys and police officers involved in car theft cases. Three sociological theories are associated with my study: Strain Theory, Rational Choice Theory, and Social Disorganization Theory. Underlying premises include behavior and characteristics of offenders involved in car theft, societal or peer pressure on car thieves, and the impact of new car anti-theft technology. The results show that depending upon the motive of car theft, thieves are either professional older males who steal targeted cars for profit or nonprofessional young males who steal cars that are convenient to them for joy riding, opportunity, or to impress their peers. Both types of car thieves appear to have little consideration of the consequences if caught. The findings support all three theories: most thieves rationalize their decision to steal (Rational Choice Theory); younger thieves are prone to social or peer pressure (Strain Theory); and many of them come from poorer, disadvantaged neighborhoods (Social Disorganization Theory).


Nurse, Anne


Sociology and Anthropology


Criminology | Regional Sociology


car theft

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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