Nissan gives new cars to young criminals

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The Independent Online
A LEADING car company is giving new models to persistent young thieves in an attempt to discover the tricks of their trade.

Nissan, the Japanese manufacturer, is supplying the cars to selected prisons and young offenders' institutions as part of a prison-education course.

The inmates will be asked to tell all about how they steal cars - which models they go for and at what time of day, how long thefts take and whether locks and alarms are a deterrent.

Nissan said a pilot scheme at Durham jail found the re- offending rate for those who took part was only 30 per cent after 12 months, compared with 80 per cent for all offenders.

A Nissan spokesman said yesterday: "It takes the knowledge and fascination which first-time offenders have for cars and reorientates it in a more positive direction. It stops them from stealing cars by getting them interested in car maintenance and associating cars with the consequence of stealing them in terms of harm to other people and themselves."

He said the course deglamorised car theft by debunking "street" myths about the crime and explaining the possible fatal consequences of "joyriding"and police chases. "We know that this programme is going to reduce car crime, but perhaps it will also help to reduce the huge waste of these young people's lives who keep getting locked away."

At the end of the course the offenders are given an accreditation from the Open College, which shows they have learnt about the implication of their criminal past.

The spokesman said two of the prisons being considered included Glenpava in Leicestershire and Rochester in Kent. Both are large jails with big young-offender populations.

Nissan is providing car- maintenance equipment, car models and training for prison officers to give the 30-hour courses. The scheme will begin in spring or summer, although Nissan said it was too early to say which prisons would be selected. The spokesman said the scheme would apply only to first-time offenders, as the programme would be less effective for recidivists.

The United Kingdom is Europe's capital of car crime, with a vehicle stolen every minute. In 1997 there were 3.48 million thefts or attempted thefts of or from vehicles, according to the British Crime Survey.