Date of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Committee Chair

Aida Hass


Motor vehicle theft is a popular crime with hundreds of thousands of vehicles stolen each year. Two common MVT methods are auto thefts and carjackings. Auto thefts occur solely as property crimes, in which an offender steals an unoccupied vehicle. Carjackings are interpersonal crimes, in which the offender steals the vehicle from the driver by force or coercion. This study compares the motivation of the two offender groups. Utilizing 28 in-depth semi-structured interviews with active offenders, this study explores why they chose to commit crimes, why they chose vehicle-related crimes, and why they chose their preferred method. Although both offender groups target vehicles, there were differences in motivation. Money-making was the most popular reason, with pleasure being the second most notable reason. Auto thieves also stole as a means of transportation regularly, but this was not noticed with carjackers. Offenders stole vehicles to sell and earn quick large amounts of money for survival and necessities, as well as to spend on luxury items, drugs, alcohol, and women. Most auto thieves chose to avoid interpersonal crimes to reduce the need for violence or the chance of heavier consequences, but carjackers rarely used their weapons as anything more than a scare tactic. After the crime occurred, carjackers disposed or separated from the stolen vehicles almost immediately, but auto thieves often kept them for several days. Stolen vehicles were most often disposed of by stripping them of parts and abandoning them on the side of the road by both offender groups.


auto theft, carjacking, motor vehicle theft, motivation, offender decision-making, active offenders

Subject Categories



© Tara Rose Abrahams

Open Access

Included in

Criminology Commons