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Car theft is no joy

Opinion

Car theft is no joy

Jane Stephens is alarmed by the number of young people stealing vehicles, and writes we must change the language around this crime.

There is nothing joyful about it. Nothing that lifts the spirits. Nothing that nourishes the soul. And, truth be told, it is less a ride than a rip-off.

We must stop calling the theft of a vehicle and the dash away with it a joyride. Joyride implies freedom, a treat and an indulgence. But that is not how the term is being used lately, and that usage needs to stop.

The term ‘joyride’ should not apply to the wave of underage drivers stealing cars and driving them literally like they stole them. The little beggars are rarely alone, seemingly heightened by committing crimes in the company of other lost boys and girls.

A boy, aged just 13, died near Toowoomba last week when the stolen VW Golf he was in rolled. He was one of four children in the car, and all were hurt.

Three teenage girls, believed to be 15, lifted keys from a bag on the sideline of a Kedron footy field last week, stole a coach’s HiLux and livestreamed their highway escapades. And two boys gone wild stole a VW Golf car from Burleigh, rammed four police cars and several other vehicles on the Gold Coast.

Also this month, four young people, including a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy, were finally stopped at Meridan Plains with road spikes after nicking a car from Brisbane’s southside.

What is going on?

The problem with ‘joyride’ being used to describe these escapades is that it doesn’t imply criminality. It doesn’t imply wanton disregard for another person’s valuable possession. It doesn’t imply the danger that stealing a car and taking off in it poses to self and others.

The language must change.

We did it with the coward punch. The act of hot-headed, sudden violence used to be called a ‘king hit’ until we wised up to there being nothing regal or dignified about it. It is a selfish assault by a gutless individual and now we all correctly label it that way.

When a car is stolen, it is not a joyride for anyone, even if the young hoodlums think it is.

When a person too young to hold a licence and too young to be named and shamed flogs a car and puts pedal to the metal on our streets, they are just reckless, rebellious little criminals.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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