skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 97935 Find in a Library
Title: Trust Among Serious Thieves
Journal: Crime and Justice  Volume:7/8  Issue:3/4  Dated:(1979/1980)  Pages:239-247
Author(s): W G West
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 9
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: This participant observation study examined how trust is developed among those labeled as serious thieves by themselves, peers, and police.
Abstract: In addition to data collected by observation on 143 days over a 13-month period of residence in a lower and working class neighborhood, formal interviews were conducted with 40 serious thieves, 2 nonthieving peers, 2 professional thieves, and 4 fences. Analysis and cross-checking of observational, interview, and documentary data reveals that the thief's chief form of protection is his ability to pass as an ordinary citizen, thus playing on the trust of the public in those who look and behave normally. Additionally, by avoiding dealing with unknown parties the thief reduces his vulnerability. While the thief conceals his identity and activity from most others, there are others to whom he must signify that he is a thief. In these relationships, trustworthiness is established by ensuring that the others have compromising side-bets. These side-bets which protect against informing include personal gain, the need to maintain a relatively honorable public/community reputation, fear of physical violence/retaliation, and the maintenance of self-justifying motives and rationales which provide an ideological legitimation of theft. Thus, secrecy and trust are essential for the operations of serious thieves who operate within a community, part of which seeks their elimination. Thieves establish a social order with colleagues and others by granting them trust based on mutual gain, vulnerability to coercion, a social community, and ideological commonality. Included are 56 references.
Index Term(s): Behavioral science research; Deviance; Group behavior; Social control; Social organization; Theft offenses
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.