World News and Trends: One in three British men are criminals by age 40

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One in three British men are criminals by age 40

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Officials note that this figure may actually understate the number of criminals, since some obviously commit crimes but are not caught and convicted.

The study tracked a group of men born in 1953 over four decades. By age 15, 8 percent had at least one conviction. By age 20, 20 percent had been convicted. By age 30, 31 percent, and 34 percent by age 40. After age 40, first offenses are rare.

The crimes are not petty or insignificant, say authorities. Theft, burglary and violent crimes are proportionately more common in England and Wales than in the United States. In 1996, 6 percent of the English population had their homes burglarized.

In the last two decades the number of recorded crimes in England and Wales has doubled-a greater increase than in any other Western country. Only in murder rates does the United States live up to its reputation of being more violent than England.

Commenting on the pervasiveness of crime in England, Dick Hobbs, a criminologist at Durham University, said: "We have been encouraged to think over the last 15 years that crime is exceptional, but it's now normal for people to commit crime. For many young people, it's a routine activity. In some areas you find up to 90 percent of the youths involved in crime." (Source: The Sunday Times [London].)