Shoplifting



Shoplifting is theft of merchandise for sale in a shop, store, or other retail establishment, by an ostensible patron. It is one of the most common crimes for police and courts.

Most shoplifters are amateurs; however, there are people and groups who make their living from shoplifting, and they tend to be more skilled. Some individuals shoplift in an effort to resist selling their labor, and/or to protest corporate power. These individuals target --often exclusively-- chain stores; Wal-Mart is an especially popular target for political shoplifters. Some counter this by arguing that costs of theft are not absorbed by the targeted company, but instead may result in price increases. Therefore, shoplifting is thought to ultimately harm paying consumers, some of whom may be shopping at places such as Wal-Mart because they are poor and have few other options.

A common slang term for shoplifting in Australia and the United States is "five-finger discount". The "five-finger" aspect of the term refers to fact there are five fingers on the hand which is used to grab the stolen merchandise. In the U.S., it is often referred to as "jacking" or "racking" and in the UK as "nicking or chaving". Professional shoplifters or organized shoplifting groups are often referred to as "boosters."

Retailers report that shoplifting has significant effect on their bottom line, stating that about 0.6% of all inventory disappears to shoplifters. In 2001 it was claimed that shoplifting cost US retailers $25 million a day. Other observers, however, believe industry shoplifting numbers to be greatly exaggerated. Studies have found that over half of what is reported as shoplifting is either employee theft or fraud.

According to the 2001 National Retail Security Survey conducted by the University of Florida retail operations suffered an average annual shrinkage percentage of 1.75% in 2000. Although most retailers experience a shrinkage percentage of less than 2% some smaller retailers often experience monthly and annual average shrinkage percentages as high as 20%. According to a study by the National Retail Security Survey 30.6% of shrinkage comes from shoplifting, 46% from employee embezzlement, 17.6% from administrative error, and 5.8% from vendor fraud.

Companies have introduced many technologies to combat shoplifting. Many stores have video cameras filming all areas of the store; larger stores are often patrolled by undercover investigators. Security devices are often affixed to products that set off alarms at the store exit if they are not deactivated or removed by a cashier.

According to the 2004 17th Annual Retail Theft survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International, 689,340 shoplifters were apprehended by 27 of the major U.S. retailers. This figure was a 4.86% increase from a total of 657,414 shoplifters apprehended in 2003. In 2004 $70,039,564 dollars were recovered from shoplifting apprehensions compared to $68,927,833 in 2003. In 2004, the average dollar value for a shoplifting apprehension was $101.60 dollars.

A common rationalization for engaging in shoplifting is that items are overpriced and honestly paying for items only serves to line the pockets of executives with their monstrous pay packages, thus those struggling to make ends meet should "fight back". This argument is dispelled by the fact that loss in stores only serves to hurt honest customers with higher prices.

There is no specific offense of "shoplifting" under Canadian law. Instead, shoplifting is covered under the general provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada that deal with theft. According to section 322 of the Code theft is defined as taking or converting anything fraudulently and without color of right, with the intent to deprive the owner of it, either permanently or temporarily. For punishment purposes, section 334 of the Code then categorizes theft according to the value and nature of the goods that are stolen. If the goods are worth less than $5000 the maximum possible punishment is 2 years imprisonment and/or $2000.00 in fines, while if the stolen goods are worth $5000 or more, or are a testamentary instrument, the crime may be punished by imprisonment for up to 10 years. However, first offenders often face only {{extrajudicial sanctionsYouth Criminal Justice Act#Extrajudicial Sanctions - Alternative Measures Programs}}.

In most states in the United States, shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime of petty larceny when specifically committed against a retail establishment by a patron. Some states do not distinguish between shoplifting and other forms of petty larceny, although a judge may consider the context of any crime in sentencing.

In some jurisdictions within the United States, certain egregious instances of shoplifting involving large dollar amounts of merchandise and/or a high degree of criminal sophistication may be prosecuted and punished as burglary or otherwise as a felony. The dollar amount to constitute felony shoplifting can range from being quite low such as $100 in Vermont, to quite high such as $2,500 in Wisconsin. In some states a high dollar amount can constitute a higher felony, a prime example being Arizona where a shoplifting incident greater than $2,000 constitutes a class five felony. Indiana is the only state in the country where an act of shoplifting is considered a felony regardless of dollar value.

Shoplifting can lead to far more serious charges than normally would be assumed. In most states an employee who shoplifts from their employer can be charged with shoplifting and embezzlement. In Arizona a shoplifter who is caught attempting to steal without any means of payment is guilty of third degree burglary. In Illinois a shoplifter who resists detainment is guilty of aggravated battery. In some U.S. jurisdictions, a repeat misdemeanor shoplifting offender can be charged with a felony for recidivism.

Exactly when the crime of shoplifting has been committed varies from state to state. Most commonly, statutes dictate that a person must leave a retail store with intent not to purchase an item before they can be detained. Some states such as Arizona have more strict shoplifting statutes. According to Arizona law 13-1805 subsection B "Any person who knowingly conceals upon himself or another person unpurchased merchandise of a mercantile establishment while within the mercantile establishment shall be presumed to have the necessary culpable mental state pursuant to subsection A of this section."

Some recidivist shoplifters in the United States have been given long sentences under three-strikes laws, such as Leandro Andrade, who received a sentence of 50 years to life; such sentences have been affirmed as neither cruel nor unusual punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court. See also Fixing Broken Windows for an explanation of the theory underlying such laws.

There is no specific offence of shoplifting in the UK and offenders are usually charged with the offence of theft but are liable to be made subject to orders for restitution and compensation by the criminal courts.

Increasingly, retail companies are using the civil courts as a means of recovering compensation and obtaining exclusion orders where appropriate. In addition, companies are issuing exclusion letters to offenders and those they suspect, as a means of attempting to encourage the police to charge those arrested for theft with burglary on the basis that they are trespassers. This remains a controversial issue and, generally, the police are reluctant to charge with the more serious offence.

In the state of California, and in most cases the rest of the United States and other countries, store employees and managers have certain powers of arrest. Store Officials may detain for investigation (a reasonable length of time), whom they have probable cause to believe is attempting to take or has unlawfully taken merchandise.

In the state of California, merchants may conduct a limited search to recover the item by those authorized to make the detention. Only packages, shopping bags, handbags or other property in the immediate possession of the person detained may be searched, but not any clothing worn by the person, pursuant to subdivision.

Anyone, other than a peace officer, who arrests a person without a warrant shall forthwith deliver the person to a peace officer.

A rule of thumb and in some cases a requirement to perform an arrest:

* You must see the suspect enter the display area
* You must witness the theft being committed
* You must see where the suspect concealed the item, if concealed.
* You must maintain visual contact with the suspect at all times
* You must see the suspect fail to pay and exit the store
* You must identify the property

A main fear of a store operator is an accused shoplifter would press charges on the business or the owner. Even if the accused had stole from the establishment, the business may still run the risk of a law suit do to variables that may have occurred during the entire process. That's why many large franchises have very strict guidelines of how to handle shoplifters.

An accused shoplifter has many rights that protect them from being falsely detained. An accused is subject to the many of the same rights as would be present in an arrest from sworn law enforcement, such as the right to remain silent.

False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of someone that affects the person’s freedom of movement. Both the threat of being physically confined and actually being physically confined can be considered false imprisonment if the customer is not free to leave. A store can not perform an arrest if there is no major proof of an actual theft. For example, a store that performs receipt checks may not perform an arrest if a customer refuses to have their receipt checked.

A store may detain persons if the situation calls for it. But in no way may a subject be attacked or aggressively man-handled. A person can be detained by reasonable force, or the least amount of force necessary to protect one's self or one's property.

CCTV monitoring is an important anti shoplifting method. Retailers focused on loss prevention often devote most of their resources to this technology.

Electronic article surveillance is second only to CCTV in popularity amongst retailers looking for inventory protection. EAS refers to the security tags that attach to a garment and cause an alarm to sound when removed from the store.

Loss Prevention personnel will patrol the store acting as if they are real shoppers. They may try on merchandise and browse the racks, all the while looking for signs of shoplifting and looking for possible shoplifters. Many large retail companies utilize this technique, and will watch a shoplifter conceal an item then stop them after they have exited the store.

Mostly used by high end retail establishments. The presence of a uniformed guard acts as a deterrent to shoplifting activity.

Costco shoppers are familiar with this. No shopping cart gets out the door until its contents are compared against the register tape. In most of the US, however, shoppers are under no obligation to accede to a search unless the employee has reasonable grounds to suspect shoplifting. All retail employees are instructed not to block the exit in the face of a customer determined to leave without showing the receipt.

Floor attendants are instructed to greet, follow, and offer help with their shopping. Shoplifters are not comfortable with this attention and will go somewhere else where they can work unnoticed.

Bottom of basket mirrors are commonly used in grocery stores where the check out lanes are close together and the cashier might be unable to see the entire basket to ensure there are no items being unpaid for.

Some merchandise will be in a locked case requiring an employee to get items at a customers request. The customer is either required to purchase the merchandise immediately or it is left at the checkout area for the customer to purchase when finishing shopping. This prevents the customer from having a chance to conceal the item.

Another formed of locked merchandise is especially popular with liquor. A secure, store administered hard-plastic cap is placed on the regular bottle top that cannot be removed without a store key. Once it is purchased the clerk will remove it, otherwise the shoplifter must struggle to open the bottle as the cap is designed to be extremely difficult to remove.

Probably the most famous legal case involving shoplifting occurred in 2001 when actress Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Beverly Hills, California. Ryder was eventually convicted of misdemeanor theft and vandalism. In 2003, Will & Grace actress Shelley Morrison (who played Rosario Salazar) was arrested for shoplifting at a Robinsons-May store in California; the charges were later dropped. In early 2006, former White House aide Claude Allen was arrested for an alleged return scam at a Target store in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Jean Eaton, while mayor of Albert Lea, MN, was accused of stealing hundreds of dollars worth of clothing from Marshall Field's stores in Rochester, Edina and St. Cloud in an alleged clothing swap scam. Eaton had claimed that police acted illegally when they executed a search warrant that gathered evidence used to support a felony theft charge against her. Eaton later reached a plea agreement with Olmsted County prosecutor's by entering into an adult diversion program, which includes restitution, and possibly community service to have the felony charges dropped.

Another category of shoplifters (who are almost invariably - and erroneously - labelled as suffering from kleptomania) are persons who clinical investigator Dr. Will Cupchik has labelled 'Atypical Theft Offenders'. These usually honest persons may steal in response to personally meaningful losses and/or other stressors. His book, Why Honest People Shoplift or Commit Other Acts of Theft (2002) provides data and conclusions of two studies conducted by Dr. Cupchik, as well as assessment and treatment methods. The major reasons that these persons should not be labelled as kleptomaniacs has to do with the fact that there are virtually always external triggering events that can be identified as just preceding the theft activity, and the fact that the stealing is virtually always an act of vengeance carried out in anger (although seldom recognized as such by the offender). The existence of an external trigger and the feelings of anger and desire for vengeance are factors that, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, would exclude the diagnosis of 'kleptomania'.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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