Shoplifting When someone steals merchandise offered for sale in a retail store it
is generically called shoplifting. To commit shoplifting one must
"intend" to permanently deprive the merchant of the value of the
merchandise. Shoplifting most often occurs by concealing merchandise
in a purse, pocket or bag but can occur by a variety of methods. Most
shoplifters are amateurs. However, there are growing numbers of people
who make their living by stealing from retail stores. Amateur
shoplifter can be highly skilled, and some steal almost every day, but
don't do it to make a living. Most amateurs are opportunistic, crude
in their methods, and are detected more often than others.
Professional shoplifters run the gamut from being highly skilled to
thug-like. Some professionals work in teams or use elaborate
distraction scenarios. The crude professionals sometimes use force and
fear much like gang intimidation and often commit grab-and-run thefts.
Being a professional means that they steal merchandise for a living
and like other trades, practice makes perfect. Thoughtful
professionals are very difficult to stop in a society where retail
stores openly display their merchandise.
Shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes, ages and sexes, and vary in
ethnic background, education, and economic status. Some shoplifters
steal for the excitement, some steal out of desire, some steal for
need, some steal out of peer pressure, and some steal because it is
simply a business transaction to them. Some shoplifters are
compulsive, some opportunistic, and some are mentally ill and don't
know any better. Some shoplifters are desperate from drug addiction,
alcoholism or from living on the street. Children and elderly persons
sometime steal without realizing they are committing a crime. In urban
cities, it is not unusual to find a network of "fences" who send out
teams of shoplifters into specific retail stores to shoplift specific
items, much like filling an order for a customer. The fences only pay
10-20 cents on the dollar to the thieves and sometimes pay their room,
board, and provide training on how to steal and defeat the anti-theft
technology. Some fences have been known to bail their workers out of
jail when caught or provide for their legal defense. This creates a
kind of strange street loyalty much like the tale of Oliver Twist.
Theft from stores, including employee and vendor theft, cost retailers
many billions of dollars per year. Independent retail studies* have
estimated theft from retail stores costs the American public 33.21
billion dollars per year. Depending on the type of retail store,
retail inventory shrinkage ranges from .5% - 6% of gross sales with
the average falling around 1.75%....