Facts About Shoplifting

In many stores today we see the signs warning about being on camera and advising that shoplifters will be prosecuted. Despite these measure, every year billions of dollars worth of products are stolen from retailers. So what is shoplifting, how is it different than other types of theft, what are the possible consequences, and what impact does it have on society?

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), an organization dedicated to educating the public about the threats of shoplifting, routinely keeps statistics about the effects of this crime. According to the NASP, more than $13 billion worth of goods are stolen from retailers each year (or approximately $35 million per day). Moreover, 1 in 11 people will commit the crime of shoplifting at some point in their lives, but only 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years. In fact, according to NASP, only 1 in 48 shoplifters are caught, and only about half of those people are turned over to police for prosecution.

With numbers this high, it is obvious that shoplifting is nearly epidemic in America. Some people think of shoplifting as a victimless crime, given that many retail stores (especially “big box” stores like Wal-Mart or Costco) have such high volume of sales, but this is far from the case. In fact, as shown above, the cumulative effect of these thefts is quite substantial. And, of course, while these losses may be so frequent as to become a “cost of doing business” for many companies, that cost is necessarily passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices to absorb the expense of shoplifted losses.

While the romanticized face of shoplifting is the starving parent stealing bread to provide for a child, but the reality is this is rarely the case. In fact, there is no such thing as a “typical” shoplifter. According to NASP, both men and women shoplift in approximately equal proportion. Moreover, about 25% of shoplifters are underage. Among adult shoplifters, 55% say they started shoplifting in their teens. Most shoplifters do not commit other types of crimes.

So what is shoplifting, in legal terms? Technically, it is just the theft of merchandise from a store or business establishment. As such, it has the same general elements of larceny (i.e., the unauthorized taking and removal of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property). However, many states have laws specific to shoplifting, simply varying the general elements of larceny by adding the element that the entity being deprived of their property is a retailer. Some states also have different penalties for shoplifting, often enhanced over other forms of larceny to recognize the social impact of this crime.

If you have been accused of shoplifting, it is important to have the assistance of a qualified, experienced attorney to assist you in your case. A list of attorneys in your area may be found under the “law firms” tab, above. Similarly, if you want more information about combating the effects of shoplifting, additional resources can be found under the “Law” tab above.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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