While most criminal and juvenile justice professionals strive
to handle their shoplifting cases with appropriate and effective
action, the reality is that with the overwhelming number of
cases on their dockets, the crime of shoplifting often falls
to the “low crime on the totem pole”. This leads
to shoplifting cases too often being disposed of with less
effective sanctions or even a simple warning and release.
While this practice may aid the court system in reducing
their caseloads for the immediate future, to impact long term
shoplifter recidivism the courts will gain most from sentencing
offenders to an “offense-specific” educational
program along with other sanctions.
Admissions by shoplifters in a confidential survey reveal
- Shoplifters who continually repeat the offense want to
stop, but are often to ashamed or afraid to ask for help.
Because these offenders don’t often voluntarily enroll
in an educational program, we must rely on the courts to
sentence offenders to receive formal, structured education
at the time when they will be most receptive to it….that
is, when caught or prosecuted.
- The most important factor in determining if a person
will shoplift again is their experience the time before.
If shoplifters are merely given a “slap on the wrist”
when sent to court, it is more likely that they will repeat
the act and ultimately end up back in the court system.
“Offense-specific" education programs for shoplifting
offenders have proven to be an effective way to reduce recidivism
because effective programs address the “root causes”
of shoplifting and give individuals an understanding about
the problem as it relates to society and themselves.
Psychological profiles and admissions by shoplifters have
revealed that 1 out of 3 “first-offender” shoplifters
are “at risk” of repeating the offense. Therefore,
it is in the best interest of the community to require the
offender to participate in a substantive educational rehabilitation
program, in addition to other sanctions such as fines, court
costs, community service, probation or jail.
To utilize an “offense-specific” educational
rehabilitation program for adults or juveniles caught
shoplifting as part of a plea bargain agreement, diversion
agreement, probation or sentence, visit the Criminal
& Juvenile Justice Center.
To learn about the National
Shoplifting Prevention Coalition, view member benefits
or to become a member, click
For information, research and statistics about the shoplifting
problem visit the National Learning and Resource
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