The Shoplifting Problem In The Nation

Shoplifting is our nation’s “silent crime”. Parents don’t want to believe it, schools don’t address it, retailers don’t want to talk about it, police don’t want to respond to it, courts don’t want to deal with it and the people who do the shoplifting either rationalize it as “no big deal” or are too ashamed or too afraid to admit it.

As a result, shoplifting has become one of the most prevalent crimes in the U.S., averaging about 550,000 incidents per day resulting in more than $13 billion worth of goods being stolen from retailers each year. That is more than $35 million in losses per day. Current estimates are as high as 1 in 11 Americans who shoplift in our nation today.

Even with all the advances in security measures, shoplifters are only caught once in 49 times they steal and when caught, turned over to the police only 50% of the time. This is due, in part, to the fact that there is a trend away from shoplifter apprehension and prosecution by retailers, law enforcement and the courts as a way to cope with increasing costs, time issues and legal liability. These issues and others lead to the majority of shoplifting incidents going unrecognized, unreported and unresolved. . .thereby perpetuating the problem. Even so, reported shoplifting offenses are currently on the rise according to the FBI Crime Index.

The shoplifting dilemma is compounded by the fact that the crime is primarily committed by otherwise law-abiding citizens enticed by the temptation and opportunity to “get something for nothing” which presents itself as part of everyday life. More than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years. This situation reflects an inherent defect in our societal values which opens a gateway to corrupt our youth and weaken our nation.

Shoplifting has traditionally been treated as a retail industry-specific problem to be prevented exclusively by the retail victims themselves. While it is true that shoplifting’s most visible costs are to the retail industry, it is clearly not solely a retail industry problem as many would like to believe. Shoplifting hurts entire communities. Consider. . .

  • The higher prices consumers must pay to cover the losses from theft.

  • The inconvenience and invasiveness of security measures to consumers when shopping in stores.

  • The loss of community jobs when stores are forced to close.

  • The loss of local and state sales tax revenue resulting in higher taxes for everyone.

  • The added burden on the police and the courts.

  • The added financial and emotional hardship placed on families resulting from the arrest of a parent or child.

  • The corruption of our youth and our future, when dishonesty is not effectively addressed at its most fundamental level.

Shoplifting has become a social issue in need of a community response because shoplifting steals from all of us. Providing an overarching, active community response to shoplifting is essential to the future welfare of our society because the crime directly affects so many people. Without comprehensive community action we will continue to undermine current crime prevention efforts, suffer economic loss and family hardship and weaken the values of honesty, integrity and character in our youth and our future.


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