From News Press - January 6, 1999
Expert warns there may be underlying reasons for
By DENISE L. SCOTT
News Press staff writer
Your child owns all the latest CDs and fashion fads. So why did he just get caught shoplifting? The answer may have nothing to do with material possessions.
Dr. Christine Needham, a Fort Myers psychologist, says shoplifting is usually a sign of a bigger problem and occurs among the rich and poor.
"Shoplifting is a basic call for help, especially if the child doesn't need the stuff: she says, "There are a lot of peer / influences as well. In some circles, it's cool to steal."
Needham says juvenile shoplifting may also be an indication of family problems, Or the child feels guilty about something and labels himself as a criminal. Or it could simply be the result of a dare. Because of the wide range of possibilities, parents of shoplifters should seek professional help.
"With a lot of children, it starts with stealing and then the acting out takes other forms, such as drugs or alcohol," Needham says, noting children often cannot explain why they shoplift because it's on an unconscious level.
No matter what the underlying reasons, she says, parents should not cover up the problems or avoid seeking treatment because of embarrassment. That's where Shoplifters Anonymous Inc, may fit in. It provides home-study programs to help get to the root of the problem - privately.
Joy Ciullo, director of court services for the New York based organization, says Shoplifters Anonymous has a program targeted for juvenile offenders, It teaches them that stealing isn't a victimless crime and that it affects the lives of real people - including themselves.
"They don't recognize the risks they're taking for the reward they're getting. We teach them that if you steal a CD today, you might not get the job you want in the future," she says.
The home-study program, which Ciullo says has a 97-percent success rate, consists of an audio cassette and workbook with questions for $56. The answers provided can help the organization analyze the shoplifter's psychological profile to determine which areas need additional support .. All additional services are free, including conference calls to the self-help group in New York or a referral to a local psychotherapist.
• Approximately 23 million people - one of every 11 - steal from retail stores each year. About 25 percent of those are juveniles.
• Most adult shoplifters admit they started stealing as juveniles.
• Shoplifters get caught about once every 49 times they steal
For information on Shoplifters Anonymous and its home-based programs, call