Did you know that shoplifting is the number one property crime in the United States? Shoplifting accounts for over $13 billion in merchandise stolen each year, with more than $35 million in losses each day, which is about 550,000 shoplifting incidents each day. Every single day.
It’s clear that shoplifting is a crime of epidemic proportions. However, some people still think of shoplifting as a “victimless crime,” given that many retail stores – especially “big box” stores, like Wal-Mart or Costco – have such a high volume of sales, that shoplifting losses may seem insignificant. This is actually not the case. In fact, as shown above, the cumulative effect of shoplifting is substantial. And, while these losses may be so frequent as to be called “the cost of doing business” for many companies, that cost is inevitably passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, in order to absorb the expenses of shoplifted losses.
There are alarming signs that shoplifting rates are increasing – alongside the rising prices of commodities that are being shoplifted. Retail crime has been rising across the United States for the past five years, with shoplifters targeting stores everywhere from Rhode Island to North Carolina to Wisconsin to California. The National Retail Federation reported that store losses mounted from $453,940 per $1 billion in sales in 2015 to $719,458 in 2020.
And while it is true that businesses are beginning to fight back, increasingly making large investments in loss prevention staff and technology, they are also experiencing very little support from the judicial system in attempting to curb shoplifting. Yes, electronic tagging and POS security measures are being improved and expanded, making it easier to catch shoplifting in action, but at the same time, nearly half of all states have increased their minimum thresholds for retail felony theft. Thirty-eight states now don’t consider shoplifting a felony unless $1,000 or more of merchandise is stolen.
In order to make a change in behavior, shoplifters have to admit that they are committing a serious crime, and heavier legal repercussions would reinforce that idea. But trying to pin a problem on someone else won’t result in a solution. We cannot rely solely on policing and legal repercussions and security cameras. Everyone can have a positive impact on shoplifting in their communities.
It is up to parents to set boundaries with their children and to enforce family expectations regarding shoplifting; it is up to individuals to align their behavior to community rules and beliefs. Only by taking steps to address shoplifting together will we find success.
Read on to learn more about shoplifting as well as strategies and tools to combat it.
What is shoplifting?
Shoplifting is generally defined as the unauthorized removal of merchandise from a store without paying for it. However, successfully exiting the store with unpaid merchandise is actually not the only way to commit a shoplifting crime. In certain cases, the intent to steal, along with an act in furtherance of that intent, can also result in criminal charges for shoplifting (or retail fraud).
“An act in furtherance” of shoplifting might include:
- Altering a price tag
- Removing (or trying to remove) security tags or other theft-prevention devices
- Hiding or concealing an item on your person while still in the store (for example, putting merchandise in your pocket or purse), or
- Removing an item from its packaging and concealing it in or among other merchandise.
Are there different types of shoplifters?
Yes, there are a variety of different types of shoplifters; after all, different people are motivated by different things. However, it is generally accepted that there are seven types of shoplifters.
The seven types of shoplifters are:
- Addictive Compulsive
Read more about the seven types of shoplifters.
How can I tell if someone is addicted to stealing?
Some people will shoplift once and then never do it again. But others will continue to steal regularly – monthly, weekly, or even daily. If a person is continuously stealing, it can be a major warning sign that he or she has a serious problem.
Here are the top signs that someone is addicted to stealing:
- The person has a powerful urge to steal items that he or she doesn’t actually need
- The person feels relief, pleasure, or gratification while stealing
- The person feels increased tension or arousal leading up to the act of theft
- The urge to steal does not disappear after a theft is made
- The person is constantly afraid of being arrested for shoplifting
Read more about shoplifting as an addiction.
Why do people shoplift?
Interestingly, the vast majority of shoplifters (almost 75%) shoplift not out of economic need or greed, but in response to personal and/or social pressures. It’s rarely about the money or the object stolen. Most people who resort to stealing are actually crying out for help. There’s something amiss, wrong, unresolved, and/or absent in their lives.
The top 10 emotional motivations for shoplifting are:
- Anger – to try to take back, to make life fair
- Grief – to fill the void due to a loss
- Depression – to distract from sadness, to get a lift
- Anxiety – to calm fears, to comfort
- Acceptance/Competition – to fit in
- Power and Control – to counteract feeling lost or powerless
- Boredom/Excitement – to live life on the edge
- Shame/Low Self-Esteem – to create a reason to feel bad, or to feel competent at something, even if it’s a bad act
- Entitlement/Reward – to compensate oneself for overgiving
- Rebellion/Initiation – to locate one’s identity
Stores, companies, the legal system, and many individuals look at any effort to explain why people shoplift as merely making excuses. However, shoplifting can be a true addiction for many people, which makes it incredibly difficult to stop without help. As with drug- and alcohol-related issues, treatment alternatives are needed, along with legal consequences. And it’s essential to address the roots of the problem, whether personal, familial, or societal.
What is the impact of shoplifting?
Although many people consider shoplifting a victimless crime, that could not be further from the truth. In reality, shoplifting can have an immense impact on people’s lives.
Some of the everyday consequences of shoplifting are:
- Consumers must pay higher prices for products to compensate for the loss of revenue from stolen products
- Security measures must be increased at stores, creating a less inviting environment for customers and decreasing the ability of a shop to connect to its customer base
- If a store is forced to shut down due to theft, many employees will lose their jobs
- Loss of local and state tax revenue results in higher taxes for everyone
- Dealing with shoplifters places an additional burden on police and local courts
- There is an added financial and emotional strain on the family unit when one of its members is prosecuted for shoplifting
Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive; the consequences of shoplifting may not always be immediate, but they do inevitably make themselves known, over time.
How can I address and stop shoplifting trends in my community?
There are several ways to address and stop shoplifting trends in your community.
If you are shopping, be vigilant. Assume the best of other shoppers, but keep your eyes open, and know the signs of shoplifting. Watch for someone who:
- Seems nervous.
- Avoids eye contact.
- Wanders around the store without buying anything.
- Leaves and returns to the store repeatedly in a short time.
- Stays in an area of the business where he or she is difficult to see.
- Keeps watching you or is constantly looking around.
If you are a small business owner, take steps to prevent shoplifting. It’s easier and safer to prevent shoplifting than it is to deal with a shoplifter.
Use simple measures to discourage shoplifting. For example:
- Stay alert at all times.
- Be friendly and polite to all customers.
- Ask customers if they need help.
- Keep your business neat, clean, and orderly.
- Know where shoplifting is most likely to occur in your business.
- Use a log to share suspicions or accounts of shoplifting with your managers or employees.
- Display merchandise neatly in standard groups, with 3-4 items per display so that sales personnel can notice if anything is missing quickly.
- Place small expensive items in secure display cases close to sales personnel.
- Don’t situate any display shelves or counters near the exit of your store – doing so creates easy targets for “grab and run” thieves.
- Display signs announcing that shoplifters will be prosecuted.
Also, know what to do if shoplifting does occur. Always play it safe.
- Never accuse anyone of stealing.
- Never try to physically stop a shoplifter.
- Never lock the door to keep a shoplifter from leaving.
- Never chase a shoplifter out of your place of business.
- Remain at least an arm’s length away from the shoplifter at all times.
Always know your rights. In many cases, store employees and managers have a certain power of arrest. It’s worth investigating if any of those cases apply to you and your situation.
If you’re still seeking guidance, you may find some evidence-based strategies to reduce shoplifting violations helpful, or you may want to continue reading to learn more about our course offerings.
There are many astounding statistics about shoplifting.
Here are just a few:
- More than $13 billion in merchandise is stolen each year.
- More than $35 million in merchandise is stolen every day.
- There are roughly 550,000 shoplifting incidents per day.
- Approximately 27 million people in the U.S. shoplift, which equals around 10% of the country’s population.
- Adults are the most common offenders, making up almost 75% of shoplifters.
- Over 25% of teens shoplift.
- The majority of shoplifters start stealing in their teens.
- Employees shoplift regularly, resulting in $50 billion lost to employee theft and fraud.
- About 75% of employees shoplift from their place of employment at least once.
- Employee theft and fraud result in an annual $50 billion loss.
- The vast majority of shoplifters (almost 75%) shoplift not out of economic need or greed, but in response to personal and/or social pressures.
Online Anti-Theft Class for Shoplifting
Anti-theft classes are designed to reduce repeat offenses in low-risk offenders who may have an addiction to stealing. 3rd Millennium Classrooms offers STOPLifting, an online educational course that may be mandated by a court, legal order, legal representative, parole or probation officer, or another agency for shoplifting or petty theft violations.
Some other names used for this course include:
- Adult Theft Class
- Anti-Shoplifting Class
- Anti-Theft Class
- Impulse Control
- Shoplifting Diversion Program
- Shoplifting Class
- Shoplifting Awareness Class
- Shoplifting and Theft Awareness Class
- Petit Theft Class
- Petty Theft Class
- Retail Theft Class
- Juvenile Theft Class
- Theft Intervention Class
- Theft Education Class
- Theft Prevention Class
If you’re looking for a course with any of the titles listed above, you’ve come to the right place! STOPLifting is the course for you.
Course-Ordered Classes: Shoplifting
If you have clients with shoplifting violations, and you’re tired of seeing them in your courts for the same charges over and over, consider requiring court-ordered classes for shoplifting violations. Many shoplifters are, unfortunately, repeat offenders. But certain techniques are effective when used to enact behavior change in both young people and adults.
What can make a difference? Personalized feedback is one recommended strategy. Along with motivational-interview-style questions, personalized feedback helps offenders move from ambivalence to awareness. This evidence-based practice for behavior change is why STOPLifting is used by thousands of courts across the country.
Another reason why court-ordered classes should be your go-to for shoplifting violations is that, when utilizing online courses, you can provide education that is consistent and scalable. 3rd Millennium Classrooms’ courses remove the obstacles of trainer ability, skill, qualification, as well as many of the cost and transportation barriers that clients face.
For probation officers and judges, this means that your clients will always be provided with the same evidence-based lessons that have been proven to reduce recidivism
Interested to learn about other advantages of online, court-ordered classes? You are welcome to read our guide: 5 Reasons to Use Online Education.
Course Highlight: STOPLifting
If you or someone you love needs assistance with stopping their shoplifting habit, 3rd Millennium Classrooms offers STOPLifting, a three-hour online intervention course that is regularly used as a sanction for individuals charged with a shoplifting or petty theft violation. It covers critical topics such as victim impact, legal repercussions, types of shoplifters, and behavior-change strategies. The course also explores justification and consequences. STOPLifting is written in the style of a motivational interview, drawing from personalized feedback and other evidence-based approaches to help shoplifters move toward permanent behavior change.
STOPLifting equips clients with the knowledge and skills to make better decisions, such as:
- Examining beliefs and attitudes about shoplifting
- Understanding the legal and personal consequences of shoplifting on their future
- Reflecting on the reasons they started shoplifting
- Examining patterns of behavior
- Managing stress as an alternative to shoplifting
- Discussing life changes necessary to avoid and quit shoplifting
Another benefit of STOPLifting is that the lesson pages and topics are short, interactive, and include audio narration – so you’re less likely to get bored as you work your way through the course. Notification of course completion is also automatically sent to the individual or court.
It’s important to know that, by the end of STOPLifting, clients will be able to identify the following:
- Personal motives for shoplifting
- Strategies to manage impulsive behavior
- Ways to manage stress
- Strategies to mitigate negative peer influences
All of these activities – with supporting evidence-based strategies – are designed to empower individuals to come to terms with their shoplifting, learn from the experience, and grow towards becoming better people tomorrow.