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For some, it’s considered the season of giving. For others, it’s the season of shopping. But for as many as one in 11 Americans, it’s also the season of shoplifting.
The world has a serious shoplifting problem as it is—last year alone, it was estimated that retailers lost $112 billion worth of inventory. In America, the shoplifting problem only worsens during the holidays, when research shows that national shoplifting arrests increase nearly nine percent. The struggling economy has had an amplifying effect on shoplifting as well. From 2005 to 2012, annual shoplifting offenses rose by almost 43 percent.
What’s the reason behind the increase? The vast majority of people who shoplift aren’t professional, full time criminals, but regular folks like you and me, and they steal for a variety of reasons. Below are some of the most common.
A sense of entitlement. As Barbara Staib of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention explained to reporters from CNBC in this article, “The vast majority of people who shoplift do it out of personal issues. Maybe a distorted sense of entitlement… they see an opportunity, they find a convenient excuse.”
The holiday season promotes selfless giving, which can aggravate tensions for people who feel like they’ve gotten an unfair deal in life. They may feel as though they give more than they get, and justify stealing as a form of payback.
Substitution for loss. Shoplifting tendencies can spring from a loss or a believed loss, such as a loss of income or job. Shoplifters recovering from a recent loss may turn to stealing to help themselves feel more in control of their lives. As the weakening economy continues to bring more lay-offs and pay-cuts, shoplifting behavior may become more and more prevalent.
Depression and emotional issues. For many, the holidays can be an emotionally trying time. They may turn to shoplifting in the hopes that it can distract them from or alleviate feelings of insecurities, loneliness, and frustration. Studies have found that nearly a third of shoplifters have been diagnosed with depression.
Emotional high. Experts say that the vast majority of shoplifters are addicted to the thrill of shoplifting, which can activate a dopamine rush in the brain. Oftentimes, shoplifters will steal things they don’t actually want or need in pursuit of this “shoplifting high.”
Pressure from peers. Young shoplifters may be pressured by their peers to shoplift in order to be accepted by certain people, groups, or gangs. Research shows that juvenile males often shoplift clothes and other items to improve their social status. 35 percent of adult shoplifters report beginning as minors.
Drug addictions. Just as it has been connected to violent crime, many links have been made between shoplifting and drug or alcohol use. Not only may people shoplift to support a drug or alcohol habit financially, but use of these substances can encourage shoplifting by reducing inhibitions.
Kleptomania. A small percentage of shoplifters suffer from kleptomania—an impulse control disorder that can spur unnecessary stealing.
Lack of risk. Only around one in 150 shoplifters actually get caught. Those who are caught are rarely prosecuted, but may instead be photographed, charged with small fees, and banned from the store.
But things are changing. While shoplifting charges may have been easier to skirt in the past, retailers are responding to this problem by ramping up security measures. To prepare for the holiday shoplifting rush, many retailers are revamping their in-store security systems, installing security cameras, motion sensors, and gateways. And when a shoplifter is caught, stores are doling out more serious consequences like heftier fines and even law suits.
If a store does choose to prosecute you for shoplifting, the penalties can be far-reaching and severe. Colorado law doesn’t take shoplifting charges lightly, often penalizing offenders with jail time and a criminal record. The severity of the consequences for shoplifting depends largely on the value of the merchandise you steal.
Less than $500. If you are found with less than $500 worth of stolen merchandise, you can be sentenced with up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Between $500 and $100. This amount of stolen merchandise can result in up to 18 months of jail and $5,000 worth of fines.
Over $1,000. This is considered a class 4 felony, and can land you up to six years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
If you are charged with shoplifting in Colorado, you’re facing some big fines, lengthy jail time, and life-long consequences. Regardless of the amount of merchandise you are charged with stealing, it’s essential that you enlist the aid of an experienced shoplifting attorney. A good attorney can help you craft a strong defense, which can result in a favorable outcome for your case, such as getting the charges reduced or even dropped entirely. You owe it to yourself to at least set up a free consultation.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.