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September 21, 2015

The Strange Psychology of Shoplifting that Drives Crime

Shoplifters Shop Too

*actor portrayal

The Familiar Sitcom Scenario

Shoplifting is a type of burglary charge, and you didn’t walk into the store to burglarize it. You really didn’t, but now an expensive makeup set is tucked under your jacket. It feels like a 25-pound, glowing, hot coal against your body. Even as you wonder “Did anyone see me swipe this?” the high starts.  The adrenaline lights you up.

You pay for your milk and the rotisserie chicken innocently, but you take the makeup for free. You then pass a featured display on your way out and you run a finger along a fancy shirt. “It’s soft. Maybe next time,” you tell yourself. After all, no one will know, right?

Wrong. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), there are 27 million active shoplifters in the United States. Thanks to increasingly cutting-edge technologies and retail measures, a whopping 10 million have been caught in the last five years. Approximately 25 percent are juveniles; the rest are adults who start stealing in their teens and quickly becoming addicted to what they perceive as a low-risk crime.

The Psychology Behind Shoplifting

Interestingly, the vast majority of shoplifters don’t plan to steal anything. In fact, most enter the store and buy what they came for. Somehow, though, they end up with “bonus merchandise” slipped in a pocket, purse or stuffed beneath a shirt. That’s what makes shoplifting such a dangerous game. With stakes far higher than people realize, offenders face serious jail time and hefty fines.

No Such Thing as Simple Shoplifting

How you view shoplifting most likely is quite different from how Nevada law and the criminal justice system approach it. Any crime committed has a series of steps, often beginning with intent. That intent can be a separate charge and ups the ante considerably in penalties. You think you can be charged only with shoplifting a little something from a store?  Stealing or petit larceny law says that you had to enter that store first. That’s where the headaches begin, and that’s why you’ll need legal assistance to fight your charges in court.