Shoplifting is theft of merchandise for sale in a shop, store, or other retail establishment, usually by a would-be patron or customer.

It is one of the most common crimes that police and the courts deal with.

Retailers claim it has significant effect on their bottom line, stating that about 0.6% of all inventory disappears to shoplifters. The aggregate cost of shoplifting is covered by the store owners having to increase prices to maintain profit. In 2001 it was claimed that shoplifting costs US retailers $25 million a day. Other observers, however, believe industry shoplifting numbers to be greatly exaggerated. Other studies have found that over half of what is reported as shoplifting is either employee theft or fraud. Perpetrators often justify shoplifting as a "victimless crime".

Companies have introduced many technologies to combat shoplifting. Many stores have video cameras filming all areas of the store, larger ones often are patrolled by undercover investigators. Security devices are often affixed to products that set off alarms at the store exit if they are not deactivated by a cashier.

Most shoplifters are amateurs; however, there are people and groups who make their living from shoplifting, and they tend to be more skilled. One technique is to have a group of people rush a store and grab as much merchandise as possible and then rush out, the large numbers making it difficult to pursue. Some individuals choose to survive by shoplifting to resist selling their labor and protest corporate power. These individuals focus, often exclusively, on targeting chain stores; Wal-Mart is an especially popular target for political shoplifters.

A common slang term for shoplifting in America, Britain and Australia is "Five finger discount". In the US, it is often referred to as "boosting"; those who sell shoplifted goods (at a steep discount) are referred to as "boosters."



In Canada shoplifting is regarded as theft. If the amount equivalent to the stolen items is under $5,000 CAD, it is thus up to the prosecutor to decide if it will be prosecuted as a summary or indictable offence. In most cases it is treated as a lesser summary offence.

United States

In most states in the United States, shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime of petty larceny when specifically committed against a retail establishment by a patron. Some states do not distinguish between shoplifting and other forms of petty larceny, although a judge may consider the context of any crime in sentencing.

In some jurisdictions within the United States, certain egregious instances of shoplifting involving large dollar amounts of merchandise and/or a high degree of criminal sophistication may be prosecuted and punished as burglary or otherwise as a felony. California law, moreover, states that any instance of a person entering a store with intent to shoplift constitutes burglary irrespective of the value of that which is actually shoplifted; this state also makes it a felony when an accused shoplifter has any prior theft conviction, whether such prior conviction was for shoplifting itself or not - see felony petty theft.

Some recidivist shoplifters in the United States have been given long sentences under three-strikes laws, such as Leandro Andrade, who received a sentence of 50 years to life; such sentences have been affirmed as neither cruel nor unusual punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court. See also "broken windows" for an explanation of the theory underlying such laws.

England and Wales

There is no specific offence of shoplifting in England and Wales and offenders are usually charged with the offence of theft but are liable to be made subject of orders for restitution and compensation by the criminal courts.

Increasingly, retail companies are using the civil courts as a means of recovering compensation and obtaining exclusion orders where appropriate. In addition, companies are issuing exclusion letters to offenders and those they suspect as a means of attempting to encourage the police to charge those arrested for theft with burglary on the basis that they are trespassers. This remains a controversial issue and, generally, the police are reluctant to charge with the more serious offence.

Books on Shoplifting

Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman

See also

External Link

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