While some shoplifting is an organized crime effort,much of the opportunistic shoplifting can be seen as a “signal that people are having trouble in their lives,” said Peter Berlin,president of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.
His organization works to address the psychological problems that can cause shoplifting,ranging from a loss of health to divorce or loss of a loved one. The group also educates people that shoplifting is not a victimless crime.
“Sometimes people feel they need to give themselves a little gift when they think they deserve it,” Berlin said. “They feel the need to act,and if they are in the right place and have the opportunity,they will impulsively take something.”
Although some people deal with problems through excessive drinking or eating,others shoplift,he said. Pressure and stress can increase that behavior around holidays.
About a fourth of shoplifters are habitual,meaning they shoplift on a daily or weekly basis. Unless they have been convicted before,they are rarely forced to seek help and are unlikely to do so on their own because they are ashamed,Berlin said.
His organization's shoplifter education program works much like driving school for people who commit traffic violations. Studies of 2,768 shoplifters who went through the program showed a 2.1 percent recidivism rate.
“Habitual shoplifters are not going to stop because of jail,” Berlin said. “We need to teach what's really going on.”
The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention can be found at http://www.shopliftingprevention.org