The Spokesman-Review

Sticky Fingers Why Are Teens Drawn To Try Shoplifting?

“At some point in time, most do it, or have done it,” says Detective Alan Armzen of the Spokane Police Department.

He must be right, because when asking local teens if they had ever shoplifted, an overwhelming number responded yes.

Everything from candy and cigarettes to expensive jewelry and clothes are stolen from department stores, grocers and hundreds of other local vendors. Why do kids steal? There are plenty of reasons.

One of the biggest seems to be good old peer pressure. That’s what motivated Marie, 23, to shoplift from The Bon Marche when she was 17.

“I wouldn’t have done it without my friend,” she said.

The same goes for Renee, 17.

“I used to steal candy and junk food with my friends after school,” she said. “I never did it when I walked home alone.”

An employee from Nordstrom’s loss-prevention department finds the majority of young people who shoplift do so with a partner.

Apparently, some shoplifters actually believe stealing the things they want saves them money. “Why pay for it if you don’t have to,” says Aaron, 21. “It saves me a lot of money.”

Expensive things hold a certain fascination for shoplifters - it’s a way to get something for free that they couldn’t afford to buy. This is 16-year-old Carry’s reasoning: It’s too expensive to buy.

In reality, the products she shoplifts will end up costing her - and everyone else - more. Most manufacturers and store owners boost their prices to cover the cost of stolen merchandise.

This isn’t the only consequence of shoplifting, however. You can get caught.

The penalties differ from store to store, but one thing remains the same: when you’re caught shoplifting, the store can fine you anywhere from $100 to $250, assessable to your parents if you’re under 18.

For example, when Marie took $400 in clothes, she had to pay for the stolen merchandise, and a $100 fine. She was lucky; The Bon didn’t prosecute. If it had, she would have faced additional court fees.

Shoplifting can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the dollar-value of the item stolen. For first time offenders, the penalty is usually probation. That can be accompanied by a fine and/or community service. When the shoplifter is a repeat offender, he or she can spend 30 to 90 days in jail. The maximum is a year. Imagine spending a year in jail for one pair of jeans.

Most kids who shoplift think they won’t get caught. Don’t think you’re that lucky. The odds are against you. The more you shoplift, the more likely you will be caught. In fact, most department stores have their own security systems in place to catch shoplifters - everything from hidden cameras to undercover security people posing as shoppers.

Armzen says those who begin shoplifting often start on a whim or a dare. From that whim could stem a criminal record. After one try, the shoplifter might gain confidence and move on to burglary or other felonies. Often, career criminals start out stealing, Armzen said.

But for Marie, and lots of other teens who get caught, one experience with the law was enough.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” she said.

MEMO: Editor’s note: The teens and young adults in this story were referred to by their first names only to protect their identity.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Noreana Emery-Cloy North Central and Carmen Geffre Spokane Falls

Editor’s note: The teens and young adults in this story were referred to by their first names only to protect their identity.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Noreana Emery-Cloy North Central and Carmen Geffre Spokane Falls



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