Economic Factors and Methods of Shoplifting

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary to shoplifting is defined as “to steal displayed goods from a store” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). “The terms shoplifting and petty theft are interchangeable. Petty theft is the taking of something whose value is at or below a specified dollar amount, such as $500 or $750” (Portman, n.d.). “If items that are stolen are greater than the given amount it becomes grand larceny” (Portman, n.d).

According to Portman (n.d.), In order to be convicted of shoplifting/petty theft the prosecutor has to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the victim of the crime had a possessory interest in the item taken, the property was actually taken away, the victim did not agree to the item being taken, and that the defendant confiscated the item to deprive the victim/owner of it permanently. The meaning of having possessory interest in the item is even if the victim does not own the specific item, but it is in their possession at the time of being stolen it is provable (Portman,n.d.). To prove that the item was taken away the prosecutor must prove that the item was moved from original place or position, even if slightly, with intent of taking possession of the item (Portman, n.d.). The victim also could not have knowledge of the defendant taking the item in intent of returning the item or borrowing of the item (Portman, n.d.). This act is not criminal and the defendant would be civilly liable for the item (Portman, n.d.).

Literature Review

Researchers have found that women are more likely to commit the crime of shoplifting than males. Briar stated in her research paper that 60% to 80% of shoplifters are women (Hooper and Briar, 1998). Physiological and hormonal changes play a major role in this relation. Other factors of the relation are pregnancy, menopause, and variable illnesses (Hooper and Briar, 1998). For instance, emotional issue that women deal with that leads to shoplifting is depression. A major type of depression that causes shoplifting within the female population is low self-esteem (Hooper and Briar, 1998). Many researchers have related gender to the crime of shoplifting, but not many have investigated other factors of shoplifting (Hooper and Briar, 1998). The purpose of this research is to identify if shoplifters commit the crime of shoplifting simply, because of their low income or lack of income. I hypothesize that shoplifters do shoplift due to low income or lack of income.

Economic Factors of Shoplifting

I hypothesize that shoplifters do shoplift due to low income or lack of income. . People that are relatively poor tend to shoplift more. Employment or lack thereof is considered in the relation economic factors and shoplifting. Briar stated in the journal of sociology and Social Welfare, “Eighteen percent of the shoplifters, compared with 7% of the other shoppers, reported unemployment during the previous year” (Hooper and Briar, 1998). Most offenders were labeled as unemployed. There were various incomes within this study, but the family incomes of the offenders were relatively lower than other shoppers.

Shoplifting as a Business

There are many people who shoplift items and sell them. They go to various stores from high-end stores to lower priced retail stores and steal their merchandise and sell it to people. Some shoplifters makes this into a business and open “shops” and “boutiques”. People who commit this crime are called boosters. In the research article entitled Behind the Fence: Buying and Selling Stolen Merchandise, Johns and Hayes stated, “Prices for stolen goods range from one-third to three-quarters of the retail price” (Johns and Hayes, 2003, 29). If the boosters do not have a “shop” or “boutique” they sell the stolen items on social media. There are various ways that these types of shoplifters obtain merchandise in order to sell and profit from them. One way is the boosters go in like regular shoplifters and steal the merchandise. Sometimes boosters have “connects” and this where they know someone that works for a store that they plan to get the merchandise from and they go through them to gain access to the items. Many people use these methods in order to earn large amounts of money in order to improve their socioeconomic status.

Method

This quasi experimental design will involve one hundred offenders of shoplifting activity. Fifty of these offenders will be females and the other fifty of these offenders will be male. The purposive nonprobability sampling method will be used to acquire this sample, because offenders who are in jail for shoplifting are being selected due to the basis of the study of shoplifting and its relation to low income or the lack of income of its offenders. The controls will be that they will all be in the same jail and they will all be in that jail for shoplifting/petty theft. The way that data will be collected is through in-person interviews. Keeping into consideration the precautions that have to be taken with the special population of prisoners they would be presented with the questions that would be asked and if they would be comfortable being interviewed before any interviewing takes place. Once everything is cleared the in-person interviews will begin.

At that point there will be ten questions asked to each participant. These questions will be 1) How long have you been shoplifting? 2) What store did you shoplift from when you were arrested? 3) Why did you shoplift from this particular store? 4) What was your income when you were arrested for shoplifting? 5) Did you feel like you had to shoplift for necessities? 6) At any point while you were shoplifting did you sell the merchandise that you stole? 7) Do you think that once you are released from this charge that you would shoplift again? 8) If so, why would you? If not, why not? 9) How does shoplifting benefit you and/or your household? 10) What do you think that could be put into place to help you to accommodate your needs or wants for items that you have shoplifted? As personal as these questions are they are relative to the study and as mentioned before they will be presented before the interview so that only offenders that are comfortable with answering them will participate and they are able remove themselves from the study when they are ready. After the interview the results would be gathered and compared to my hypothesis and recorded into a database.

Shoplifting can affect business owners, consumers, and offenders. A lot of factors are not considered when looking and shoplifters and researching why they shoplift. This research’s purpose is to explore an important and major factor in shoplifting which is income and the lack of income shoplifters might experience. This research can shed light on various economic situations that cause different types of crime such as shoplifting.

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