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Shoplifting Addiction

Shoplifting Addiction is a behavioral disorder that often results in severe adverse consequences to the life of the addict. Most shoplifting addicts do not steal because they cannot live without the merchandise. They do it to get the “rush” of stealing without being caught. Many shoplifting addicts describe the rush of shoplifting as being very similar to the rush of drug abuse. It is estimated that there are more than 25 million shoplifters in the United States who works out to one in eleven citizens. Most shoplifters do so at department stores, but supermarkets, convenience stores, and specialty shops are also frequent victims of shoplifting.

Shoplifting Addiction – The Facts

  • More than $13 billion worth of goods is stolen from retailers each year. That’s more than $35 million per day.
  • There are approximately 27 million shoplifters (or 1 in 11 people) in our nation today. More than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years.
  • Shoplifting affects more than the offender. It overburdens the police and the courts, adds to a store’s security expenses, costs consumers more for goods, costs communities lost dollars in sales taxes and hurts children and families.
  • Shoplifters steal from all types of stores including department stores, specialty shops, supermarkets, drug stores, discounters, music stores, convenience stores and thrift shops.
  • There is no profile of a typical shoplifter. Men and women shoplift about equally as often.
  • Approximately 25 percent of shoplifters are kids, 75 percent are adults. 55 percent of adult shoplifters say they started shoplifting in their teens.
  • Many shoplifters buy and steal merchandise in the same visit. Shoplifters commonly steal from $2 to $200 per incident depending upon the type of store and item(s) chosen.
  • Shoplifting is often not a premeditated crime. 73 percent of adult and 72 percent of juvenile shoplifters don’t plan to steal in advance.
  • 89 percent of kids say they know other kids who shoplift. 66 percent say they hang out with those kids.
  • Shoplifters say they are caught an average of only once in every 48 times they steal. They are turned over to the police 50 percent of the time.
  • Approximately 3 percent of shoplifters are “professionals” who steal solely for resale or profit as a business. These include drug addicts who steal to feed their habit, hardened professionals who steal as a life-style and international shoplifting gangs who steal for profit as a business. “Professional” shoplifters are responsible for 10 percent of the total dollar losses.
  • The vast majority of shoplifters are “non-professionals” who steal, not out of criminal intent, financial need or greed but as a response to social and personal pressures in their life.
  • The excitement generated from “getting away with it” produces a chemical reaction resulting in what shoplifters describe as an incredible “rush” or “high” feeling. Many shoplifters will tell you that this high is their “true reward,” rather than the merchandise itself.
  • Drug addicts, who have become addicted to shoplifting, describe shoplifting as equally addicting as drugs.
  • 57 percent of adults and 33 percent of juveniles say it is hard for them to stop shoplifting even after getting caught.
  • Most non-professional shoplifters don’t commit other types of crimes. They’ll never steal an ashtray from your house and will return to you a $20 bill you may have dropped. Their criminal activity is restricted to shoplifting and therefore, any rehabilitation program should be “offense-specific” for this crime.
  • Habitual shoplifters steal an average of 1.6 times per week.

There is a commonly held misconception that shoplifting addiction affects more women than men. In reality, the demographics of shoplifting addiction are almost equally divided between the two sexes. Law enforcement estimates that a shoplifter is only caught once for every forty-nine times they shoplift. This is mostly responsible for the high social cost of shoplifting.  Prices for goods and services are raised to offset the cost of stolen merchandise. In the end, every shopper pays for the consequences of shoplifters’ behavior.

Treating Shoplifting Addiction

Therapy is the preferred method of handling shoplifting addiction. Addicts begin to deal with their problem by acknowledging that their life has become unmanageable as a result of behaviors based on an unhealthy or faulty belief structure.  For a shoplifting addict to recognize his or her reasons for stealing, they must first take a close look at the underlying causes of their behavior. Some common causes for shoplifting addiction include depression, anger, boredom, unresolved trauma, PTSD, and stress. Furthermore, shoplifting addiction is often exacerbated by co-occurring disorders such as drug addiction, alcoholism, and dual diagnosis (bipolar disorder,  borderline personality disorder, etc.).  Whatever the causes, they must be addressed in order arrest and reverse the disease process.

Support groups can also be beneficial for recovery from shoplifting addiction. Shoplifting support groups emphasize personal responsibility and accountability. They provide a safe, non-judgmental environment in which shoplifters can relate with others who have been in the same shoes, empathize with one another, and share coping mechanisms and tools for recovery. In most cases, these groups are based on anonymity. Reliance on a higher power is a central tenet of many such groups, and many “sober” shoplifting addicts cite their faith as the basis of their recovery.

Treatment for shoplifting addiction is similar to treatment for other addictions.  As with any addiction treatment program, the responsibility for recovery is placed squarely on the shoulders of the addict. Only by dealing with the causes of their problems can shoplifters hope to recover.

In some cases, shoplifting addicts may need medication to aid in treatment and recovery. If a shoplifting addict displays symptoms of depression or anxiety, prescription medication may be indicated. A shoplifting addict cannot be treated successfully unless all aspects of the disease are confronted. Although the psychological issues may be treated with therapy, medical intervention may also be warranted. Do not overlook this step when developing a treatment plan.

Family members also need to be involved in the treatment process. Shoplifting addiction affects the entire family system, so family therapy is often recommended as an adjunct to treatment. Each family member may need counseling of their own to deal with their loved one’s addiction. As with any addiction, an all-inclusive treatment plan is essential to successful recovery from shoplifting addiction.

Information and statistics provided by the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), a non-profit organization;