The Cop Column

August, 2005

Sgt. Rick Hord, Public Information Officer

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office


          Five Myths about Shoplifting


            Most shopkeepers know: if ten customers walk through your door, at least one is a potential shoplifter. Some of that ten percent will change their mind for fear of getting caught… and a few will get caught.  Of those who get caught, the fortunate ones will be arrested and prosecuted.

          The shoplifters who get arrested are fortunate, you ask?  In my opinion, yes, they are… which brings us to Shoplifting Myths:

          Myth #1:  You are doing a shoplifter a favor by giving him or her a “second chance.” Some stores actually have a policy to not prosecute shoplifters who pay for the merchandise or return it after they get caught. Sometimes, a store manager decides not to press charges. In either case, the thief’s behavior is being rewarded. The thief is being taught, “If you don’t get caught, you get away it… if you do get caught, you still get away with it.”  Besides, Mr. or Ms. Shopkeeper, how do you know you’re not the tenth merchant to give this person a “second chance?”

          Myth #2:  Shoplifting isn’t my problem. Most experts believe retail theft losses add about seven percent to the price you pay at the cash register for clothing, groceries, and everything else you purchase. In other words, eliminating shoplifting would be like repealing the sales tax.

           Myth #3: Kids shoplift, their parents don’t. Shoplifters come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages. Teenagers tend to be thrill-seekers who may steal on a dare, or for peer acceptance. A significant percentage of shoplifters, however, are professionals. Shoplifting is sometimes a family business, with mom and dad using the kids to either distract store employees, or to actually steal and conceal merchandise. In fact, savvy merchants are alert for baby strollers, which are commonly used to conceal and transport stolen items.

          Myth #4: I’ve never seen a shoplifter in action. Sure, you have. If you’ve been shopping, you’ve been side-by-side with shoplifters.  You’ve also seen “shoplifting tracks,” evidence of where shoplifters have been at work: empty hangars in fitting rooms, discarded price tags, empty boxes on shelves, shrink-wrap and other packaging material on the floor.

          Myth #5: There’s nothing I can do about the problem.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Business owners and operators should consider becoming part of the Okaloosa County Loss Prevention Coalition. Contact the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit at (850) 609-2005 for more information. As a shopper, alert a store manager or employee immediately if you observe suspicious activity such as customers concealing merchandise, removing price tags, or carrying several items at one time into a dressing room. It’s a good idea to not dispose of receipts for just-purchased items on your way out of the store. Thieves love to find them son they can walk in the store and either walk out with stolen merchandise or make a fraudulent “return.”  The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit has plenty more helpful advice. Give them a call at (850) 609-2005.