American College Students' Shoplifting Experience: A Comparison of Retrospective Self-Reports to Micro-Level Criminological Theory

By Farmer, J. Forbes; Dawson, Jean | International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, January-June 2017 | Go to article overview

American College Students' Shoplifting Experience: A Comparison of Retrospective Self-Reports to Micro-Level Criminological Theory


Farmer, J. Forbes, Dawson, Jean, International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences


Introduction

Shoplifting, often referred to in small-town newspaper police logs by its statutory title of "willful concealment," is one of the most frequently committed, agonized over and costly crimes in societies around the world. Sociologists, psychologists, merchandizes, entrepreneurs and loss-prevention experts have long studied this international phenomenon. Social scientists look for environmental and psychological factors that might explain motivations for shoplifting, and retailers generally search for ways to thwart shoplifting to reduce lost profit. The actual number of shoplifters, the number of incidents and the amount of financial loss due to shoplifting is difficult, if not impossible, to determine as many incidents go undetected or unreported to the police. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS, 2012) claims that roughly two-thirds of all thefts go unreported, and some experts (e.g., Dabney, Hollinger & Dugan, 2004; Hollinger & Davis, 2002) think shoplifting is one of the most underreported crimes. Shoplifting and the demographic profile of the shoplifter are also inherently difficult to explain. According to the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (USA), "A person is guilty of willful concealment if, without authority, he or she willfully conceals the goods or merchandise of any store while still upon the premises of such store" (NHRSA, 2016, p. 637, 3-a). Also defined as "the act of stealing merchandise offered for sale in a retail store" (Perlman & Ozinci, 2014, p. 685), the misdemeanor of shoplifting has been vigorously studied because of its economic, retail trade, loss prevention, and theoretical interest. The authors of this paper focus on the theoretical perspective.

There are many examples of the extent and financial cost of shoplifting around the world. In Pakistan, despite an increase in modern security and surveillance, the pilferage of smart phones and mini laptops has dramatically increased (Rana, 2015). India, an emerging global power, ranks as one of the world's leading nations in shoplifting with a $1.6 billion annual loss (Sharma, 2010). In Russia's plunging economy, reported shoplifting accounted for a $12 million loss, but unofficial estimates put the loss at closer to $26 million (Telegraph.co.uk, 2015). When India, Russia and the United States are compared in terms of the economic relativity of financial loss (meaning the percentage of loss compared to their GNPs) India was first, Russia second and the United States third (Magnier, 2011). Bamfield (2004) studied 476 major European retailers and reported that over 1.2 million shoplifters were apprehended in 16 countries, including France, Germany, Greece, Austria, Spain, Norway, United Kingdom and Italy. In Australia, shoplifting is the biggest cause of retail shrinkage and, along with other forms of retail theft, contributes to a $2.7 billion loss (Thompson, 2015). Even in Finland there were over 45,000 reported cases (Kajalo & Lindblom, 2011). Needless to say, wherever it occurs around the world, the magnitude of shoplifting negatively impacts police work and the courts, adds to the costs of goods, and results in the loss of sales taxes for towns and cities.

In the United States, the financial loss to retailers due to shoplifting is around $10-13 billion each year (Bamfield, 2010; Blanco, Grant, Petry, Simpson, Alegria, Liu & Hasin, 2008; Chen, Shyu & Kuo, 2010; Dabney, et al., 2004; Forney & Crutsinger, 2011). Shoplifting and worker theft together cost American retailers about $32 billion each year (Wahba, 2016). According to Bressler (2011), shoplifting in the United States has recently increased 11.2%. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP, 2016) estimates that there are 27 million shoplifters in American today. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, 2014) Uniform Crime Reports specified 1,259,577 reported incidents. Shoplifting accounts for 21.5% of all reported larceny-thefts. …

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