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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Christmas: ‘Tis the Season for Stealing

For most Americans, Christmas presents are found in Santa Claus’s generous bag or, at least, in the wallets of their friends and family. Some people, however, decide to take matters into their own hands and simply steal the goods they want to find under the tree on Christmas Eve.

One in every eleven people who walk through the doors of a store is likely to walk out with at least one item they didn’t pay for. Most offenders are amateurs who simply can’t afford the items they desire and don’t take enough precaution measures. 75 percent of those caught are adults with jobs and most of them (70 percent) confess their crimes are ones of opportunity, by simply letting themselves give in to temptation. Only 3 percent of shoplifters are professionals who have a plan and put the items up for resale.

According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer for 2011, the merchandise stolen from stores in the four weeks leading up to Christmas exceeded $1.8 billion, a 6% increase from the previous year. On top of the stolen items list are not laptops or iPhones, like in past years, but delicatessen such as filet mignon, the “luxury meat” whose loss rate has increased by 21 percent in the past years. Alcohol comes in second, accounting for 2.9 percent of the stolen merchandise in the U.S., followed by electric tools, such as toothbrushes and power tools, as well as gadgets, perfumes and clothing items.

The Cost of Retail Theft

, Christmas: ‘Tis the Season for Stealing

Retail theft, including loss of inventory, organized retail crime or employee fraud, cost retailers more than $112 billion worldwide between 2012 and 2013. Shoplifting remains the highest cause of retail loss. According to a recent study that surveyed 157 companies covering 160,000 stores, the highest shoplifting rates were reported in Mexico and Brazil – 1.5% of the $1.5 trillion generated in sales in 2012, closely followed by the United States and China at 1.5 percent. Australia and Japan had the lowest rates.

A plausible reason for the increased rate of retail theft is that the down economy drives customers to buy less and steal more. Regardless of the desperate attitude of most retailers and huge discounts on almost every product, there still are plenty kleptomaniacs walking through the malls. Most theories explain the phenomenon by mentioning the slow economic recovery and higher theft rates in organized retail crime. At the same time, retailers have started investing in loss prevention methods and equipment, working with technology companies to find effective loss management solutions for such a widespread phenomenon.

When to Seek Legal Help

Retail theft charges are serious accusations. They can range from a simple misdemeanor to felony charges depending on the value of the stolen item and the history of previous retail theft charges, punishable by one year or 1-3 years in jail, respectively. There are also tremendous implications for the arrestee, whose chances of accessing future employment and applying for a professional license will be significantly affected by a conviction for retail theft.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help the offender dismiss a conviction or at least have the charges reduced and avoid prison terms. He can help prepare the case and prove to the court the theft was accidental, convincing the prosecutors to drop the charges and to allow you to rehabilitate your image in the community.

 

About the Author
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg,is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.

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