1.1 million shoplifters stole more than $189 million worth of goods in 2012, according to the 25th Annual Retail Theft Survey conducted by loss prevention consultancy firm Jack L. Hayes International. The 23 large retail companies that participated in the survey reported more than 70,000 dishonest employees – 5.5 percent more than in 2011 – and managed to recover nearly $50 million from apprehensions.
Industry experts estimate the value of organized retail theft industry anywhere between $15 billion and $35 billion per year, but the real economic impact extends beyond the retail and manufacturing industry. Sadly, consumers are the ones ultimately bearing the financial brunt, since stolen merchandise gets resold on the black market or returns right back on department store shelves, wearing heavier price tags.
Experts from the Center of Retail Research have found that households in the United States are forced to pitch in nearly $436 per year and those in Europe $250 to mitigate retailers’ direct revenue losses and supply shortages. If an item is stolen, the value of several others must be increased to compensate the lost value, not to mention that customers are ultimately unable to purchase that item. End consumers are also the ones who end up covering the costs of loss prevention measures, passed along in the form of higher prices on merchandise.
Thieves generally steal popular items they can sell fast, targeting department stores, discounters, music stores, thrift shops and convenience stores. Here are the four most shoplifted products in the United States, according to a recent report from BusinessInsurance.org:
Meat and cheese
Certainly a strange item to stuff into the coat pocket, meat is at the top of the most targeted items by thieves, especially the higher-end specialties such as filet mignon, lamb chops and Certified Angus steaks. Regarding cheeses, shoplifters prefer the more expensive assortments, like parmesan and Swiss cheese.
Another category of products targeted by kleptomaniacs because they’re easy to steal and have a high resale value are men’s razors. Gillette’s Mach 3 is the most preferred brand.
Perfume, make-up, hair treatments, teeth-whitening kits, skin creams and tanning lotions are the cosmetic products most taken and not paid for, since most of them are small enough to be easily hidden inside purses and pockets. Expensive products such as Rogaine, Bumble and bumble, RoC, Oil of Olay, CoverGirl and Chanel are most preferred by brand-conscious thieves, causing annual losses of up to 2%.
The more expensive and popular the brand, the more chances it has to disappear from the store shelves. Whisky, vodka and rum-basic liquors such as Jameson and Hennessy Cognac are amongst the most targeted, as well as Grey Goose vodka, Crystal Head vodka and Vue champagne, which have to be kept under lock and key to be rescued from pilfering hordes.
Shoplifting is theft and is considered a criminal offense, regardless of the value of the items stolen. On the other hand, the charges and penalties are determined by the amount and cost of merchandise someone steals. For items between $200 and $500, the offense is considered a misdemeanor (petty theft), whereas stealing items with a value exceeding $500 can get an individual charged with felony (grand larceny or grand theft).
If you have been caught shoplifting, you should immediately seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to have the charges reduced to a misdemeanor. Aside from the value of the stolen items, a theft charge is determined by other factors as well, including your criminal record, whether you identified yourself when you were caught or your history of retail theft incidents. A specialized theft lawyer will examine possible defenses and negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dismissed, ensuring the successful conclusion of your case.
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 solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.