The 12 Most Common Myths Shoplifters Believe
By Caroline Kochman, Executive Director, National Association for Shoplifting Prevention

As part of our day-to-day work at NASP, we speak with both adults and juveniles who have been caught shoplifting – from all over the country and from all walks of life. In doing so, it has become apparent that there is a set of false beliefs that exist among those who shoplift and are common to most offenders.

The most common myths are:
  • Shoplifting is only a crime in some states.
  • You can never be arrested unless you leave the store with the merchandise you stole.
  • If you buy something, it proves you aren’t a shoplifter.
  • You aren’t guilty if you are just holding something for your friend who stole something in the store.
  • Acting as a lookout or blocking an employee or customer’s view while your friend steals is perfectly legal.
  • It’s OK to shoplift if it’s the store’s fault... like if the store charges high prices; or the lines at the checkout counter are too long; or the salespeople are nasty.
  • Most stores will just let you pay for the items you took and then let you go.
  • If you cry and say it was just a mistake, most stores will just let you go.
  • Shoplifting isn’t such a big deal compared to other crimes.
  • Being caught shoplifting can’t really effect a person’s future.
  • No one is hurt by the little bit a shoplifter takes from a store.
  • You can’t go to jail for just shoplifting.
Shoplifters’ false beliefs are most likely the result of their own experience and a lack of awareness about the crime and its harmful effects on themselves, the victim and the community. In fact, over the years we have learned that, as a result of these misguided beliefs, all too many offenders are actually surprised when they are caught and arrested for shoplifting.
Thus, it is essential that Criminal and Juvenile Justice Professionals seize the opportunity to educate offenders in order to dispel these false beliefs. Through the CAP program for shoplifting offered in partnership with Turning Point Justice, NASP's SA Course for adults and the Y.E.S. Program for juveniles both provide offenders with the facts about shoplifting and its consequences – helping to reverse these myths and perceptions. Ensuring that all offenders know and understand the facts about shoplifting is vital to preventing future offenses.
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