Helping Parents Stop Teenage Shoplifting
By Caroline Kochman, Executive Director, National Association for Shoplifting
It’s not easy to be a parent. Young people make mistakes, and when they do, ensuring that children face appropriate consequences will help them make better choices moving forward. When a child is caught shoplifting, many parents are shocked and wonder how it could have happened, and how to fix the problem.

Interviews with juvenile shoplifters reveal that youth typically do not plan to shoplift in advance. Instead, it’s often a spontaneous incident that they justify with excuses or rebellious thoughts. Shoplifting education programs can help children understand why retail theft is much more harmful than they realize.  

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) notes that 55 percent of adult shoplifters admit that they began shoplifting as teenagers. In fact, about 25 percent of shoplifters are under 18. Almost 90 percent of youth say that they know other children who shoplift, and more than 65 percent of say that they hang out with those kids.

Educating young people about shoplifting is the most effective way to reduce juvenile theft. Age and offense-specific education programs address the root causes of shoplifting, and also teach perspective on how the problem hurts the offender as well as others. If a child has been caught stealing, utilizing these shoplifter education programs often results in kids becoming up to ten times less likely to repeat the offense.

Appropriate consequences that provide a learning opportunity educates young people to learn from their mistakes. Turning Point Justice, in collaboration with the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, offer the Crime Accountability Program (CAP) in partnership with participating retailers. Through programs specially designed for underage shoplifters, the CAP program educates first-time offenders about the harm caused by petty retail theft without the need to go to court. This helps children repair the damages they have done without records that could later affect scholarship or job opportunities.

Children face peer pressure and often do not fully understand the impacts shoplifting has on others. Education can help provide insight into a child’s personal and social pressures that may cause him or her to shoplift. This type of understanding is what leads to true behavior changes, helping to stop shoplifting and prepare a child for more responsible and positive behavior.

If your child is caught shoplifting, ask the store if alternative programs like CAP are available to help your child repair the damages and learn from their mistake. Talk to your child about the seriousness of shoplifting, and if the store does not yet offer a program like CAP, contact NASP for assistance with free shoplifting prevention education. 
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