Why Do People Shoplift?

Recent studies have found that as many as one in 11 Americans has shoplifted in their lifetime. It’s a time-honored crime that is practiced by people of all ages, genders, races, religions, and income brackets.

People shoplift for a variety of reasons, some of them straightforward, but many of them quite complex.CLICK TO TWEET

More often that not, American shoplifters are driven by something beyond a dire need or financial considerations. That’s why you may be just as likely to spot someone who is wealthy and famous shoplifting as you are someone who is underprivileged and desperate.

What’s more, while some shoplifters struggle with psychological issues, many are often surprisingly religious, and driven by strong moral codes. Shoplifters come in many forms, from runaway teens and homeless people to affluent professionals and celebrities.

So what compels these many different people from incredibly varied backgrounds to shoplift? While every individual is unique and each case is distinct from another, there are some common motivations many shoplifters seem to share.

Below, we’ve listed some of the most common reasons people shoplift.

To make up for a perceived loss. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, shoplifters often steal to temporarily relieve a sense of emotional loss and no longer being in control. Shoplifting often flares up during times of emotional hardship, such as divorce, death, or job loss.

To relieve anxiety and depression. For many shoplifters, the act of shoplifting provides relief for feelings of anxiety, depression and boredom. As many of a third of shoplifters have been diagnosed with clinical depression.

In pursuit of adrenaline rush. While shoplifting and immediately after, many shoplifters experience what they describe as a “high” or a “rush.” The adrenaline rush that may accompany shoplifting can become addicting, and many shoplifters report feeling unable to stop.

Peer pressures. Teens may shoplift in response to pressure from their peers. Young people often shoplift to gain status among their friends, or to feel accepted by a group of friends or gang.

Depersonalization. There are some shoplifters who insist that stores and corporations are the true criminals, often citing P.J. Proudhon’s philosophy, “property is theft.” Other shoplifters argue that multinational companies and businesses are insured and can afford to be shoplifted.

Kleptomania. The intense urge to shoplift may also be caused by an impulse disorder known as kleptomania. To be diagnosed as a kleptomaniac, a shoplifter must meet the following criteria:

  • Persistent failure to resist the urge to steal items that are not needed for personal use or their monetary value
  • Heightening sense of tension immediately prior to shoplifting
  • Relief or pleasure while shoplifting
  • Shoplifting is not committed out of anger or vengeance, or in response to delusion or hallucination
  • Shoplifting is not caused by a conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or manic episode

To make a living. Of course, there are many shoplifters who do shoplift for financial gain. Professional shoplifters make a career out of stealing electronics, jewelry, and other high-value items.

Poverty. Similarly, there are individuals who shoplift out of desperation, often taking essential items such as diapers and baby formula in an attempt to support their families.

Drug addiction. In some cases, shoplifters steal in order to support a drug habit. Shoplifters with drug problems frequently describe the two additions as having many similarities.

Forgetfulness. We also see a fair number of “accidental” shoplifters who simply forget about placing an item in their purse or pocket before leaving the store. This is not uncommon among elderly or medicated shoppers, but it can just as easily happen to individuals who are simply distracted, busy, or in a rush.

Whatever the reason behind it, shoplifting is considered to be a serious crime in Colorado. It doesn’t matter if you shoplifted to out of boredom, pleasure, or necessity—if you are facing shoplifting charges, your future and freedom is on the line.

The penalties for shoplifting in Colorado are severe, and may include fines, restitution to the store owner, and incarceration. A shoplifting conviction on your permanent record will dramatically limit your future opportunities and freedom, often making it difficult to obtain a job, qualify for a loan, or secure housing.

If you or someone you care about is facing shoplifting charges in Denver, it is highly advisable to contact a retail theft attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand the charges facing you, and defend your rights using innovative and powerful shoplifting defense strategies. With an experienced shoplifting attorney on your side, you may be able to have your shoplifting charges reduced or dismissed entirely.


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