Is Shoplifting Stealing?

If you have been shoplifting or are thinking of doing it, hearing this message can change your future. We all know that stealing is wrong. Do you think shoplifting is stealing?


Many people, no matter what their ages, have strange ideas about what shoplifting is, and what can happen if they are caught. Like, “It isn’t shoplifting unless you get stopped outside the store, and then they have to prove it, or they’re in big trouble.” Or, “If you’ve got the money to pay for what you took, they’ll let you go.” Or, “They can’t do anything to you if you’re not 18 yet.”

In most states, shoplifting is called Retail Theft, not shoplifting, and means more than getting caught in the act of stealing something. Changing price tags on an item so you’ll pay less for it is also considered retail theft. You can be charged with retail theft if you let someone else put a stolen item into your bag, purse or pocket. Wearing an item of clothing or jewelry out of the store without buying it is definitely retail theft. You can be legally held by any store employee who has probable cause to suspect you’ve stolen something or altered price tags. You can be stopped while inside of the store.

Retail theft is dangerous! What are the chances of getting caught? Pretty high. Stores train their employees to spot thieves and they hire security people. Many stores have sophisticated detection devices. They’re not obvious, but they’re there.

What happens if you’re caught stealing? First, you’ll be taken to the store’s security office. The police will be called and you’ll be asked to telephone your parents even if they are at their workplaces. The police will question you and then may take you to the station for more questioning. There, someone will talk with you and your parents. Usually, you will be released into your parents’ custody until it’s decided how the case should be handled. Many times the case will be referred to the Juvenile Court System. Going to court can be rough. You and your parents will need to appear at the trial. Your case will be heard by a judge,’ If you’re found-guilty, you can be placed on probation under supervision, or sent to a juvenile correctional facility, And, from that time on and forever, you’ll have a criminal record. A criminal record can seriously affect your chances of getting a job, your chances of entering certain colleges, the military academies, medical schools, or special trade schools, your chances of receiving a commission in the military and more things than we can list’. It can even harm your future credit rating.

Maybe you know someone who was caught stealing and let go after a lecture. Retail theft has become a very serious problem for stores in the last few years. Businesses are no getting tough about pressing charges against all people who steal. Today, most stores o press charges. They figure that if people think they’re going to be prosecuted for sure, it will keep them for stealing. So, what with tightened security, and a store’s willingness to press charges, the chances of getting caught and prosecuted are high.

Getting caught stealing will affect your personal life even if you are let go. Think of your parents’ reactions. Think of how embarrassed you’ll be if the news gets around at school, or in your neighborhood. What can you do if you stole something, didn’t get caught, and now feel badly about it? So if you’re getting heat from your parents about where you got the item you lifted? Take it back to the store and tell them the truth about what happened. This may take some courage, but you had the courage to take it, in the first place. Also, you can call your local police, ask to speak with a juvenile officer, and talk about the situation. You will not need to give your name.

If you’ve been stealing, or are thinking about it, take seriously the things we’ve said. We have only said them to help you. We know you don’t need trouble. The risk is high and the consequences are serious. You know, — it’s just not worth it. Thank you.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.