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Should You Prosecute Shoplifters?

Should you prosecute shoplifters? According to an article published by the National Retail Federation, the answer may be a resounding ‘no’, for several reasons.

The first reason has to do with ethics and morality; a single conviction for a relatively small crime can have life-altering repercussions for those accused and/or convicted. Instead of traditional approaches to apprehending those suspected of shoplifting, some call for accountability, rather than punishment, to be the paramount aspect of handling shoplifters. This is known as a restorative justice model; the individual accused of shoplifting can voluntarily undergo an education and coaching program, while still taking responsibility for their crime.

The second reason has to do with hard facts and hard cash. Several retailers, including Burlington Coat Factory and Bloomingdales, found that a restorative justice approach to handling shoplifters has been better for business. The National Retail Federation reported that, as compared to individuals whose shoplifting was handled through traditional means, those who underwent a restorative justice program cost the retailer $200 less per apprehension (due to less time being spent on processing), were more than half as likely to return the merchandise, and were also dramatically less likely to shoplift again in the future.

The more retailers help individuals to stay out of a downward spiral of criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and subsequent poverty, the fewer shoplifters there will be to begin with.