SPE­CIAL RE­PORT: SHOPLIFT­ING

Why it’s never OK to steal.

Dolly - - Con­tents -

“IT BE­CAME ABOUT HAV­ING CON­TROL AND SEE­ING HOW MUCH I COULD GET AWAY WITH.”

Slip­ping an ex­tra packet of Skit­tles into the bag at the self-check­out doesn’t count, right? And nei­ther does se­cretly pop­ping a lip gloss into your hand­bag? It’s only steal­ing if you take some­thing ex­pen­sive or break into some­one’s house… right? Wrong. Tak­ing any­thing you haven’t paid for – even if it’s only a $2 nail pol­ish – is shoplift­ing (AKA rack­ing or lift­ing) and it’s a BIG deal. Sur­pris­ingly, the peeps most likely to shoplift aren’t creepy-look­ing guys with tatts and guns like in the movies – it’s, um, you. Yep, the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Crim­i­nol­ogy did a huge study last year and found that fe­males are higher than males on the shoplift­ing radar. Shoplift­ing is cost­ing Aussie busi­nesses mil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery year and, more im­por­tantly to us, it’s land­ing young girls in some ma­jor trou­ble. “Penal­ties for steal­ing can range from an in­fringe­ment no­tice through to time in a ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion cen­tre,” warns prop­erty crime squad com­man­der De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Mur­ray Chap­man. “While it might seem like a way of gain­ing sta­tus among your friends or so­cial me­dia fame, there can be some quite se­ri­ous con­se­quences. Be­ing charged with a crim­i­nal of­fence can have an im­pact on your abil­ity to travel, study or get a job.” So if it’s such a big risk, why are teens do­ing so much shoplift­ing? A lot of girls shoplift be­cause of the pres­sure to fit in. Maybe you’ve had some­one ask you to act as a ‘look­out’ while they steal, or en­cour­age you to shoplift some­thing to prove you can be part of their group. But you need to re­alise that if some­one is pres­sur­ing you to shoplift, they aren’t a very good friend – and if you get caught, they prob­a­bly won’t have your back and you’ll be the one call­ing your mum from the se­cu­rity room at West­field. Way to get grounded for life! Other young peo­ple are shoplift­ing be­cause they’re cu­ri­ous. “It was an ex­per­i­ment at first. It seemed re­ally easy to take things I wanted,” says Leanne, 17. “It was just some­thing to do when I was wan­der­ing around the shops. Then it be­came about hav­ing con­trol and see­ing how much I could get away with. It was kind of like an eat­ing dis­or­der in that way. I never got caught, but I don’t do it any­more.” Sam, 18, grew up in a small town and says she used to shoplift be­cause, if she didn’t, her life was just bor­ing. “There wasn’t re­ally much else to do. We just used to take things we wanted for a bit of ex­cite­ment,” she ad­mits. “It was kind of fun, but we were lucky that we never got caught – that would have been re­ally em­bar­rass­ing in our town!” Reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gist Makayla Heard agrees that teenage shoplift­ing of­ten be­gins as an ex­per­i­ment. “For most young peo­ple, I’d say that they would shoplift out of cu­rios­ity, to see if they could get away with it, per­haps they’re pres­sured by peers, or they may want some­thing they can’t af­ford – and get­ting caught is usu­ally enough of a de­ter­rent to stop,” she says. She ex­plains that young peo­ple who keep shoplift­ing after be­ing caught fall into two cat­e­gories. The first group is thieves who steal to get what they want or to make money, and this in­cludes not scan­ning all of the items at the self-serve check­out at the su­per­mar­ket. But, she says, for the other teens who con­tinue to shoplift, it may rep­re­sent an­other prob­lem. “Some young peo­ple shoplift as a cry for help, and of­ten they won’t re­ally know why they did it, didn’t even need the items and say they couldn’t help them­selves,” says Makayla. “It is im­por­tant to find out what else is go­ing wrong in their lives, like with fam­ily or school, and work on fix­ing those is­sues.” If that sounds fa­mil­iar, it might be a good idea to find some­one to talk to. If it’s a bit em­barro to bring up, you could try an anony­mous source like Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800). It might also help to adopt some short-term so­lu­tions, such as not tak­ing a bag into the shops or not go­ing to the shops when you’re stressed. “When peo­ple get the care they need, the shoplift­ing be­hav­iour should cease,” adds Makayla.

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