The 2009 shoplifting statistics are staggering. Nationwide, shoplifting is fast becoming one of the most common criminal charges among juveniles and adults alike. The U.S. National Association for Shoplifting Prevention reports that 1 in 11 Americans shoplift, 75 percent adults, 25 percent under the age of 18. Jack L. Hayes International Inc., a private retail loss-prevention and security firm estimates 615,000 shoplifting incidences occur every day in the United States. A recent CBS News story reports shoplifting costs stores $35 million every day. The regional lead investigator for King Soopers' security and loss prevention estimates between 400 and 500 thefts at the City Markets in the Roaring Fork Valley last year alone.
When the economy is as bad as it has been, experts report that law-abiding citizens justify stealing as a viable alternative to going without. CNN reports store thefts increased in 2009 for the first time in six years with over $36 billion lost. Shoplifters neglect to consider the impact they have on retailers' bottom line and subsequent increased costs for everyone at the register. To help pay for losses, enhanced security with surveillance and loss prevention personnel, shoppers can expect to watch prices soar as theft rates continue to rise. National statistics show shoplifting rates escalating during the holiday season and into the New Year, a critical time when retailers normally expect to account for up to 50 percent of their total annual sales. With shoplifting rates counter-balancing those profits, many retailers find themselves deeper "in the red" moving into 2010.
With so many offenders wreaking so much havoc on our local economy, what can we do?
1. We can hold ourselves accountable for our actions, choosing honesty and integrity over the selfishness, deceit and degradation of stealing.
2. We can set an example for our youth through the virtues of self-respect, dignity, and the common good; helping young people to understand right from wrong.
3. We can give generously throughout the year to organizations and agencies who work tirelessly to support indigent members of our community.
4. We can commit to working through hard times with less, empowering ourselves with creative alternatives to that which we cannot afford; finding joy and meaning in the quality time we spend with each other, rather than the superficial value of material possessions.
In 2009, YouthZone's restorative justice program helped juvenile shoplifters understand the impact of their actions: On the stores, on their communities, on their families, and on themselves. Restorative justice gives young people an opportunity to safely look another person in the eye and say, "I did this. I'm sorry and I want to make it right." Working to repair the harm through community service and a variety of nationally acclaimed YouthZone-facilitated programs and services, over 1000 young offenders each year have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and move forward with pride, self-worth and a newfound respect for what it means to make a positive contribution to community. More importantly, these lessons last a lifetime. For more information, visit us online at www.youthzone.com or call 970.945.9300.
- Evan Z., is a YouthZone Division Manager (Aspen-Carbondale). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 970.948.7283