The holidays and the Christmas season are over, and aside from retailers adding up their sales and profits, they’re also noticing something else: A sharp spike in Massachusetts shoplifting charges were filed during this past holiday season.
According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer, a survey of worldwide retailers, and estimated $1.8 billion was shoplifted from retailers across the U.S in the approximately 4 weeks prior to Christmas Day. Unfortunately, an increase in shoplifting is not uncommon over the holidays. Mobbed stores and distracted clerks create an environment that makes it easier to slip something slim like a tablet computer into a jacket or pocketbook, or hide a clothing item underneath a coat. Unemployment and economic stress can contribute to a spike in these crimes, but people steal everything from food to luxuries.
Many experts claim the economy has little to do with shoplifting. They claim that shoplifters steal for a variety of reasons that have little relation to the economy. Some people do it for some kind of rush or thrill. For others, it has more to do with filling a psychological emptiness. "Shoplifting is generally a crime of opportunity and opportunities abound at the holiday," says Barbara Staib, a spokeswoman for the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, a nonprofit that provides shoplifting prevention education programs.
As a Wrentham, Mass. Shoplifting defense lawyer, I can attest to the fact that shoplifting is surprisingly common. Reliable estimates say that one in every 11 Americans shoplift, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. Here in Massachusetts, two courts in which I practice see a lot of Massachusetts shoplifting charges – Wrentham District Court and Dedham District Court: This largely due to the very large retail shopping centers in these towns – Dedham has Legacy Place, a very popular outside retail mall, and Wrentham has Wrentham Village Premium Outlets – a famous collection of upscale retailers offering discounted merchandise. These popular retail locations draw millions of people every month.
Shoplifting is no minor matter: In Massachusetts, the penalties for shoplifting can be serious.
• Shoplifting merchandise valued at less than $100: Maximum fine of $250 for first offense; maximum $500 for second offense; maximum of two years in jail for a third offense.
• Shoplifting merchandise valued at more than $100: Maximum of 2 ½ years in jail and a $1,000 fine.
• Larceny under $250: Maximum one year jail sentence and a $300 fine.
• Larceny over $250: Unlike the offenses above, this is a felony offense, and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in state prison and a $25,000 fine.
As a Massachusetts shoplifting lawyer, my experience has been that people shoplift for primarily psychological reasons. Kleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous offers support groups and treatments at various locations around the country. While professional psychological help is sometimes needed for long-term help, what is definitely needed right after someone has been accused of shoplifting is an experienced Massachusetts shoplifting lawyer – someone who has defended hundreds of these types of Massachusetts theft crimes.
Without the right shoplifting defense lawyer, a conviction can result that will follow a person for a long time down the road – many years. Too often, shoplifting defendants don’t fight these charges aggressively enough, because they want to put the whole embarrassing experience behind them. That can be a serious mistake. A shoplifting conviction will result in long-term consequences, including making it much harder to land a job that involves handling either money or merchandise.