Theft and Shoplifting


I. Introduction

II. Defining Common Types of Theft

III. Prevalence of Theft and Shoplifting in Society Today

IV. Understanding the Causes of Theft: Criminological Research and Theory

A. Economic Conditions and Theft

B. Environment, Opportunity, and Theft

C. Theft and Drug Use

V. Conclusion and Bibliography

I. Introduction

In the United States and elsewhere, theft commonly refers to the illegal taking and possessing of another’s property, anything of value, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the item or the value of the item taken. Shoplifting is a certain kind of theft (i.e., larceny-theft) that occurs at retail stores and commercial businesses. Theft and shoplifting are two types of property crime. Other property crimes are burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson. While there are many kinds of theft, those discussed here are larceny-theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. None of these crimes features the use of force against people. Common examples of larceny-theft include stealing a bike or someone’s wallet (pickpocketing), or taking things from a retail store, e.g., CDs or clothes.

Theft and shoplifting are important to address because they account for the largest portion of all criminal offending in the United States. Laws against them date back to ancient Roman law (e.g., Hammurabi Codes) and English common law. In those times, the crime of theft was rampant, and proscriptions about what to do with thieves dominated extant law. These codes and laws have played an important role in shaping modern criminal law in the United States. Today, the forces that motivate theft are powerful and ever present, and the consequences of theft are felt by individuals, businesses, communities, and government agencies.

The research paper begins with a discussion of the major types of theft and shoplifting, followed by the prevalence of each in U.S. society today. Here, some demographic and regional variations in theft rates are examined, as well as the offenders who are involved. From there, the discussion moves to the major schools of thought regarding why theft and shoplifting take place and what society can do to address the problem. The research paper concludes with some observations for future research, theory, and practice.

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