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Shoplifting: What do people steal and why do they do it?

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Retail crime accounts for $3.6 billion of goods disappearing from stores in Canada every year, and a big chunk of that comes from shoplifting. News1130 has a list of the top 10 most-stolen items and is talking to shoplifters about why they do it.

“I shoplifted as a kid, when I was younger,” says Phil. Many people we spoke with have, but there are some — not an insignificant number — who continue on with it into their adult lives. There are no definitive statistics, but one US study estimates it is up to 10 per cent of the population.

Phil’s seen it in several stores. “Drug sections where there’s expensive medicines and cough syrups and stuff like that. If they see a suspicious person in that section, they’ll keep an eye on that person. Those are the easy items to steal and they’re expensive, right?”

Graham can’t understand the attraction or thrill of shoplifting. “You know, there are ways to make things disappear but that’s something I’ve never done. I’ve even seen people doing it and then reported it —  I’m that guy. Maybe it’s because I’m a minister’s son.”

A report from the Retail Council of Canada says 87 per cent of retailers were the victim of some form of retail crime in 2007, with the average loss over $12,000 per year.

For some shoplifters, it’s the thrill of the steal; for others, it can be a sense of entitlement. Some people can’t say why they shoplift.

US numbers suggest Americans with incomes above $70,000 shoplift 30 per cent more than those earning $20,000 or less. The crime often spikes during boom-times.

The top 10 most shoplifted items listed in the book The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting are:  

1. Gillette razors and cartridges
2. Toiletries and alcohol
3. Clothing
4. Lingerie
5. Batteries
6. Vitamins and pregnancy tests
7. CDs and DVDs
8. Luxury toothbrushes
9. Instant coffee
10. Steak