Shoplifters Beware

Shoplifting is one of the most "under-reported" crimes of all.

In Tallahassee last year, there were more than 3,700 reports of shoplifting, and the Leon County Sheriff has launched a new campaign to try to stop it.

A sign is popping up in stores all over Leon County promising a free ride in a sheriff's car to anyone who shoplifts.

"It's going to help some. Somebody's going to read it and think about it and say, well, I better not. I'll go down to the next store that doesn't have it,” comments Big Lots Manager Todd Stalnaker.

Shoplifting costs retailers $10 billion a year according to a University of Florida study. Most companies plan for it in their budgets. At Big Lots on West Pensacola Street, they count on surveillance cameras and alert employees to keep losses to a minimum.

"I'd say about 75-percent are not worried about getting caught, about 75-percent of them. They pretty well know the routine. If they're shoplifters, they've been there,” adds Big Lots Manager Richard Pounsel.

These signs take a light-hearted stab at a serious problem. The sheriff saw one in central Florida, and pardon the phrase, stole the idea and brought it to Leon County.

"I said, you know, that's a good way to get the message out. If it attracted my attention, it'll attract someone else's attention,” says Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell.

There were 450 shoplifting incidents reported to the Leon County Sheriff's Office last year, and more than 3,000 reported to TPD.

The sheriff admits it'll be tough to tell whether the signs make a difference, but he says they certainly can't hurt. Extended Web Coverage

Who is a Shoplifter?

  • Shoplifters can be male or female, any race or color, as young as five or well into their 80s.

  • Anyone who deliberately takes merchandise from a store without paying for it is a shoplifter, whether the theft is large or small, premeditated or impulsive.

  • Young people account for about 50-percent of all shoplifting.

  • Shoplifting is usually the first type of theft attempted by juveniles, and it may lead to more serious crimes.

  • Many respectable people fall into the category of impulse shoplifting.

  • Impulse shoplifters have not premeditated their thefts, but a sudden chance (such as an unattended dressing room or a blind aisle in a supermarket)presents itself and the shopper succumbs to temptation.

  • Alcoholics, vagrants, and drug addicts can be driven by an urgent physical need to theft, as well as to other crimes.

  • Alcoholics, vagrants, and drug addicts are often clumsy or erratic in their behavior and may be easier than other types of shoplifters to detect.

  • Kleptomaniacs are motivated by a compulsion to steal. They usually have little or no actual use for the items they steal and in many cases could well afford to pay for them.

  • The professional shoplifter is in the business of theft, he or she is usually highly skilled and hard to spot.

  • Professionals generally steal items that will quickly be resold. They tend to concentrate on high-demand goods such as televisions, stereos, and other small appliances.

  • The professional may case a store or department well in advance of the actual theft.

Source: ( The U.S. Small Business Administration Web site)