Retails stores often employ loss prevention officers to deal with shoplifters. It is their job to arrest on site any persons suspected of shoplifting, make a report, and contact the police. In some instances, the store will make the person accused of theft sign a declaration stating that he or she will not return to the store in the future.
If the police are involved and decide to pursue an investigation, they will typically issue the person accused of shoplifting with a Promise to Appear, which compels their attendance in BC Provincial Court to speak to the charge of Theft Under $5000. Lawyers may attend court on behalf of their client.
Being Arrested for Shoplifting
There is almost nothing as humiliating as being arrested for shoplifting. The impact of this experience has been greatly studied by social scientists. Much of the research suggests that being caught shoplifting can be a transformative experience which takes the habitual and thoughtless act of shoplifting and turns it into one that requires great reflection and deliberation. That is, people who are caught shoplifting can no longer simply shoplift without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Part of this attitudinal shift has been attributed to the application of the criminal definition of shoplifting to the offender. Changes in the perception of self have been identified for shoplifters, although not to a large extent. Typically, the shoplifter who has been caught will describe other shoplifters as more fearful when shoplifting.
Interestingly, individuals who have been caught shoplifting at least once are highly likely to believe that they will be caught again. This produces a strong deterrent effect, which is one of the goals of the criminal justice system. The specific deterrence of these individual offenders is not solely evidenced in fear of apprehension but also in the belief that, if caught again, a shoplifter will receive more severe penalties than before. However, some studies have also suggested that the deterrent effect will be decreased over time. A 1973 study found that the average person shoplifted more than five additional times after he or she had been caught.
The impact of being caught shoplifting also has far-reaching implications on how the shoplifter justifies his or her behaviour. Individuals who have been caught find themselves in contradictory situations. On the one hand, they wish to justify their actions to their accuser. On the other hand, these justifications are destroyed by the very fact of apprehension. Being caught increases the likelihood that an individual will cite revenge, excitement, and social pressure as reasons for shoplifting. In addition, once caught, shoplifters are more likely to accept responsibility and assert the willfulness of the shoplifting action than they are to justify or deny responsibility for the action.
Apprehension increases the awareness in a shoplifter of the risks that were always present. Prior to apprehension, many shoplifters see themselves as impermeable to the risks.