Big-Box Stores Take Law into Their Own Hands in Fight Against Shoplifting

In Pennsylvania, retail stores in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, several of them well-known big box places such as Walmart, Sears, Kohl’s and Gabriel Brothers, have decided to take the law into their own hands. They are requesting private criminal complaints and seeking charges against shoplifters without going through local police departments.

From January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2019, more than 2,200 private criminal complaints were publicly filed in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties against people caught shoplifting. That’s almost half of the roughly 4,700 such complaints filed over that five-year period.

A sampling of private criminal complaints for shoplifting obtained by the Tribune-Review show that security personnel or employees of a store often directly observe people shoplifting or see them on surveillance video, prompting the request for criminal charges. The complaints bypass the police and head straight to the district attorney’s office.

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Often, the accused are found guilty. According to the data, 46% of the retail theft cases filed by private criminal complaint resulted in a conviction. About 20% were withdrawn; 9% were dismissed; and 0.2% resulted in pleas of no contest. Law experts say… TribLive

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