People Who Steal: Revealing Quotes from Offender Interviews

What Is A Shoplifter, people who steal, retail store theft

The Loss Prevention Research Council conducts more than 100 in-person interviews with active shoplifters each year. Much of what they say pertains to whether they see/get/fear a particular theft deterrent. Other comments and musings reveal unexpected thought patterns and rationales put forth by people who steal.

What follows are direct quotes from offenders, the context of the quote, and the interesting insight that each reveals.

Quote: “It’s the first of the month; with everyone getting paychecks today and paying in cash, I’ll definitely be checking the parking lot for receipts.”

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Context: Interview outside the front door of an apparel store. Offender was asked what he looked for when deciding whether to shoplift.

What’s Interesting: This offender revealed their underlying belief that the vast majority of shoppers live paycheck to paycheck, with disposable income spiking the first and fifteenth of each month, and has planned his offending around this belief. This is particularly interesting because we in loss prevention make a conscious effort to focus on how the “target audience” (offenders and people who steal) will think and react, not ourselves. This offender has failed to recognize that the population as a whole differs from the sub-population who he may have more experience interacting with.

Quote: “I wouldn’t steal this or go anywhere near it; there’s a camera built into it.”ILP-LM-tag

Context: Interview in LPRC Innovation Lab, discussing the ILP LM Tag.

What’s Interesting: First, this quote revealed that offenders often estimate technological capabilities of LP technologies incorrectly. Approximations of capabilities are formed based on a few simple schemas: Larger tags can hold more technology in them. A blinking light means there is a battery. A grill means there is likely a speaker.

Second, this offender revealed that he has a distorted understanding of retailer’s LP budgets and feasibility. A tiny camera in each tag protecting a vast amount of relatively low-cost items would, of course, be cost prohibitive.

Quote: “I’ve never been caught before. And I’ve been doing this kind of thing for over 25 years.”

Later in the Conversation: “A few years ago, I got set up by the police. They pretended to be a buyer of the TVs I’d stolen and arrested me when the deal went down. I spent almost a year in jail for it.”

Context: Interview was in a local Gainesville StoreLab retail location.

What’s Interesting: This offender seemed to honestly believe that a sting operation by the police and a one-year stint in jail didn’t count as “getting caught.” He was furthermore very proud about having “never been caught.” I have to be honest that I was a bit taken aback by this. It was one of my first offender interviews as a research scientist at the LPRC. Since then, I’ve become more accustomed to the rationalizations offenders often use. Offenders need to believe that they are good at shoplifting in order to have the courage to continue. And even spending almost a year in jail is apparently not a sign of failure if you approach it with the right (wrong!) attitude.

For full access to nearly 100 video recorded offender interviews, please visit the LPRC Knowledge Center or contact Mike [at] for more info.

This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated October 9, 2018. 

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