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Straight Talk with Lauren Forcella

Help is available for shoplifting addicts
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Dear Straight Talk: I am writing about my friend. She has a problem with shoplifting, maybe even an addiction. I would like to help her stop before she gets caught because she is over 18 and it will result in a criminal record. I have known her for years. When we were younger, I shoplifted makeup a couple of times with her, but it scares me too much and doesn’t feel right to steal. She is a good person except for this. Over the holidays she stole so much stuff it almost made me sick. Does anyone on the panel have shoplifting experience and if so, how did they stop? Maybe it will help her. ~ Sammie, Toledo, Ohio

Matt, 17, Tustin: I have friends who shoplifted and were caught. One was stealing earrings for his girlfriend. He had stolen jeans multiple times before. He was devastated when they told his coaches at school. Jail time is an obvious consequence, but finding examples of things dear to her that could be lost might help even more.

Taylor, 14, Santa Rosa: I’m like you – I can’t shoplift. My mom taught me early. After I took a small knickknack, she made me return it and apologize. The store clerks thought little 4-year-old-me was cute, but I was embarrassed. Even at Safeway near my school, people pick things up without paying all the time. It’s wrong, but I don’t feel it’s my place to step in. Maybe getting caught will scare her enough to stop.

Brie, 20, Santa Barbara: I’m a manager in retail and I see how much inventory gets stolen. My store is easy to steal from, yet corporate does nothing about it. Shoplifting makes prices go up because stores lose revenue.

Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: Visit Shoplifters Anonymous at www.shopliftingprevention.org. They offer self-help and support, even for those with a pending court case.

Dear Sammie: Show your friend this column. It will communicate your concern and maybe someone’s comment will resonate with her. Many teens shoplift. Shoplifters are usually depressed and stealing takes a further toll on their soul life. Most are scared out of the phase, others are caught, many continue stealing. The best thing you can do is tell her parents (anonymously, if you must). The embarrassment of being caught by loved ones may help her quit before she ends up with a criminal record. Plus, if her parents know, they can get her professional help for a habit difficult to kick. Don’t delay!

To donate, ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit www.straighttalktnt.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.

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More from Lauren Forcella

Some shoplift for need, others for greed, most enjoy the rush that shoplifting brings and most are depressed. And for all shoplifters, the habit reflects internal shame and low self-esteem. Not all realize this until they are caught – which is often described as the most humiliating thing to ever go through. Deep down, stealing feels lousy. 

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention estimates that one in 11 Americans shoplifts. Seventy-five percent of shoplifters are over 18. The holiday shopping craze is when most shoplifting occurs. In the four weeks before Christmas, the Global Retail Theft Barometer reported that sticky fingers accounted for $1.8 billion in stolen U.S. merchandise.

The best prevention is intervention during an early childhood theft, such as Taylor described above. Guilt and embarrassment, used correctly, are great teachers. For others, not so lucky, in order to kick the habit, you need to re-learn how to get a rush from normal activities (going to lunch, getting a haircut, meeting someone for coffee) rather than through the thrill of stealing. Professional help is often needed, and worth it!