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An Analysis of the Prosecution of Shoplifters

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Abstract

This article examines the decisions to prosecute shoplifters by Canadian retail investigators. A hypothetical case method that permits a statistical simulation of an experimental design is used. The findings support recent research which indicates that both the value of the item and the age of the suspect are the most important predictors of investigators' decisions to prosecute. In addition, our results identify admission of the offense and the suspect's appearance as important predictors of these decisions. In general, characteristics of the offense rather than of the offender are found to be most important factors in the decision-making process. Further, the results support the argument that investigators' decisions tend to maximize company profit. However, profit maximization is revealed as an unintended consequence of these decisions.

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... Clifford Shearing argued long ago that the use of police discretion is dependent upon the officer involved or situational variables (such as offence characteristics), or both (Shearing, 1981). This extends also to the decision to prosecute (Feuerverger & Shearing, 1982). Since then, much more research has focused upon police discretion and consequent decisionmaking (Alder, O'Connor, Warner, & White, 1992;Arcuri, Gunn, & Lester, 1979;Barry, 1993;Riksheim & Chermak, 1993;Wundersitz, 1996). ...
... There are other financial disincentives too. Shop owners must consider the costs of attending court through time lost at work, as well as the value of the stolen items (Feuerverger & Shearing, 1982). ...
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Although police exercise wide discretionary powers when carrying out their general patrol duties, it is with respect to young people that these powers are the most extensive. The present research examines some of the factors that influence the use of police discretionary powers with young offenders. Over 220 sworn police officers from New South Wales Police responded to written surveys about the way in which they routinely dealt with, or planned to deal with, four offences commonly committed by juvenile offenders. Results show that police behaviour towards the same offending may vary greatly, particularly in relation to minor offences. This is not particularly surprising, given the plethora of discretionary and diversionary options that have been introduced into Australian juvenile justice and policing legislation in the last decade. The purpose of giving these options was to provide police with greater scope to accommodate individual differences in offenders. An unintended consequence of this change, however, has been greater unpredictability of outcome. Given that there is a broad range of police officer typologies as well, a young person's experience with the law, especially in relation to minor offending, is becoming more ‘lottery’-like.
... While the public police sometimes attempt such direction by establishing crime prevention squads and acting as consultants, private security personnel often mocked what they saw as presumptuous police officials who set themselves up as "crime prevention experts." Furthermore, because private security are usually the first to encounter a problem, they effectively direct the police by determining what will and what will not be brought to their attention (Black, 1980:52;Feuerverger and Shearing, 1982). On those occasions where the public police and private security work together-­-for example, police fraud squads with bank security personnel-­-it cannot be assumed that the public police play the leading role, either in terms of investigative expertise or in terms of direction of the investigation. ...
Article
Private security has become a pervasive feature of modern North American policing, both because of its rapid growth since 1960 and because it has invaded the traditional domain of the public police. Because this development has been viewed as an addendum to the criminal justice system, its significance for social control has not been recognized. This paper traces the development of private security in Canada and the United States since 1960, examines the reasons for its present pervasiveness, and explores its essential features: it is non- specialized, victimoriented, and relies on organizational resources as sanctions. We conclude that private security is having a major impact on the nature of social control.
... While the public police sometimes attempt such direction by establishing crime prevention squads and acting as consultants, private security personnel often mocked what they saw as presumptuous police officials who set themselves up as "crime prevention experts." Furthermore, because private security are usually the first to encounter a problem, they effectively direct the police by determining what will and what will not be brought to their attention (Black, 1980:52;Feuerverger and Shearing, 1982). On those occasions where the public police and private security work together-­‐ for example, police fraud squads with bank security personnel-­‐it cannot be assumed that the public police play the leading role, either in terms of investigative expertise or in terms of direction of the investigation. ...
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In its Discussion Paper on "the private security industry" the Home Office has taken an important, long overdue step in initiating a public debate on the issues raised by this rapidly expanding form of social control. We welcome this opportunity to join this debate and respond to the Government's appeal for evidence and comments relevant to the arguments considered in its Discussion Paper. The Home Office has succeeded in compressing a great deal of information and ideas into a few pages. Considering the great diversity of the phenomenon under discussion, and the potential magnitude of the issues which are raised by the modern development of private security in Britain and elsewhere, this is no mean feat.
... Other studies, however , indicate that a much more complex and subtle interaction of factors influences this type of decision-making, with the role of sex being influenced by other factors. Thus women are less often reported than men for considerable sums, while precisely the opposite phenomenon occurs where lesser sums of money are concerned (Feuerverger and Shearing, 1982 4 ), and men who refuse to confess are more often reported than women who refuse to confess (Feuerverger and Shearing, 1982). Among well-dressed shoplifters, women run more risk to be reported than men when the customer who witnesses the theft is a man, and less risk when the customer is a woman (Steffensmeier and Terry, 1973). ...
Article
This article represents an analysis of the literature on sex‐based selection processes in the criminal justice system. It is only since the feminist wave of the sixties that sexual discrimination has been considered as an issue of importance in the study of the criminal justice system and that female criminality has been looked at more thoroughly. The article deals with the different assumptions and hypotheses which have come forward in the debate on the possible discrimination of men and women in the criminal justice process. In the first part of the article the various theoretical models are outlined: the chivalry and evil women hypotheses, the legal or etiological model, the social control theory, the family‐based justice model, and a multifactoral model. In the second part of the article, the results of empirical research relevant to these hypotheses are presented. American, British, Belgian, Dutch and some German literature has been taken into account. The review of the literature shows that the chivalry hypothesis cannot offer an all‐embracing explanation for the possibly perceived preferential treatment of women. Similar conclusions can be drawn for the explanatory value of the legal model. Although a more lenient treatment of women can sometimes be explained by legal factors, these factors can offer no more than a partial explanation for observed sex differences in the criminal justice system. Especially in the case of pre‐trial release and sentencing, more particularly when deciding whether or not to send a defendant to prison, a noticeable sex‐effect can still be found. In the literature we find strong suggestions — although not always confirmed — that an (initially observed) more lenient treatment of women at these stages can be explained by stereotypes and expectations about the personality of women as less dangerous and the specific role which women fulfill in western society.
... While the public police sometimes attempt such direction by establishing crime prevention squads and acting as consultants, private security personnel often mocked what they saw as presumptuous police officials who set themselves up as "crime prevention experts." Furthermore, because private security are usually the first to encounter a problem, they effectively direct the police by determining what will and what will not be brought to their attention (Black, 1980:52;Feuerverger and Shearing, 1982). On those occasions where the public police and private security work together-­‐ for example, police fraud squads with bank security personnel-­‐it cannot be assumed that the public police play the leading role, either in terms of investigative expertise or in terms of direction of the investigation. ...
Article
Full-text available
Private security has become a pervasive feature of modern North American policing, both because of its rapid growth since 1960 and because it has invaded the traditional domain of the public police. Because this development has been viewed as an addendum to the criminal justice system, its significance for social control has not been recognized. This paper traces the development of private security in Canada and the United States since 1960, examines the reasons for the present pervasiveness and explores its essential features: it is non-specialized, victim-oriented, and relies on organizational resources as sanctions. We conclude that private security is a major impact on the nature of social control.
... LP personnel are supposed to impact on loss by auditing compliance with LP procedures, creating LP awareness at all corporate Only rarely does the scholarly literature discuss store detectives, 9 and then usually only as a part of the research project and not as the subject of the study. One exception 10 analyses the decision processes of store agents regarding the sanctioning of apprehended store thieves. Another study 11 examines store detectives and their role in curbing juvenile theft. ...
Article
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This study analyses the responses of 40 US retail companies to a survey regarding the focus, selection, training and performance rating of their store detectives. Most retailers currently assign their store agents to patrol for shop thieves, to audit store asset protection initiatives and to create loss prevention awareness among all store staff. New store detectives are selected primarily on ethical and decision-making criteria. The use of force was the highest-ranked training topic. Finally, over 66 per cent of participants indicated that civil liability concerns had caused them to change their store detective training programmes.
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In his controversial challenge to criminologists, Jack Katz argues for a reexamination of situational factors that precipitate criminal acts, specifically those that concern crime's sensual dynamics. According to Katz, people's immediate social environment and experiences encourage offenders to construct crimes as sensually compelling. Although insightfil, I suggest that this thesis is limited, specifically as it applies to “sneaky thrill” property crime. Katz's emphasis on the enticements of theft, at the expense of other variables, negates a considerable body of research and leaves a theoretical hiatus that encourages explanations grounded in individual pathology. I suggest a revision of Katz 's approach that addresses these concerns. I test this reformulation with models of various stages of sneaky thrill theft. The results of this analysis affirm that the seduction of theft has an important instrumentalist component and is influenced by several background factors, namely, age, gender, and the strain associated with inadequate econ om ic opportunities.
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Shoplifting is a serious crime affecting most (if not all) retail businesses and responsible for increases in merchandise prices and customer services. Numerous methods exist to reduce shoplifting among consumers. The two most common types of shoplifting treatments either directly treat the shoplifter or attempt to prevent shoplifting through response prevention strategies in the retail environment. A critical review of the most common methods to reduce shoplifting reveal that case study research lacks appropriate experimental control to be convincing; and that the most promising strategies are those methods that attempt to prevent shoplifting in the retail environment. However, the more global response prevention methods could benefit if an account of the total volume of shoppers were controlled for thus providing a ratio of shoppers to opportunities to shoplift.
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This paper begins by defining deviance as behavior in a class for which there is a probability of sanction subsequent to its detection--a control approach. It proceeds to an analysis of detection and sanctioning differentials in the policing of juveniles. Thus, it explores situational properties besides rule-violative behavior that generate a social control response. The data derive from a three-city observation study of uniformed patrolmen in the field. Findings from the study permit propositions to the following effect: Most police-juvenile contacts are initiated by citizens; the great majority pertain to minor legal matters; the probability of arrest is very low; it increases with the legal seriousness of alleged offenses; police sanctioning reflects the manifest preferences of citizen complainants; Negro juveniles have a comparatively high arrest rate, but evidence is lacking that the police are racially oriented; situational evidence is an important factor in police sanctioning practices; and the sanction probabilities are higher for unusually respectful and disrespectful juveniles. Some implications of these propositions are ventured.
Article
In general, observational field studies dealing with reactions to deviance have lacked the kind of control that allows for experimental manipulation of variables and the systematic examination of posited relationships. In addition, there are few studies dealing with public reactions to deviance. The research reported here consisted of a field experiment in which rigged shoplifting events were enacted in the presence of store customers who were in a position to observe and react to the shoplifting incidents. Three variables were varied as part of the field experiment: (1) appearance of shoplifter, (2) sex of shoplifter, and (3) sex of store customer. Major findings were that sex of shoplifter and sex of store customer had little effect on reporting levels whereas appearance of shoplifter exerted a major independent effect on reporting levels.
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This article presents a direct comparison of three "new" parametric techniques for contingency table analysis--linear probability, logit, and log-linear modeling. The comparisons are rendered as nontechnical as possible, so that those familiar with ordinary regression will readily see how each of these techniques is analogous to regression in cases where one variable is deemed dependent on the others. The paper highlights the availability of linear probability modeling, a technique which has been largely ignored by sociological practitioners despite some attractive features. It also describes eight common errors in published applications of log-linear modeling.
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This paper investigates some of the relationships between private policing and the development of capitalist economic systems. We argue that the emergence and transformation of profit-oriented police services must be understood as part of a larger movement toward the extension of capitalist control over the labor process and the rationalization of productive activity. Three distinctive stages in the privatization of policing are discussed–policing as piece-work, policing in the industrial age, and policing under corporate capitalism–with special attention to how these arrangements reveal the priorities and reflect the limitations of capitalist development. The shifting balance between public and private “crime control” is also explored as part of the changing relationship between policing and the political economy of our society.
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Relatively little research has addressed issues related to factors affecting the decisions of victims of crimes to report offenses to the police. Since these decisions have important consequences for offenders, and since official police and court statistics are often relied upon to make inferences about characteristics of offenders and offenses, it is crucial to examine the effects of selective mechanisms such as victim behavior. To this end records of shoplifters apprehended by drug and grocery stores in 1963, 1965, and 1968 were examined. Overall, the decisions of victims to refer shoplifters to the police were found to be more closely related to the value of the goods stolen, as well as to what was stolen and how it was stolen, than to the characteristics of the offender.
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Varying amounts of information were obtained on every per son apprehended in 1958 for shoplifting in three large depart ment stores in Philadelphia. The individual sample sizes for Stores A, B, and C were 285, 834, and 465 cases, respectively. The following conclusions were made on the basis of the data gathered: (1) Shoplifting is primarily a juvenile activity. (2) Allowing suspected shoplifters to leave the store or store prem ises before apprehending them may be a matter of custom and a store precaution rather than a fulfillment of any legal require ment. (3) Although female apprehensions were more prevalent than male, there is little justification for regarding shoplifting as an almost exclusively female activity. (4) In comparison to their proportion in the population of the city, Negroes were dis proportionately represented in the stores' apprehension figures. (5) Juvenile theft, in terms of the retail value of the stolen goods, tended to be considerably less costly than adult theft. (6) Man agers of the stores showed an extreme reluctance to "prosecute" juveniles. (7) By far the most important determinant of the dis position of a case was the size of the theft. (8) The fact that more than seven out of every ten juveniles involved in shoplifting were apprehended in groups confirms the social nature of shop lifting among juveniles.
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Systematic study of the decision-making process at each critical stage of the criminal justice system has been limited. Specifically, little attention has been given to the decision-making of police on whether or not to process juveniles into and through the system. Even more remarkable is the lack of research on the types of information police use to arrive at their decisions. One device available for studying information handling in decision-making is the information or decision board developed by Leslie Wilkins. The technique simulates, as closely as possible, the real-life use of information and allows for rigorous experi mental conditions. By use of this technique, the decision- making of twenty-four policemen was studied—specifically, the amount and types of information each used to make a decision about a juvenile charged with drunk and disorderly conduct. The results show that police use more information to make a decision than is popularly believed. On the average, five pieces of information were selected before a decision was reached. The data also indicate that younger officers (less than five years on the job) tend to use nearly twice as much information as their more experienced counterparts (five or more years on the job) and that these two groups of officers do not always reach the same final decisions. Twenty-three of the twenty-four officers selected offense first, but the most critical topic for reaching a final decision was attitude of offender. Eighteen of the twenty-four officers made a decision when this piece of information was selected. Surprising ly, the piece of information race had little significance in the decision-making process. This study shows that the information board can be used effectively to examine the decision-making of police in their processing of juveniles. The data suggest that future studies may be able to identify types of decision-makers among police by examining their information-search profiles.
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The authors suggest an explanation of police-civilian behavior based on a normative and interpersonal construct rather than on a psychological construct. Police behavior must be explained in terms of the rules which order their relations with civilians and which are usually mutually acknowledged by both. Among these rules the authors posit that in a typical encounter relations are governed by asymmetrical status norm when deference exchange is involved. This norm effects various statuses in different ways. Data from an extensive study of police-civilian encounters in which the process of interaction was coded using a special interaction process analysis category system are used to test hypotheses derived from the theory.
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This report is the second in a series of five describing a 16-month study of the nature and extent of the private police industry in the United States, its problems, its present regulation, and how the law impinges on it. In this report, the nature, size, growth, and operation of the industry and its personnel are described, including the results of a survey of private security employees. Documents in the series are announced in this issue as VT 016 622-VT 016 626. (AG)
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The burgeoning need for private police to complement the activities of public police has added a new dimension to issues of reliability and validity of official statistics. For purposes of this study. shoplifting data generated by the private police sector were gathered from matched pairs of retail stores. The findings showed significant differences between stores by age and gender. Partitioning of contingency tables to localize the association to a particular category produced no systematic conclusions between the matched pairs of stores or among the full range of sampled stores. Differential law enforcement exercised by an untrained and unregulated private police force calls into question the concept of justice and the guarantees of due process.
Article
Microfilm. Ann Arbor, Mich., University Microfilms, 1969. 1 reel. 35mm. Thesis-University of Michigan.
Article
Thesis--University of Michigan. Microfilm. Ann Arbor, Mich. : University Microfilms, 1969.--1 reel ; 35 mm.--([Publication] ; no. 69-12046).
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