Shoplifting is a crime born of poverty Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 October 2016

Shoplifting is a crime born of poverty

Shoplifting means someone involve stealing from the shop during business hour. Shoplifting is an old problem for merchants. There are lots of reasons to shoplift, range from very poverty and satisfy the desires or mental illness. Although there are lots of anti-shoplifting devices in place and the increase in police patrols and offers the retailers guidance on preventive measures, the rate of shoplifting in the world is still increasing. According to the Home Office crime statistics, there was a 10 percent increase in shoplifting in United Kingdom in the year of 2009. According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer research (2009), total global shoplifting in 41 participating countries costs economic lost for around $114,823 billion. Therefore, shoplifting is a serious problem not just in the United Kingdom.

The statistics from the Home Office and the research form the Centre for Retail Research showed that the shoplifting is being a serious problem in contemporary society, and this essay is going to discuss, is shoplifting is a crime born of poverty. If not, then what is the reason for people to shoplift? For the issue of shoplifting is a crime born of poverty, there are several factors that may related to the increase of shoplifting and the argument of shoplifting is a crime born of poverty, such as high unemployment rate, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory, underclass and the relationship between capitalism and crime.

Against the issue of shoplifting is a crime born of poverty, there are several factors against the argument, such as peer pressure in adolescent, drug addict, psychological elements or other adolescent psychological factors. The rest of the essay is going to analysis all the factors either for or against. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory, this is a theory in psychology and proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation.

Figure1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

His theories parallel many other theories of human development psychology and focuses on describing the stages growth in humans. He presented his theory in a pyramid and defined the stages with Physiological, Safety, Love/belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization needs to explain the pattern that human motivations pass through. The base floor of the hierarchy represented basic human need, which are breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion. These are necessary for human to survive in order to achieve the upper level of human wants. Moving on to the next part, which is safety needs and it included security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health and property. This part represents a civilization of human beings, which they are chasing for a better living standard.

Then next part is Love or belonging needs, which are friendship, family and sexual intimacy. After that, Esteem needs included self-esteem confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others. The last part is self-actualization needs, which included morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts. This is the ethical and spiritual level that Maslow believed. Taking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as an accurate portrayal of individual evolution, we could apply that to the evolution of human society, which included economically, socially and politically. Therefore the argument of this essay can be clearly explained. If a person lives without food, water and homeostasis, he may not be able to reach the upper levels of the pyramid, which included morality, safety and self-actualization.

Therefore, he will commit crime like shoplifting or theft to get what he needs to survive. Most of the humans’ lacks of physiological needs are in poverty. Thus shoplifting can be said as a crime born of poverty in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory. Secondly, the relationship between capitalism and crime is a factor that makes shoplifting a crime born of poverty. Capitalism is an economic system that favours private ownership. In other words, capitalism is a system of economics under which ownership of and investment in the means of exchange, distribution and production. Therefore, most capitalism countries have the problem of inequality, which mean the gap between the rich and the poor. According to urban dictionary, capitalism is an imbalanced mechanism for distributing power where the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful, the poor get poorer.

According to BBC News (2009), United Kingdom is a capitalism country, the gap between the rich and poor is very serious in UK, and the richest fifth of the population had an income 16 times greater than the poorest fifth. According to the National Equality Panel (NEP) report (2008), United States and United Kingdom are in the top 10 of inequality countries, which mean the gap between rich and poor is very big. The rate of shoplifting in United State and United Kingdom are increasing, which means inequality will make poor people committed crime. In capitalism countries, when the gap between rich and poor become wider, the rate of crime will increase. Because capitalism is an idea that rich peoples use money to buy goods then sell to gain money but poor people don’t have money to buy goods in order to sell to gain money, so they committed shoplifting and sell the things that they stole in order to survive. Thirdly, Murray (1990) explained that there are three main characteristics of underclass, which are illegitimacy, violent crime and economic inactivity.

Shoplifting is an activity, which is economic inactive. Murray (1990) has also explained that the morally weak underclass that is unemployed is usually involved in crime and drug addiction. By analysis, the Murray research, the crime committed in shoplifting which is unemployed. According to The New York Times (2012), a single mother committed shoplifting and sells the goods in order to survive because the government had passed the 1996 welfare reform law. This case showed that there are people shoplifting because of poverty. Then, some people committed shoplifting because lack of clear purpose in life. These kinds of people often under unemployment, therefore, they live below poverty level. According to the research done by Mcshane, Lawless and Noonan (1991), 70 apprehended shoplifter aged between 18 and 88 compared to 70 undergraduate non-shoplifters, they found that shoplifters were most likely to live in poverty, to be socially isolated and not to aware psychological stressors than those who do not shoplift. This research showed that people who live long-term under the poverty level lacks the purpose in life.

Therefore, the research done by Mcshane, Lawless and Noonan (1991) proven shoplifting is a crime born of poverty. Finally, according to the UK Office For National Statistics (2012), the unemployment rate in United Kingdom was last reported at 8.3 per cent and it rose steadily. The unemployment rate has explained that the reason people shoplift is because of economic. Although the government have unemployment benefit, there are lots of people who are unemployed but do not meet the requirement to get the unemployment benefit. Therefore, shoplifting in United Kingdom still increases. The study of Ray and Briar (1988) included 200 court records and 382 self-reports and showed that shoplifters were more likely to have lower family income, be unemployed believe that economic need causes shoplifting. However, there are lots of people who shoplift to satisfy their desires and some of them might pursue excitiement by shoplifting.

Shoplifting is a psychological issue for a group of people. According to the articles National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (2006), the single largest psychological factors in around one-third of shoplifters are experiencing depression. Geyer (2001) also explained that most of the shoplifting offender is due to psychological factions. Therefore, most of the shoplifters committed shoplifting because of psychological issues more than because they are poor. Besides, according to Tonglet (2002), the decision to shoplift is influenced by social factors, pro-shoplifting attitudes, opportunities for shoplifting and perceptions of low risks in being caught. He described that shoplifting is consumer misbehaviour. BBC News Magazine (2012) also described that there is a new wave of middle-class shoplifter is targeting some high-end delicacies from stores and supermarket to have a lifestyle that they could no longer afford. The society believed that this development is caused by the economic recession.

On the other hand, teen’s problem is also a very important factor of shoplifting. According to the National Crime Prevention Council (2006), there are 25% of people committed shoplifting between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. The following essay is going to analysis and explain the reason that people shoplifting apart from poverty. Adolescent shoplifting is a nationwide rising problem. According to Moschis, Dena and Anthony (1990) experiment, they have surveyed 1692 teenagers from age 10 to 17 investigating shoplifting behaviour, family occupational status, rule breaking behaviour and perceived reasons for adolescent shoplifting. The result showed that shoplifting rate between the age 10 and 15 rose steadily and declined between the age 15 and 17. Moschis, Dena and Anthony (1990) concluded that there are few reasons explained that why teens shoplifting, such as chasing for excitement, peer pressure and attracting attention.

For the reason of chasing for excitement, most of the teens got lots of time when they were bored and didn’t have anything better to do, they will pretend shoplifting to gain excitement. For the reason of peer pressure, it is playing a very important role on adolescent shoplifting. When their peers get a pair of expensive name brands shoes or clothes, the others will try to keep up with their peers and wear the latest. Other than that, electronics also very popular, such as mp3 player, console, phone and other small expensive items. Most teens want to get the best and the latest leisure fashion and electronics to compete with their peers so they are faced with the lack of money to satisfy their desires, they may turn to shoplifting. Steven Gerrard said, “Being a young lad it’s hard not to give into peer pressure. I stole to fit in. I grabbed a few pens & paper from Woolworths & made a dash for the door but the security guy grabbed me.”

Steven Gerrard is an England soccer hero, he confessed that he stole pens and nabbed by cops when he was in his early teens. This case strongly influenced that shoplifting isn’t a crime born of poverty. At last, the parent attention, many parents were very busy in their work in contemporary society so they will lack of care of their children. The child will do something in order to attract their parents’ attention. The second component that people committed shoplifting is drug users. According a study of Arrestees (2005), the study confirmed that shoplifting was the most frequent crime amongst drug users. This group of people shoplifting showed that they need to shoplift in order to fund their drug habit. Drug users usually resell the things that they steal or attempt a cash refund.

The study also showed that alcohol is also a main component in shoplifting. According to BBC News (2012), most cases of shoplifting by what psychologists describe as “ non-professional shoplifter “, and most of them shoplifting to feed their alcohol addiction. Both drug addict and alcoholic people committed shoplifting in order to feed their drug and alcohol addiction not because of they are poverty. Thirdly, Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder. Although there are very few of shoplifters fall into this category, this type of shoplifters has a psychological compulsion to shoplifting to satisfy their desires. They will commit shoplifting whenever the urge hits. According to Tasman (2011), he explained that people with Kleptomania often report the shoplifting act and they feel of pleasure after committed shoplifting.

This kind of people shoplifting is because of mental illness, most of them did not think themselves as a crime after committed shoplifting. But in contemporary society, the law enforcement agencies treated them as normal crime. As a conclusion, to discuss whether or not shoplifting is a crime born of poverty, as it has countless factors causing people to shoplift and lots of factor proved that shoplifting is born of poverty. Almost all of the reasons that support the argument are around economic and policy, such as the unemployment rate, the unemployment welfare, capitalism and the economic depression. In another word, if the government are to carry out well policy, the shoplifting rate will decrease.

Therefore, the government plays a very important role in decreasing the rate of shoplifting. On the other hand, most of the shoplifters committed shoplifting not because of poverty, there are several factors that makes people shoplift, such as Kleptomania, psychological factors, peer pressure, teens’ problem and drug users. All of the academic researches and government reports showed that most shoplifting cases are influenced by the shoplifter’s psychological factors more than poverty, such as the Steven Gerrard’s case, the reason for him committing shoplift was not due to poverty.

This is why it may seem fair to say, shoplifting is not a crime born of poverty, it is a crime born of psychological factors and government policy. After all, the study of crime has been the core subject matter in criminology. There are no definite answers as to why people commit certain crimes neither has the causation been found for criminal activities. Different schools of criminology proves that there are no definite answers in the understanding of crime.


Appelbaum, A. and Klemmer, H. (2012) Shoplifting. Menninger Perspective, 5 (3), p.16-19. (2012) BBC News – Why do well-off people shoplift?. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 May 2012]. (2010) BBC – Mark Easton’s UK: Is inequality iniquitous?. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 May 2012]. (2008) The New York Times’s Welfare Myopia by Heather Mac Donald – City Journal. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 May 2012]. Cox, D. et al. (1990) When Consumer Behavior Goes Bad: An Investigation of Adolescent Shoplifting.. Journal of Consumer Research, 17

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