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Juvenile Crime


When you and your friends are shopping, do you get irritated or angry because you can only take three pairs of jeans into the dressing room? The ring you wanted to look at is locked in a case? You have to check all your packages at the door? Sales clerks watch you and your friends suspiciously as you look around?

Shoplifting is an expensive problem that everybody pays the price for. It hurts you in several ways ? prices keep going up as store owners try to recover some of their losses. A big department store can spend millions a year on security, but it may lose as much as $2,000 a day to shoplifters. And shoplifters give teenagers a bad name.

Who shoplifts?

  • Teens. About 24 percent of apprehended shoplifters are teens between 13 and 17 years old.
  • Amateurs make up the largest number, not professional thieves. These are "everyday" people who steal on impulse, because they see an item they greatly desire, or for a thrill. They tend to believe they won't get caught or sent to jail.
  • Most are customers who steal frequently from places where they regularly shop.
  • Some are professional thieves who make their living by stealing and selling goods, but this is a much smaller group than the amateurs.
  • Drug addicts to steal to support their habit.
  • Desperate people steal because they need food ? but they make up only a very small number of shoplifters.
  • Kleptomaniacs, a tiny minority of shoplifters who have a mental disorder that makes it difficult to overcome their urge to steal.

Why Do People Shoplift?

Many want to see if they can get away with it. Some use the excuses, "This is a big store, they can afford it," "I don't have enough money," or "Stores just write it off as a business expense." Many teens shoplift on a dare, thinking their friends will call them "chicken" if they don't go along with the dare. Other teens are just looking for excitement.

Costs for The Individual Teen Who Shoplifts

  • When salespeople or security officers catch shoplifters, they call the police, who then arrest the suspects and take them to the police station.
  • Children and teens may be released into their parents' custody if it's their first offense.
  • The case may be referred to a juvenile office, which can recommend an appropriate punishment, or sent directly to the juvenile court where a judge decides the penalty.
  • Everyone will find out about the arrest because police or court officers will interview the shoplifter's parents, neighbors, and school while they're writing the report on the crime.
  • If teens are caught shoplifting, their juvenile police records are supposed to be confidential and unavailable to future employers, but sometimes that information does get out.

Costs for Teenagers in General

  • They are affected by the higher prices caused by shoplifters. A store owner loses money every time an item is stolen and has to raise prices to compensate for that loss. Store owners also have to spend additional money for special security measures, such as security guards and electronic monitoring.
  • There may be fewer jobs available to teens if store owners lose money to shoplifters ? owners won't generate enough profit to pay employees.
  • Teens who shoplift may also cause problems for their friends and classmates who want to shop or get jobs. Because some store owners see teens as people who are likely to steal, they may not want teens in their stores.
  • Teen shoplifting puts a strain on relationships between all other teens and store owners. Some stores have policies that restrict the number of teenagers who can enter the store at one time.
  • Some people in the community may hold a negative opinion about teens in general because incidents of teen shoplifting they hear about.

What Happens in Your Community

  • A neighborhood store closes because the owner loses too much money to shoplifting. (Thirty percent of business failures in the United States are due to shoplifting and employee theft.)
  • A store victimized by shoplifting has to lay off employees because revenue is very low.
  • The neighborhood store's customers may have to travel farther to shop after the store closes.
  • If the store stays in business, the owner may raise prices to pay for extra security equipment or guards.

Take Action

  • If you see anybody in a store take something without paying, report it to a salesperson, security guards, or a cashier. The person is really stealing from you.
  • For a class project, interview the security managers of department stores or malls to find out how much shoplifting costs them. Ask about what they do to prevent it.
  • Copy and pass out this brochure to teens at your local mall or downtown shopping district.

The Scoop on Vandalism

Look around your community. Do you see

  • Graffiti-covered walls?
  • Spray-painted or destroyed mailboxes and garbage cans?
  • Broken street lights?
  • Spray-painted street signs?
  • Busted public telephones?
  • Missing street and traffic signs?
  • Writing or torn pages in library books?
  • Broken fixtures, doors, and stalls in public restrooms?
  • Shoe-polished cars?
  • Vandalism, the willful destruction or defacing of property, is a crime. It's expensive to repair. It makes our communities unattractive and unsafe. It isn't cool. Help send a clear message that teens don't tolerate vandalism!


From obscene and violent language scrawled on a public bathroom door to elaborate murals on a brick wall, graffiti appears in many forms. But it's all the same, if it's not on the artist's property, it's vandalism, and it's a crime.

Graffiti is often the first sign that gangs are taking over a neighborhood. Gangs' "taggers" act as messengers for the gang, use graffiti to mark their turf, advertise their exploits, and challenge or threaten rival gangs. Graffiti gives criminals the impression that residents don't care about their neighborhood, and a neighborhood that doesn't care is an easy target for crime.

Don't let this happen to your neighborhood, take a stand against graffiti and make sure graffiti is removed as soon as it appears. It takes persistence, but by working with law enforcement and other residents, you can keep your neighborhood clean and the effects of vandalism to a minimum.

The Price We Pay

  • Schools pay millions of dollars each year to clean up graffiti, repair buildings, and replace vandalized equipment. That's money that could be used to buy better sports equipment or new computers.
  • Local governments (and taxpayers; your parents, your neighbors, and even yourselves) pay the bills for broken street lights, stolen signs, and vandalized parks. We pay higher taxes and services are cut to pay for damage caused by vandalism.
  • Businesses pass on the costs of vandalism to customers through higher prices. Some businesses are forced to move to different neighborhoods, taking good shopping out of your community.

More Than Money

  • People feel angry, hurt, and sometimes frightened when something of theirs, a mailbox, a bike, a car door, is destroyed for no reason.
  • Vandalism claims other victims as well; a car crash because stop signs were stolen; someone in need of help can't dial 911 because the pay phone is broken; people get lost because street signs are missing or covered with graffiti.

Who Vandalizes and Why?

Some vandals work in groups. You may even know some of the teens doing the damage, there's no one "type" of teen who vandalizes. He or she might be the smartest kid in school, or the kid who's always in trouble. Most vandals are young people, from grade-schoolers to teens to young adults, who vandalize out of:
  • Boredom
  • Anger
  • Revenge
  • Defiance
  • Association with friends

Take Action

  • Take pride in your surroundings. Vandalism cheapens your area and you.
  • Learn about the costs and effects of vandalism by working with law enforcement, school officials, and community leaders. Teach what you learn to other teenagers and younger children.
  • Start a clean-up crew at your school or in your neighborhood. Ask local businesses to donate supplies like paint and paintbrushes for covering graffiti, or tools and equipment for repairing vandalized property. Volunteer to help businesses and homeowners repair their property as soon as it is vandalized and paint over graffiti.
  • Write articles for your school or community newspaper on the costs of vandalism and graffiti, their impact on school and other budgets for activities, and how the courts, juvenile and adult, treat vandals.
  • Look for ways to use the talent and creativity of vandals in positive, nondestructive activities. Sponsor a mural contest at your school or a youth center. Encourage art supply stores and area businesses to provide large canvases and materials for kids to create murals inspired by themes like saying no to drugs, the importance of education, or celebrating diversity in your community. Ask local artists to attend and provide instruction and advice or judge a mural contest.
  • Start a vandalism hotline in cooperation with law enforcement and school officials that lets callers anonymously report incidents of vandalism and gives tips about vandals.
  • Work with your faith community to adopt a street or a park with your school, youth, or community group. Plant trees, bushes, and flowers. Repair equipment and install trash containers. Organize a monthly outing to clean up garbage and keep an eye on things.
Crime Prevention Tips Provided by: National Crime Prevention Council

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