Police departments around the U.S. say that shoplifting arrests are 10 percent to 20 percent higher this year than last, the New York Times reports. The problem is probably even greater, because shoplifters often are banned from stores rather than arrested. Much of the increase has come from first-time offenders making rash decisions in a pinch. The ease with which stolen goods can be sold on the Internet has meant a bigger role for organized crime rings, which also engage in receipt fraud, fake price tagging, and gift card schemes.
“More people are desperate economically, retailers are operating with leaner staffs, and police forces are cutting back or being told to deprioritize shoplifting calls,” said Paul Jones of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. The problem, he said, could be particularly acute this month, “when shoplifting always goes way up,” he said. Two of the largest retail associations say that more than 80 percent of their members are reporting sharp increases in shoplifting. More than $35 million in merchandise is stolen each day nationwide, and about one in 11 people in America have shoplifted, says the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.