Suspected shoplifters at a New York City grocery with a Chinese clientele who are suspected of shoplifting are told they’ll be reported to police unless they pay the store a “fine,” says the New York Times. “We usually fine them $400,” said Tem Shieh, 60, the manager, who keeps track of customers on 30 video monitors in the store's surveillance system. “If they don't have the money, then we usually hold their identification and give them a chance to go get it.”
The practice of catching suspected shoplifters and demanding payment is an import from China, several experts in retail loss prevention said, where there is a traditional slogan that some storekeepers post: “Steal one, fine 10.” Whether this practice is legal in the U.S. is open to interpretation. New York State law allows “shopkeepers' privileges” that fall somewhere between the prerogatives of the police and a citizen's arrest. The law also details “civil recovery statutes,” by which retailers may use the threat of a civil lawsuit to recover substantial settlements for even minor thievery. Threatening to report that someone has committed a crime can be considered a form of extortion. Critics argue that the accused shoplifters are deprived of basic civil rights, like the right to a lawyer and freedom from coercion, and are not being held by adequately trained security officials with proper oversight.