I am mentoring a local teenager who wants to share her story about shoplifting as a way to support other teens to make better decisions and educate adults about why teens may do this. Because this is a sensitive matter, she asked that she not be named. Here is her story:
There is always a deeper reason for shoplifting if not survival. Most people can justify a mother stealing food for her children if she truly cannot afford it, but it is harder to defend a teenager stealing makeup or a pair of shorts simply because they feel like it. Everybody who has shoplifted for fun has their own reasons for doing so. I think most people who have shoplifted lie to themselves about why they do it. They can blame it on trying to stick it to the man or save a buck, but something more always lurks beneath the surface. Maybe it’s a need for attention, a subconscious wish of being caught. It could be a lack of self-esteem, thinking you need all these expensive things to make you seem prettier or cooler. For me, it served as a distraction. I wanted to try and use shoplifting, an actual crime, something that could land me in legal trouble (and almost did) as a simple distraction. It was something to think about other than how much I disliked my life, myself and those around me. Having to think about how to go unnoticed for a little while, how to freeze time and escape under the noses of workers and customers, seemed easier than thinking about the things in my life I hated to think about. Then, if all went as planned, I could spend the rest of the day thinking about how I pulled off the heist of the century. I viewed shoplifting as a break from real life, like something out of a video game or a movie, when really, all it was was another thing I didn’t truly like that I had to deal with. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a Walmart office, forced to face the consequences of my actions, that I realized this. Shoplifting is not worth the risk of losing the trust of loved ones or facing legal trouble, especially when stealing is never what shoplifting is really about.
Downeast Restorative Justice