Articles Tagged with shoplifting

Due to the popularity of Somerset Mall, Oakland Mall, Nordstrom Rack, and other shopping destinations, there is a large volume of retail fraud investigations in the city of Troy.  Most retail fraud cases begin with an individual’s apprehension by a lost prevention employee (asset protection) from the store.  The lost prevention employee typically detains the individual and recovers the merchandise in question and determines whether or not the merchandise was purchased.  If the lost prevention employee makes a determination that shoplifting occurs he/or she will usually attempts to have the individual admit verbally and sometimes in writing to the theft, contacts the police, and writes a store report about the incident.  The responding police officer is usually given a copy of that store report, along with any store video.  The merchandise that is the subject of the complaint is photographed, and a determination is made as to the retail price of the merchandise involved.  The individual is given notice by the store that he or she will be considered a trespasser.

The police officer has the discretion to issue a ticket, which will require the individual to be arraigned at the district court within 10 days, or to take the individual into custody.  If the alleged retail fraud is a felony, or the individual has warrants, the individual is typically taken into custody.  If the individual is a minor, typically a parent or guardian is contacted and the minor is released to their custody.  A person who is in custody, in most circumstances, is arraigned within 72 hours before a magistrate.

At the arraignment a magistrate or Judge will read the charge or charges in open court, provide notice of the potential penalty, determine if the individual needs a court appointed lawyer for the next court date, and sets bond.  For bond purposes the magistrate or Judge will typically consider the individual’s risk of flight (whether or not they will appear in court) and danger to the community (typically the individual’s prior record or information about the alleged offense) when setting the bond amount.  The bond amount can be a personal bond (no money is required), cash, surety, or 10%.  The bond amount can include restrictions such as (but not limited to) drug/alcohol testing, inability to leave the State of Michigan, no new criminal offenses, etc.  The legal representation that an individual receives can influence the bond amount and bond conditions.

The Somerset Collection (which is also often referred to as Somerset Mall) in Troy, Michigan is known for its assortment of high end stores and is a popular destination for many shoppers.  One of the issues that the mall and its individual stores face everyday is retail fraud (also known as shoplifting).  The Somerset Collection and its individual retailers combat this issue by employing trained security/loss prevention workers, closed circuit television (CCTV), and theft detection devices to identify, and aid in the apprehension and prosecution of suspected shoplifters.  One of the strategies to address the retail theft issue is aggressive prosecution by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and the Troy City Attorney to act as a deterrence to others and to try and prevent repeat offenders.

A conviction for Retail Fraud (also known as shoplifting) can have serious implications on an individual’s reputation, employment or career, ability to get school loans or attend school, and immigration status (for persons that are not citizens).  There is the potential for incarceration, probation with conditions, community service, drug testing, economic crimes classes, counseling, fines, cost, and restitution for an individual who is convicted of retail fraud.

Retail Fraud always involves an allegation of a theft from a store which is open to the public for business at the time of the offense.  It can occur by either physically moving or concealing merchandise with the intent to steal, or altering or removing a price tag with the intent to defraud.

Retail fraud offenses are common, and getting caught for retail fraud occurs more frequently than ever before.  There are several reasons why arrests have increased:

1.  Many stores have policies to prosecute shoplifters when caught.  The rationale is that it acts as a deterrent for thefts occurring in the future.   However, people commit retail fraud for a variety of reasons (the belief they wont get caught, the thrill of stealing, the desire to obtain something not affordable, mental condition such as kleptomania, peer pressure, to support a drug habit or otherwise obtain money, etc., etc.).   Although deterrence is a goal,  retail theft crimes are still widespread.  Once caught, prosecutors and Judges are sometimes less inclined to give a break to someone charged with shoplifting because they want to protect the store, which provides tax revenue to the community.  This is also a symbiotic relationship with the Court, because retail fraud convictions lead to additional revenue to the Court in the form of court costs, fines, and probation supervision fees.

2.  Better store designs help prevent theft.  Store designs that maximize the visibility of the shopper to loss prevention, employees, and other shoppers have lead to more arrests.  Stores try to eliminate areas where hidden or blind spots exists in stores by having wider aisles, better sight lines, location of cash registers near exits, locating high theft items in more visible places, securing high theft items with locks or locked cabinets, and the use of better and the more widespread placement of cameras.

Retail Fraud (also known as shoplifting) can have serious implications on an individual’s reputation, employment or career, ability to get school loans or attend school, and immigration status (for persons that are not citizens).  There is the potential for incarceration, probation with conditions, community service, drug testing, economic crimes classes, counseling, fines, cost, and restitution for an individual who is convicted of retail fraud.

Retail Fraud always involves an allegation of a theft from a store which is open to the public for business at the time of the offense.  It can occur by either physically moving or concealing merchandise with the intent to steal, or altering or removing a price tag with the intent to defraud.

Retail fraud can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending upon the circumstances:

In defending persons accused of retail fraud, it is important to understand the procedures used by major retail stores in their investigations.  Mistakes in judgment sometimes occur – leading to false arrests. Sometimes the situation is misinterpreted by loss prevention and police officers due to cultural issues. Procedural errors can sometimes also lead to acquittal or dismissal of the case.  Having an experienced criminal lawyer, such as the lawyers at Hilf & Hilf, PLC, often results in receiving the best possible result, which often can include not having a conviction appear on a public record.  A theft related conviction can result in imprisonment, probation, loss of employment opportunities, loss of education opportunities, loss of gun rights, loss of money, immigration complications for non-citizens, and embarrassment.

Major retail stores have developed policies and procedures with respect to retail fraud with the goals of: reducing losses due to theft; avoiding litigation for false arrests, false imprisonment, injuries, etc.; reducing insurance expenses; and deterring theft.  Major retail stores include Sears, JcPenney, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Macys, Kohls, Best Buy, etc.  The information in this blog is only intended to provide general information and does not represent the views, policies, decision making, or procedures of any particular store or company.
It is important to have an experienced criminal lawyer, such as Attorney Daniel Hilf of the law firm Hilf & Hilf, PLC, who understands the policies and procedures of loss prevention/asset prevention.  Knowledge of these areas can help build a successful defense, or a successful outcome, to your retail fraud case.

Retail Fraud (also known as Shoplifting) is a crime committed by persons of all religious backgrounds, races, ethnicity, ages, and income level.  Throughout the United States, over a half million retail fraud incidents occur each day.  To combat retail fraud, many stores spend a lot of money in: employing loss prevention officers; training employees to detect and address retail fraud; the installation of theft detection devices (for example sensors) or equipment (for example, locked cases) to reduce the amount of theft.

Loss prevention officers are trained to identify person likely to shoplift, and conduct surveillance prior to the commission of any offense.  The typical red flags for loss prevention officers are any or a combination of the following:

1.       Nervous demeanor;