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Stores combat students’ ‘thrill’ of shoplifting

Photo+by+Tomas+Castro.
Photo by Tomas Castro.

Photo by Tomas Castro.

Photo by Tomas Castro.

By Allie Lerner

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Two students requested anonymity in order to speak about the topic. They will be referred to as sophomore girl and junior girl.

Glancing around the store to ensure no one is watching, a girl grabs a tie-dye t-shirt, rips off the tags and sensors, stuffs the shirt in her bag and exits the store without paying.

Although it’s a crime, Whitman students say they steal for several reasons, most notably to save money and for the “thrill.”

Montgomery Mall is a common target for theft, according to a sophomore girl. She and her friends have stolen from Sephora, Pacsun, Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Free People and Vineyard Vines.

“Urban Outfitters is really the main shop to get stuff because they don’t have cameras in the store—the only bad thing is that you have holes in your clothes,” the sophomore girl said. “Walking away with it, knowing you’re gonna have a whole new wardrobe to wear for the rest of the week, is very thrilling.”

The junior girl said she also steals for the “rush” because she doesn’t know if she’ll get caught.

“I mainly shoplifted for the thrill that you get afterwards,” the junior girl said. “Getting away with it was just the coolest thing ever because you got really nice clothes out of it, but you also got the adrenaline rush of walking out of the store and not knowing what was going to happen.”

While each store has different methods to prevent stealing, shoplifters find ways to combat the security systems. Students may remove price tags and sensors or simply walk out of a store that doesn’t have sensor detectors, the sophomore girl said.

While the sophomore girl makes stealing seem simple, surveillance has advanced over the years to better catch thieves, said Georgine DeBord, a legal assistant for the State Attorney Office.

“Anytime students come in, especially in a group, especially with bags or backpacks with them, they are being watched from the second they walk in the store,” DeBord said. “There is surveillance all over the place and of course they have undercover police too.”

High-end stores, like South Moon Under, take specific measures to work against potential shoplifters.

“We make a point to greet all of our customers, we write everyone’s names on our dressing rooms and we put the clothes in the dressing rooms, so we know how many items each person has,” said senior Sophia Zambri, who is a part-time employee at South Moon Under.

The anonymous students agreed that when they began shoplifting, it was terrifying, but they became more comfortable with it as they stole more clothes more often.

“It 100-percent got less scary because you have methods, like if you go into a store twice, you know exactly where the security cameras are located,” the junior girl said. “You just became more experienced with the situation and how to deal with your nerves.”

Eventually you get caught, and is it worth it in the end?

— legal assistant for the State Attorney Office Georgine DeBord

At first the girls thought that if they were caught shoplifting, they would be banned from the store, have to pay for the stolen items ontop of a theft fine and would have their parents called by the police.

After learning of the possible consequences of theft, the sophomore says the risk of punishment makes her want to shoplift less.

According to DeBord, students may have to pay three times the total value they stole, in addition to other consequences. If shoplifting occurs in groups, students are responsible for paying a collective cost. For example, if a student stole $15 worth of items and another stole $500 worth of merchandise, both students would pay $515, she said.

In Montgomery County specifically, first time offenders who stole less than $1,000 worth of items can attend Teen Court if they plead guilty. Cases where stolen merchandise adds up to over $1,000 qualify as felonies and students must go through the Department of Juvenile Services for further action.

When shoplifting, most students neglect to consider the impact of their actions. However, DeBord described how even at bigger franchises like Nordstrom or Macy’s, the effects are devastating.

“Part of the myth with youth that steal is that the big department stores make a lot of money so they are not gonna miss it,” DeBord said. “But if people do it all over the country, stores cannot sustain and they lose all that income, so the ripple effects of that is the prices will go up and that affects all of us.”

Students need to ask themselves if the short-term thrill of shoplifting is worth the potential lasting consequences, DeBord said.

“Eventually you get caught, and is it worth it in the end?”

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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School
Stores combat students’ ‘thrill’ of shoplifting