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Common Characteristics of Shoplifters

Man shoplifting at a grocery store

It may be something as seemingly minor as taking a piece of fruit from the grocery store. Or it could be stashing away a piece of clothing from a department store. Nonetheless, shoplifting is a criminal offense, no matter how much an item is worth.

Extensive research has found a few common characteristics among the types of people who choose to shoplift.


This classification is for a person who may not purposely be trying to steal something. A person may put something in their cart and forget to scan it for purchase (if they are self-scanning) or leave something accidentally at the bottom of their shopping cart and attempt to go out of the store with that item. Those who absent-mindedly shoplift will usually not conceal the item they are taking because they truly did not have the intent to steal.

Unfortunately, this is not a characteristic of most shoplifters, and store managers have taken notice. This is why if someone who is caught shoplifting tries to make such a claim, they could still face a criminal charge. However, if a person who commits absent-minded shoplifting is caught and offers to pay for the item they took, the store manager may not press charges.


Addicts who are trying to get a “fix” of some sort, whether that be for drugs, alcohol, gambling, or another addiction, may shoplift to fuel that addiction. This characteristic is not the most common reason people shoplift but happens frequently.

Addicts may have a lengthy arrest history that includes arrests for shoplifting. This type of shoplifter is usually not as skilled or careful as others because they are focused on the end result of getting their fix rather than the actual shoplifting.

Addictive Compulsive Shoplifting

The most common characteristic of shoplifters is those defined as “addictive compulsive.” These individuals usually feel a rush or high of sorts when they steal something for the first time and then continue to get that feeling after every theft.

This characteristic may be traced back to the individual having a history of other compulsive addictions such as shopping, gambling, alcohol, or drug use. People who identify with an addiction to shoplifting may use the action to cope with other personal or emotional stresses. Another commonality with this type of shoplifter is that they usually can afford whatever they’re accused of stealing (they will not swipe high-priced items) but are solely invested in shoplifting for the feeling it gives them.

Similar to others who struggle with addiction, when confronted about their actions, this type of person usually feels guilt or remorse. The “high” feeling also comes with knowing they are getting away with shoplifting, and when having to face the consequences, this type of person will shut down or isolate themselves.


Some feel they have no other option other than to steal. This person is usually not financially stable and concludes that they won’t be able to go on without taking what they need. This could happen because of a major life-changing event such as job loss or other hardship. Often, too, this type of person could be a child trying to help their family and feels this is the only way possible.


This person is on a mission when they go to shoplift. They intend to take items, usually of high value, to make a profit or use them personally. Individuals who are professional shoppers are typically underemployed and may use shoplifting to better their lifestyle.

Caught Shoplifting?

It doesn’t matter if you identify yourself with one of these traits above — if you are caught shoplifting, you could face serious consequences. That’s why the team at The Law Offices of Jason D. Baltz wants to help you. We have worked on countless shoplifting cases and have helped our clients get the best possible outcome. Reach out to our Milwaukee criminal defense team today so we can get started working on your case — (414) 375-0797.

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