Profiled in the New York Times this week is a specialty Asian market that has an interesting way of dealing with thieves. According to the article, the store management and security offer a choice to shoplifters: “Play by our rules or we call the cops.”
What’s being called extortion by some and being applauded by others, the store sets forth an interesting chain of repercussions for those people caught stealing from them and it all starts when the security guards catch them in the act.
First, the identification of the shoplifter is taken. Then, they are forced to pose for a photo with the items they were trying to steal. Finally, they are fined around $400. If they refuse this chain of action, the store will call the police.
Apparently practices like this are common in China. However, some are questioning the legality of it in the United States. Charging a fine or a “civil recovery” isn’t illegal but threatening to report the person may be. One community activist calls it extortion and believes the practice should be stopped.
A home grown sort of diversion, the practice is reportedly common in Asian markets within the city. One security guard states that he believes people adhere to the store’s sanctions because many have immigration issues they fear would be discovered if contacted by police.
Although this sort of storekeeper justice occurs in many markets within the city, it’s still pretty rare. Most shop owners and managers won’t offer you this kind of “deal” if caught stealing; most will simply call the cops.
In New York the penalties for shoplifting are the same for most theft charges and are based on the value of items or services stolen. Most often shoplifting involves theft of less than $1,000. This is considered petit or petty larceny.
Petty larceny carries a Class A misdemeanor charge. This translates to a maximum of one year in jail. However, it is very doubtful you would be sentenced to this kind of term. Instead, with your attorneys help, you could serve probation.
If you are facing shoplifting charges you need to speak with a defense attorney. Contact me today to discuss your case and the options available to you.