DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) During the holiday season last year, more than $1.8 billion was lost to shoplifting, with another increase expected this year, according to WWJ legal analyst and 1270 Talk Radio host Charlie Langton.
And the perpetrators are not necessarily common street thieves, they can be professional working people — with an addiction. Terry Shulman, theft addiction therapist and former shoplifter, talked to Langton Monday about why shoplifters risk so much for so little.
“What we know about human beings is we’re complicated creatures,” Shulman said. “We have a lot of pressure to be pressure to be good and to be perfect … And we have cracks in our foundations.”
Shulman has been a recovering shoplifter for 22 years. Between the ages of 15 and 25 he said he “shoplifted quite a bit” and was arrested twice. He managed to get his act together, finish college and law school, and now counsels people with problems including shoplifting, hoarding and overshopping.
During the holidays, there is a marked uptick in shoplifting, shoplifting arrests, employee theft, shopping and compulsive shopping, Shulman said.
“It can be as simple as people feeling pressured to buy things they can’t afford or being too impatient to wait in line,” Shulman said.
But it can also be an addiction.
Roughly 10 percent of our population, or 30 million Americans, are thought to have a problem with shoplifting, Shulman said. Of that 10 percent, at least half are considered addicted to it.
“Once they cross over that line and get something for nothing, you can get hooked,” Shulman said. ”You’re drawn to it like a moth to a flame.”
But there is help for people drawn to shoplifting over the holidays, or anytime. There are five local support groups called Kleptomaniacs Anonymous. They’re free and open to anyone who feels like they’re out of control.
“This is one of our busier times … Go to the support groups,” Shulman said.
He added anyone prone to shoplifting addiction should avoid stores during stressful times, be realistic about what they can buy for others, meditating, distracting with a healthy activity
Get information on local support groups and a test to see if you could be addiction to shopping at www.kleptomaniacs.org.
“The holidays … are the best of times and the worst of times … Getting together with family can be stressful, the pressure to buy and consume can be stressful,” Shulman said, adding that people with any addiction — gambling, drinking, overeating, shopping, stealing — have to especially careful during the holidays and make sure they have adequate support.