Post Script: Leave the retailer out of this


by Frances Edstrom, columnist


A common denominator in recent, and not so recent, incidents of civilians being shot by police is the usually low level of the crime that prompted the police to attempt apprehension in the first place.

The Star Tribune noted that fact in its coverage of the most recent tragedy, that in Brooklyn Center, with a link to the story: “Retailers urged to re-think police calls for low-level crimes after George Floyd’s death.” Why, though, is the retailer being assigned responsibility for even one of these deaths?

The article claimed that “… shoplifting is a common crime in the general population … Approximately 1 in 11 Americans have shoplifted, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.”

Shoplifting is also an expensive crime.

We tend to think that retailers such as Walmart can afford to eat the loss. Walmart says it loses $3 billion a year as a result of theft.

Over 98 percent of retailers in this country are small businesses, though, owned by our neighbors and friends, not the richest family in the world. What is the effect on the small retailer of making it a practice to not report low-level crimes such as shoplifting or passing counterfeit bills, when they already lose nearly $20 billion dollars a year to theft?

It is unfair, unproductive, and illogical, to suggest that if retailers were to allow theft to go unreported there would be fewer police shootings.

If it is known that certain crimes, such as shoplifting, won’t be reported, there will simply be more shoplifting. If a crime isn’t a crime, what is the deterrent? The Ten Commandments? Asking retailers to quit reporting shoplifters, or other “low-level crimes,” is the same as asking them to throw money out the back door of the shop every day at closing time.

Rather than de-criminalizing crime, no matter how low-level, it would be much more productive for society to examine what goes wrong when the suspected criminal is apprehended. Why do the suspects react the way they do, and why do the police react the way they do in response? And how can we change their reactions?

Please, leave the retailers out of this.


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