Attention Seekers Turn to Shoplifting


Haley Hartman and Gracie Woidat

Shoplifting is back in vogue among Moraga teens.

Some believe it is the result of a “thrill factor” and a lack of appreciation for money. Stores like Safeway, Dollar Tree, TJ Maxx, and CVS are often targeted and stolen items range from candy to alcohol.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it, and I definitely think it happens a lot more than people realize,” said sophomore Connie Kim. 

Student shoplifters interviewed by La Puma indicate that they do not feel remorse for stealing from corporations like Safeway or Dollar Tree. 

But other students see it as a problem of entitlement. Sophomore Jane Burcham said, “To put it nicely, we’re all a bunch of spoiled privileged kids who are protected by their parents and have no idea what to do for fun, so they twist it into this kind of thrill-seeking behavior of ‘ooh let’s see if I’ll get caught by the cops and if I do its fine cause my parents will just bail me out.’”

“Theft is a huge problem for retailers,” said William Snider, owner of Moraga Ace Hardware and Across the Way.

Snider reported that things are shoplifted from his store “every day” and that he has had to arrest numerous students. “I have caught junior high and high school kids shoplifting, had to make a citizen’s arrest, the police were notified, and the parents were notified,” said Snider.

Snider has also caught several Lamorinda homeowners in addition to students. Often, he finds empty wrappers scattered around his store from people taking things out of their packages and putting them in their pocket.  “If I didn’t see them do that, I can’t prove they stole something, and they could say that they brought it in the store,” said Snider.

But if students are able to afford the things that they’re stealing, why would they shoplift in the first place? “It’s kind of a disease, they psychologically don’t wanna pay for something so they decide to steal it because they can,” said Snider.

Some students shop lifters interviewed by La Puma said they like the thrill and adrenaline from the experience.

Kim said, “I think people always enjoy the idea of ‘Oh I stole this, I’m so cool.'”

AP Psych teacher Mathew Bostick agrees that kids shoplift not out of necessity, but for attention, and believes that peer pressure is also a factor. “Because teenagers’ brains aren’t fully developed, one consequence of that is they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior,” he said. “They are also more influenced by peers, so a teenager who shoplifts is partaking in that risky behavior and is more likely to do it with someone else.”

In an effort to combat the rising fad, Dollar Tree in Moraga, has asked students to leave their backpacks outside or at the counter when they enter the store.

To help prevent theft in his store, Snider has trained his employees to stick close to anyone who’s acting suspicious and to follow them around the store if necessary. He has also turned isles with the most expensive tools into dead-ends so that people can’t escape around the back and sneak something in their pocket.

Although Safeway is a common target for shoplifters, they have yet to update their “no-chase” policy. “I once saw a lady just walk out of Safeway with a cart full of stuff, and none of the employees could stop her because they have a no-chase policy!” said Burcham.