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Characteristics and Outcomes of Shoplifting Cases in the U.S. Involving Allegations of False Arrest

NCJ Number
Security Journal Volume: 18 Issue: 1 Dated: 2005 Pages: 7-18
Shaun Gabbidon; Patricia A. Patrick
Date Published
12 pages
This study examined the performance of security personnel in a sample of civil cases in the United States in which plaintiffs claimed they were falsely arrested for shoplifting.
The search for such cases was conducted by State, excluding Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The final sample consisted of 220 cases from 44 States that were brought between 1960 and 2001. The analysis of the cases included a determination of the type of security officer, what occasioned the officer's suspicion, the type of retailer, the case outcome, any award of damages, the decade when the event occurred, and the State where the case was filed. Suspects were classified by gender and age, as well as whether they were alone or accompanied by one or more companions. The findings show that women were slightly more likely than men to be falsely arrested; and regardless of gender, most of the cases were the result of store personnel, including proprietary security officers, acting on unsubstantiated hunches. Most of those accused of shoplifting did not allege brutality or misconduct; however, such claims were made in approximately one-fourth of the cases, with physical coercion during the investigation being the most common form of misconduct alleged. In just over two-thirds of the cases, the plaintiffs prevailed, and almost one-third were awarded damages. The authors advise that information on such cases is useful in assessing store policies for handling persons suspected of shoplifting, as well as for evaluating the adequacy of current training requirements for security personnel. 2 tables and 26 notes