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Crime by Proxy: Coercion and Altruism in Adolescent Shoplifting

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 47 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 817-833
Janne Kivivuori
Date Published
September 2007
17 pages
This article reports on the findings of three studies that examined the prevalence of and factors in Finnish adolescents manipulating younger children to commit theft ("proxy crimes").
The three studies, which involved community samples of adolescents, show that the majority of proxy crimes involved the recruitment of younger children for shoplifting. The prevalence of shoplifting by a proxy was 7.2 percent among 15-16-year-old Finnish adolescents who recruited proxies primarily for shoplifting. Cases that involved adults pressuring or hiring adolescents to steal for them were rare in the general community sample. Proxy shoplifting was typically limited to adolescent male peer groups. The three most significant self-reported reasons for proxy shoplifting were payment to steal for others, pressure to steal for others, and the desire to please the older youth who recruited them. In a normal population of 15-16-year-old adolescents, shoplifting as a proxy was associated with a dating-oriented lifestyle and spending leisure time with older adolescents. Economic strain in the family, lack of parental supervision, and low self-control were also significantly related to proxy shoplifting. In one of the studies, some Finnish offenders with a history of serious crime reported proxy crime recruitment at the onset of their criminal careers. Being a recruit proxy by an older offender for committing theft crimes at a young age may in some cases be a factor in setting a youth on a criminal pathway, especially among immigrant minors in Finland. The first study identified shoplifting as a typical proxy crime. The second study identified the prevalence of and factors in proxy shoplifting among a nationally representative community sample of 6,279 15-16-year-olds. The third study obtained self-reports from 12 convicted property offenders regarding how proxy crime may have been part of a serious criminal career. 2 tables and 39 references