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Juvenile Shoplifting Delinquency: Findings From an Austrian Study

NCJ Number
.SIAK-Journal International Edition Volume: 4 Dated: 2014 Pages: 14-29
Helmut Hirtenlehner; Heinz Leitgob; Alois Birklbauer
Date Published
16 pages
Based on a representative study of seventh- and eighth-grade students in Upper and Lower Austria, this study examined the prevalence and background of shoplifting among adolescents.
Twelve percent of respondents in Upper Austria, and 11 percent of respondents in Lower Austria reported having shoplifted at least once over the course of their lives. In Upper Austria, 5.8 percent reported having stolen something from a shop in the past year, and 4.4 percent in Lower Austria reported having done so. These results suggest that the 1-year prevalence of shoplifting among Austrian seventh- and eighth-graders is about 5 percent. This prevalence level is almost identical to that obtained by the International Self-Report Delinquency Study. Only 1 percent of all respondents, however, qualify as "multiple offenders" (i.e., having committed shoplifting five or more times over the past year). Male respondents had higher shoplifting prevalence levels and higher 1-year prevalence levels than female participants. Compared to adult shoplifters, juveniles tended to steal low-priced items. The adolescent shoplifters attach equal importance to three motivations for shoplifting: adventure and excitement, financial factors, and peer pressure. Since most juvenile shoplifters do not become habitual offenders and harsh punishment has tended to aggravate delinquent behavior, several authors have suggested removing shoplifting from criminal law altogether and redefining it as an administrative offense or a matter of claiming damages via civil law. Another approach would be a diversion program that requires repayment of the cost of the stolen property. Study data were collected through a computer-assisted survey of 2,911 students attending schools in Upper and Lower Austria. 7 figures and 47 references