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What would you do if you catch someone stealing?

thomas

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Yesterday, my wife and I went shopping at the local supermarket, when Mrs Thomas spotted an old lady, I'd say in her late seventies, early eighties, stuffing the shopping bag she had brought into the supermarket with all sorts of food: packages of cashew nuts, pistachios, crisps, etc. She put other groceries in her shopping cart. My better half had caught her in the act but pretended that she hadn't noticed. Mrs Thomas, who is Japanese, was shaken by the theft she had witnessed and continued to observe the lady. We were wondering whether the lady would pay the stuff she had stashed in her bag at the register. She didn't.

We debated what would be the best course of action: report her to the supermarket staff or not. Judging her by her calm and carefree demeanour, she must have been quite an experienced shoplifter. Long story short, we ended up not getting involved. I have often seen people stealing in Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores, usually small things like onigiri or snacks.

In my home country, stealing food when in need is considered a petty offence, though it's still treated as a crime. When I worked at court as a law intern, I remember a case where an old lady had been caught stealing cat food for the third time. She (obviously) wasn't wealthy and received a six-week prison term. Back then, as an innocent intern, I was pretty shocked to see that poor dame disappear behind bars.

No matter how small, stealing things is wrong, but I couldn't bring myself to denounce that old lady yesterday.

What would you have done?
 
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Uncle Frank

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Only in America....been a couple cases where the store owners are chasing a shoplifter and a gun owner hauls out their gun and shoots the crook. If you are going to own a gun , know all the laws concerning their use. When I was a police officer , most of the shoplifters we arrested had a mental problem and couldn't stop themselves from stealing. If I see someone stealing , I usually report it to the store , but don't interfere with the thief , you could be attacked.
 
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thomas

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In Japan, it would be highly unlikely for a shoplifter to carry any sort of weapon, and that wasn't our primary concern. Senior shoplifting though seems to be a growing issue in Japan.

One commentator attributes the senior shoplifting to Japan's seniors being cut off from the rest of society. Many are living alone for the first time in their lives. Sibylle Ito had thought that "shoplifting is done by attention deprived juveniles, but looking at the actual figures for young people (14 to 19 years old) shoplifting is on the decline in Japan.


Japan's jails are becoming nursing homes. (Bloomberg)
 
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Shoplifting is an addictive disease.
Under Japanese law, the punishment is imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen (Criminal Code Article 235).

If you see shoplifting, it's best to report it to the supermarket clerk.
If you do not report it, you may be blacklisted as an accomplice.
Depending on the angle of the security camera, you may be recorded to hide the crime.
Face recognition technology is evolving and may be registered as a person of interest.
Shoplifting measures by face recognition system

It is not necessary to come into contact with a shoplifter.
When we witness shoplifting, let's contact a staff.
The correspondence of the shoplifter will entrust a shop.
 

mdchachi

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I guess if it were relatively convenient, ie staff was nearby, I think I'd report them. Otherwise I'd try to ignore it.
Most likely she has a mental issue that is causing her to do this rather than any real needs.
I would not recommend pulling out your personal firearm and shooting her. 😄
 

nice gaijin

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yeah geez @thomas don't shoot the old lady! Use the net :p

On a serious note, I don't know what's wilder, being considered an accomplice for not snitching on some old lady stealing groceries, or locking her up for a decade for it. I fail to see how that makes anything better. What a dystopian nightmare.

If they're stealing out of some thrill-seeking addiction they need treatment, not prison time. If they're stealing out of necessity, then society has failed to provide for its pensioners (who I remember getting royally screwed over back in 2007, often by no fault of their own). Let Jean Valjean have their stupid loaf of bread--sorry it's cutting into some megacorp's bottom line (though I'll bet it's accounted for in their margins anyways).

As for America, shooting anyone over petty theft should be a murder charge. If you aren't protecting life from a direct threat you're a vigilante and an instrument of perverse injustice. Not to mention the times that the "good guy with a gun" gets capped when the police finally do roll up. Cowboy mentality is so infuriatingly stupid.
 

bentenmusume

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Let Jean Valjean have their stupid loaf of bread--sorry it's cutting into some megacorp's bottom line (though I'll bet it's accounted for in their margins anyways).
Just to play devil's advocate, a supermarket is not necessarily a "megacorp", right? I mean, there are locally owned supermarkets and relatively smaller local chains, especially here in Japan. It's not like shoplifting is just an issue that just means a rounding error for the 7-11's of the world and has no other consequences.

I'm not saying I agree with the laws, by any means. But I'd like to think that the first inclination of a store clerk who was told that an old woman was stealing groceries would be to gently rebuke her and tell her to put them back or pay for them, not to immediately call the police and have her handcuffed, chained, and locked up. Likewise, I imagine the number of people who actually have been caught out -> reported -> jailed for being an "accomplice" to shoplifting in this way is minimal if not zero (in 99.999999% of cases, how would anyone even know?). So I'm not going to jump right to the conclusion that Japan is a dystopian society where countless old women and unsuspecting passers-by are currently locked up behind bars for shoplifting and the aiding-and-abetting thereof.

From my perspective, it's hard for me to assume either malice or lack of malice on the part of the old woman in this case. She could be a pitiable Jean Valjean figure, she could be stealing for kicks, she could be perfectly well off and just doing it because she thinks she can get away with it. If it were me, I'd probably make a judgment call. If she looked in rough shape (like she might be homeless or very poor and hungry) and seemed to be stealing out of need, I'd probably turn a blind eye. If she appeared perfectly well off and seemed to be stealing relative luxury goods for the hell of it, I'd probably gently point it out to a nearby clerk. Again, I suspect the most likely consequence is that they'd give her a warning and perhaps tell anyone (family members, etc.) who happen to be with her what happened. That could also result in her getting the help that she needs if she did in fact require it.
 
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nice gaijin

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Just to play devil's advocate, a supermarket is not necessarily a "megacorp", right? I mean, there are locally owned supermarkets and relatively smaller local chains, especially here in Japan. It's not like shoplifting is just an issue that just means a rounding error for the 7-11's of the world and has no other consequences.
I knew that my glibness was ripe for pushback. Of course I don't support stealing from the local mom-and-pop souzaiyasan, nor do I mean to promote shoplifting. My intention was to point out that petty crime is often a symptom of underlying unaddressed issues that society has turned a blind eye to, whether it's mental health or poverty.
I'm not saying I agree with the laws, by any means. But I'd like to think that the first inclination of a store clerk who was told that an old woman was stealing groceries would be to gently rebuke her and tell her to put them back or pay for them, not to immediately call the police and have her handcuffed, chained, and locked up. Likewise, I imagine the number of people who actually have been caught out -> reported -> jailed for being an "accomplice" to shoplifting in this way is minimal if not zero (in 99.999999% of cases, how would anyone even know?). So I'm not going to jump right to the conclusion that Japan is a dystopian society where countless old women and unsuspecting passers-by are currently locked up behind bars for shoplifting and the aiding-and-abetting thereof.
Superalatives aside (dystopian is my favorite word of late, for reasons unknown), just that the book could be thrown at them is enough for me to consider it a system in need of rethinking. Punitive structures are generally not very good at shaping human behavior; capitol offenses would be unthinkable, or at least extremely rare, if people were actually deterred by the potential consequences of their actions. There are much better ways to prevent crime, but they happen so far upstream they don't look anything like law enforcement.

Regardless of whether it's referred to police, known shoplifters are often blacklisted and asked not to return to the store. To be fair, I think Hiroyuki was saying that the supermarket may just blacklist the "accomplice" as well, and not that it was a criminal matter. There's probably no actual law for this, but maybe a store's policy to demand you to "see something, say something." As you said, it's hard to imagine this playing out: getting pulled into a tiny room to be scolded as you watch footage of yourself looking on as an old lady stuffs obento and daikon into her purse.

From my perspective, it's hard for me to assume either malice or lack of malice on the part of the old woman in this case. She could be a pitiable Jean Valjean figure, she could be stealing for kicks, she could be perfectly well off and just doing it because she thinks she can get away with it. If it were me, I'd probably make a judgment call. If she looked in rough shape (like she might be homeless or very poor and hungry) and seemed to be stealing out of need, I'd probably turn a blind eye. If she appeared perfectly well off and seemed to be stealing relative luxury goods for the hell of it, I'd probably gently point it out to a nearby clerk. Again, I suspect the most likely consequence is that probably warn her and perhaps tell anyone (family members, etc.) who happen to be with her what happened. That could also result in her getting the help that she needs if she did in fact require it.
I agree, it's a judgment call that would depend on the circumstances. In the moment I witness a petty crime, it's neither my duty to intervene or make up excuses for the perpetrator; I am neither deputized nor must I become an advocate. Regardless of the decision I make, there will be unintended consequences one way or another, so I try to tread lightly.
 
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bentenmusume

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Yeah, I definitely agree with everything you're saying here. (And I had a feeling we agreed in principle from the beginning...my post was more a way for me to try to work out my thoughts by putting them into words, and certainly was not made with the intention of "calling you out", so my apologies if it came off that way.)

But yes, like you say, situations like these are definitely a judgment call, and I'd also tend to tread lightly regardless of which course of action I decided to eventually take.

And yes, certainly we can all agree that the core problems/issues at the heart of it all are societal, and not easily solved just by fines and jail sentences.
 

nice gaijin

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Yeah, I definitely agree with everything you're saying here. (And I had a feeling we agreed in principle from the beginning...my post was more a way for me to try to work out my thoughts by putting them into words, and certainly was not made with the intention of "calling you out", so my apologies if it came off that way.)

But yes, like you say, situations like these are definitely a judgment call, and I'd also tend to tread lightly regardless of which course of action I decided to eventually take.

And yes, certainly we can all agree that the core problems/issues at the heart of it all are societal, and not easily solved just by fines and jail sentences.
Don't worry I know better than to take offense unless it's really obvious ;) Cooperative discussion ought to be a mutual pursuit of truths that we can agree upon, so when I'm not being bombastic I attempt to write something that no reasonable person would find fault with... aside from ending sentences with a preposition.

I think for the most part, we all want to do what we think is right, whether it's the bystander minding their own business or the gun-toting savior complex. "What is right" is often culturally informed, with an extra layer of "what is fair" along with one's personal biases ("what's in my best interest") and experiences/trauma that lead them to choose their adventure. Ultimately, I think the more we consider the consequences of our decisions, the lighter we tend to tread, unless it's a dire situation that really demands intervention.
 

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Theft is a crime undoubtedly, but its punishments can be different for the thieve who steal the stuff. Beggary is better than theft, though it is a dishonor, but is not considered a crime, except in the situations that are harassment for others, or is along with another guilt.

The first thing that should be considered is that, the thief knows his action is a crime. I read somewhere that an old group of ignorant bandits believed when one of them sees a property on the back of pack animals in a desert, regardless of its owner, it will belong to him or his group! (see how much humans can be ignorant and follow wrong beliefs)!

The second issue is that why the thief did that action? It goes back to the purpose of the theft. If someone is hungry and he doesn't find any solution to obtain food and then steals bread inevitably, he does not deserve the legal punishment, though his action is hateful.

If a thief steals a worthy thing that is not relative to his need for food or other requirements, such the crime is exact, and he hasn't any excuse for the wrong action, and he is worthy for legal punishment.

The punishment limit of theft is dependent on the purpose of the stealer and the type of action of the him.

Unfortunately, theft can be changed into a habit and illness, aside from the necessary needs. When somebody steals something repeatedly, this leads toward a type of illness, and he will repeat the action as an addiction to theft.

Let to review the old lady you exampled, though the aged people are very respectful and are worthy to compassion. If she was poor and needed some things, she could find another way to obtain her necessary things, though they were less than what she lifted.

If she stole one thing, for example, a pocket of popcorn to eat and remove her hunger, we could judge, her unpleasant theft was because of an emergency.
But you say she filled the cart with every type of stuff, and this was inexcusable, and she was one of the ill thieves.

I watched a video. The employees of a supermarket noticed every day, a package of dog biscuits was lost! One day they reviewed the CV cameras. They saw every day a dog came into the supermarket stealthy, took a pocket of the dog biscuit, and got out from the market, in caution! They ambushed in the back of the entrance door tomorrow to arrest the dog, but it didn't come to the market after that day! The intelligent dog realized the plan of the employees!

As you see, even animals can be a thief!

However, I'm a merciful person and probably ignored the action of that aged woman, while justice orders otherwise.
 
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How to deal with shoplifting criminals in the shop

・万引き犯が単独で12歳以下、もしくは65歳以上の場合、家族に連絡する。
・家族からの謝罪、盗んだ商品の買い取りがあれば警察に通報しない。なければ通報。
・13歳~64歳の場合はすべて警察に通報。
・犯行が複数犯の場合はすべて通報。同じ学校の学生、同じ会社であればその機関にも通報
・犯人が従業員の場合はすべて通報
・犯人が黙秘を続ける場合はすべて通報
・万引きが別の場所で発覚し、謝罪と弁償をしてくれた場合は通報しない。
・このマニュアルに該当しない場合は、自分で判断せず、副店長以上の社員に判断を任せる。

・ If the shoplifter is 12 years old or younger, or 65 years old or older, contact the family.
・ Do not report to the police if there is an apology from your family or purchase of stolen goods. If not, report.
・ If you are 13 to 64 years old, call the police.
・ If there are multiple offenses, report all. If you are a student of the same school or the same company, report to that institution.
・ If the criminal is an employee, report all.
・ If the criminal remains silent, report everything.
・ If shoplifting is discovered elsewhere and apologizes and compensates, we will not report it.
・ If this manual does not apply, do not make a decision on your own, but leave the decision to an employee who is a deputy store manager or higher.

To avoid human rights violations
Excessive response can make a store or employee a criminal.

・身元の調査は、名前、住所、電話番号、学校会社まで。それ以上は聞かない。
・身元確認として学生証、免許証のコピーをもらう
・事情聴取は一時間まで。家族や警察を待つ時間は含めない。
・事情聴取は必ず2人以上で行う。犯人が女性の場合は、必ず女性スタッフが対応する。
・犯人が攻撃をした場合を除き、犯人の身体に触れない。
・同意なしにバッグの中身を確認しない。
・不用意に怒鳴ったり暴言を吐かない。
・万引き犯の個人情報をしっかりと管理し、秘密の保持をする

・ The content of the investigation of the identity of the criminal is "name", "address", "phone number", "school" or "company".
I won't ask any more.
・ Get a copy of your student ID and driver's license to verify your identity.
・ Up to one hour for questioning. Does not include time to wait for family or police.
・ Be sure to have two or more people interview the situation. If the criminal is a woman, the female staff will always handle it.
・ Do not touch the criminal's body unless the criminal attacks.
・ Do not check the contents of the bag without consent.
・ Do not inadvertently yell or rant.
・ Securely manage the personal information of shoplifters and keep them confidential.

 

Jhopesstrawberry

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Yesterday, my wife and I went shopping at the local supermarket, when Mrs Thomas spotted an old lady, I'd say in her late seventies, early eighties, stuffing the shopping bag she had brought into the supermarket with all sorts of food: packages of cashew nuts, pistachios, crisps, etc. She put other groceries in her shopping cart. My better half had caught her in the act but pretended that she hadn't noticed. Mrs Thomas, who is Japanese, was shaken by the theft she had witnessed and continued to observe the lady. We were wondering whether the lady would pay the stuff she had stashed in her bag at the register. She didn't.

We debated what would be the best course of action: report her to the supermarket staff or not. Judging her by her calm and carefree demeanour, she must have been quite an experienced shoplifter. Long story short, we ended up not getting involved. I have often seen people stealing in Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores, usually small things like onigiri or snacks.

In my home country, stealing food when in need is considered a petty offence, though it's still treated as a crime. When I worked at court as a law intern, I remember a case where an old lady had been caught stealing cat food for the third time. She (obviously) wasn't wealthy and received a six-week prison term. Back then, as an innocent intern, I was pretty shocked to see that poor dame disappear behind bars.

No matter how small, stealing things is wrong, but I couldn't bring myself to denounce that old lady yesterday.

What would you have done?
My brother when he was 9 decided to steal a toy from Walmart. Got caught as soon as he exited the store the alarm went off. Employees asking him if he had something he shook his head and lied. Moral of the story: Momma wasn't happy🤣🤣🤣
 
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