62 Yale L.J. 788 (1952-1953)
Shoplifting and the Law of Arrest: The Merchant's Dilemma

handle is hein.journals/ylr62 and id is 806 raw text is: SHOPLIFTING AND THE LAW OF ARREST:
SHOPLIFTING is the theft of goods displayed for sale.' Today, with retailers'
emphasis on uncovered display and self-service,2 the annual number of such
thefts runs well into the millions.3 American store thieves, from the occasion-
ally tempted amateur to the studied professional,4 steal annually merchandise
with a retail value of over  250 million.5 And shoplifting is apparently an
uninsurable risk.6 Behind this common form of theft is often a ganglion which
sends shoots into other areas of criminal enterprise.7 Yet the incessant and
systematic sack of retail stores is accomplished with little risk of arrest and
prosecution.8 Merchants and police must combat the shoplifter with unwieldly
and outmoded laws delimiting the right to apprehend him and bring him before
legal authority.9 Currently, the awakened interest of merchants reinforces the
1. This is the description employed in the records of most metropolitan police de-
partments. Interview with Raymond J. Eagan, Capt. of Detectives, New Haven, Conn.,
Dep't of Police Service, November 18, 1952.
2. Address of Edward Wetton, Div. Operating Mgr., Stix, Baer & Fuller Dept. Store
(St. Louis, Mo.), at Store Management Sess., Convention of Nat. Retail Dry Goods
Ass'n, January 14, 1953 (copy in Yale Law Library). See also POLLAK, Tun CRIMINAL-
ITy OF WomEN 34-5 (1950).
3. See Sterling, Stop That Shoplifter!, The Saturday Evening Post, October 22,
1949, pp. 19, 67.
4. See text at notes 18-29 infra. The Operating Director of the Chicago Crime Com-
mission has concluded that shoplifters . . . are among the most professionalized of our
lawbreaking population. Peterson, Crime Does Pay, The Atlantic, February, 1953, p, 41,
5. It is estimated that variety stores charge off 1!2 percent of total dollar sales to
pilferage loss, while department and drug stores recognize a 1 percent loss and grocery
stores, 3/4th of 1 percent. Cracking Do=n on Shoplifters, Business Week, November 1,
1952, p. 58. This means, on the basis of 1948 United States Census of Business retail
sales figures, that the American shoplifter in that year occasioned losses approximating
$146,580,000 in drug and department stores, $61,925,000 in grocery stores, and $37,601,000
in variety stores: a total of $246,106,000. Inflation and an uptrend in the crime have un-
doubtedly swelled the take since 1948.
6. [S]hoplifting losses are not considered insurable .... This is largely because it
would be next to impossible to determine just what part of stock shortages ... could be
charged to this type of theft. Communication to the YALE LAw JOURNAL from a lead-
ing insurance company, dated October 31, 1952. (Name of company withheld by request.)
The high frequency of the losses and the small amount involved in each incident
would cause the expense of investigating and making reimbursement to exceed the pro-
portion considered appropriate... . Communication to the YALE LAW JOURNAL from a
leading insurance company, dated December 18, 1952. (Name of company withheld by
request.) See also CRORAUGH & REDDING, CASUALTY INSURANCE 607 (1928).
7. See text at notes 30-8 infra.
8. See APPENDIX, infra.
9. See pages 792-7 infra.

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