28 April 2015


     The Steal: The Cultural History of Shoplifting by Rachel Shtier is a rather unsatisfying book--interesting yes.  She leaves us with the issue of what to do about shoplifting as it seems to be more prevalent now than before and it raises the cost of the stuff we buy.  She enumerates several reasons why people shoplift:  need, obsession, thrill, ideology, and profit.  The gamut of motives are illustrated from Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book to Winona Ryder's episodes in Beverly Hills.

     There are two certainties related to shoplifting:  There will always be shoplifters and corporate America earns immense profits selling us stuff in spite of the amount of goods stolen.  So lets get over the fact that people do steal shit nobody really needs for whatever reason they steal it.  We shouldn't be exorcised over the issue or ring our hands in dismay.

     Our legislative bodies don't appear to understand that shoplifting like burglary and robbery and every other crime are statistical certainties.  We will always have thieves, burglars, and robbers.  I expect our local cave man had to watch his cave carefully to ward off cave invasions.  Most wars in the history of the world were for the purpose of taking things that belonged to someone else including their women.

     Our author seems to note with some consternation that in our consumer society, shoplifting has reached new heights.  Most assuredly it has.  The opportunities for shoplifting are almost limitless  from Walmart to 7 & ll; things to steal are minutes away.  There was a movie many years ago with
George C.  Scott called The Flim-Flam Man.  You can't flim-flam an honest man says George's character.  Fortunately for him there are very few honest men.  A percentage of human kind will take things that don't belong to them if given the chance.

     What one gleans from the book is that shoplifting has also become a contest between the shoplifter and the store and its effort to stop it with its loss prevention people and its technology.  It doesn't seem to be a fair contest.  On one hand you have the shoplifter and on the other hand you have the loss prevention employees, the cameras, the electronic tagging, the police and the courts.  No wonder a successful shoplifting venture brings thrill and satisfaction of a job well done.

06 April 2015

Our new state senator

     Our new state senator (District 15)) has as one of his first pronouncements  congratulated himself on  two new crimes having passed out out of the Senate.  One will now be able to commit the crime of stalking through the use of electronic devices.  I have not read the final language of the law, but the last draft appears to be directed to the use of electronic devices for the purpose of "stalking" which is now determined in part in the statute by the nature of the "feelings" of the intended victim as a result of the electronic communication; if terrorized or intimidated for example.  Now I know that "feelings" play a significant role in our social life.  Social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists and counselors of all kinds consider feelings as an important part of everyone's life here on this planet.  The reality is that most feelings are momentary and fleeting lasting a few minutes and then gone replaced by other feelings just as transitory. We should not base a criminal statute on "feelings"; something so undefinable, changeable, and normally irrational.  I would suggest that the new statute was proposed by someone who had their feelings hurt and which has passed the legislature bodies without  a thought to the fact that they are increasing the need for us dreaded criminal defense lawyers, they are adding to the number of criminals who live amongst us, they are increasing the number of methods by which the various law enforcement agencies in this state can control our behavior.  I am willing to place money on the belief that no more than a couple of legislators gave any thought to the consequences of adding one more crime to the hundreds we already have.

     The second piece of legislation mentioned in the article is an act prohibiting the placing of a GPS instrument on an object (presumably an automobile) without a legitimate purpose.  Now if you are to prohibit a person putting a GPS device on someone's car, then simply do it; do not say you can not do it unless you have a legitimate purpose in doing it.  Why would you as a legislator place that language in the statute?  Now we have another act which is a crime if deemed to be by law enforcement.  Who is to decide what is legitimate?  Law enforcement of course.  We should not be passing laws that allow law enforcement to decide what activities are crimes.  The proper job of law enforcement is to enforce the laws not decide what they are.