Social Question

john65pennington's avatar

Have you ever wondered why store security can detain a shoplifter?

Asked by john65pennington (29187points) February 8th, 2010

Some people have asked me why/how store security can detain a shoplifter, since they are not the police? he is how it works. most states have citizen arrest laws, which allow a private citizen to make a citizens arrest for certain violations of the law. this is covered under shoplifting, provided the police are notified and the person is arrested. some stores do not call the police, but rather have the suspect sign a release of liability and promise to never enter their store again. the store property is recovered and thats it. some stores believe in prosecution and the police are called. a report is made and store security follows the police to the magistrate for prosecution. security guards have very limited power and within a certain area only. security guards are not police officers. here is my question: do you believe that security guards are necessary for the protection of a company’s safety and its mechandise?

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14 Answers

SABOTEUR's avatar

I would imagine that security guards, as well as any other deterrent, should be utilized to minimize merchandise leaving a business without authorization or without being paid for.

It’s never crossed my mind why security can detain someone….

…though I do often wonder why security always seems to be following me!

Likeradar's avatar

Are they necessary? Sadly, yes since stores have apparently found that it’s more cost effective to hire someone than lose merch.

njnyjobs's avatar

If there’s value to be protected then absolutely required. I wouldn’t put SG at a $ store at the mall, as oppose to a department store operations.

Darwin's avatar

Since far too many folks think that it is okay to shoplift why shouldn’t the stores protect their merchandise with security guards? Certainly the clerks working there appreciate that the company is saving its profits, with which it pays their salaries.

And a citizen’s arrest is not always allowed. To quote Wikipedia, which quotes the Columbia Law Review:

“Each state, with the exception of North Carolina, permits citizen arrests if the commission of a felony is witnessed by the arresting citizen, or when a citizen is asked to assist in the apprehension of a suspect by police. The application of state laws varies widely with respect to misdemeanors, breaches of the peace, and felonies not witnessed by the arresting party. American citizens do not carry the authority or enjoy the legal protections held by police officers, and are held to the principle of strict liability before the courts of civil- and criminal law including but not limited to any infringement of another’s rights.”

Since shoplifting is usually not a felony, and since if the police were present they would be doing the arresting, citizen’s arrest may not fly in all localities.

In addition, a security guard is not just some person off the street. They generally have to meet certain minimum qualifications, some imposed by law and some by the employer.

Shae's avatar

Store Security in my state do not have the right to detain you, it is called false imprisonment. The store and employee also put themselves at risk of being sued for the embarrassment they may cause you from implying you are a thief in public.

Every state’s laws are different though.

lilikoi's avatar

I thought they can’t detain you – that’s why people I know that have worked in retail have watched people walk out of the store with stolen goods…

Strauss's avatar

Anyone who witness the commission of a crime is authorized to detain the suspect. It’s called citizen’s arrest!

Darwin's avatar

“Anyone who witness the commission of a crime is authorized to detain the suspect”

Typically only if the crime is a felony.

Shae's avatar

Each state, with the exception of North Carolina, permits citizen arrests if the commission of a felony is witnessed by the arresting citizen, or when a citizen is asked to assist in the apprehension of a suspect by police. The application of state laws varies widely with respect to misdemeanors, breaches of the peace, and felonies not witnessed by the arresting party. American citizens do not carry the authority or enjoy the legal protections held by police officers, and are held to the principle of strict liability before the courts of civil- and criminal law including but not limited to any infringement of another’s rights.

Wiki

john65pennington's avatar

Darwin, didn’t i just state that?

trailsillustrated's avatar

I have seen people here tackled and detained by store security.

Darwin's avatar

@john65pennington – State what? I didn’t see you say anything about felonies anywhere.

rottenit's avatar

I thought that Shopkeeper’s privilege allowed stores to detain people with resonable suspicion of shoplifting, felony or not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shopkeeper%27s_privilege

semblance's avatar

I am an attorney and I know a lot about the subject of shoplifting. To make my frame of reference clear, I give advice to persons apprehended for shoplifting. I do not represent retailers or security companies.

Having said that, to answer your question, yes, stores – particularly large stores – definitely need security personnel for the protection of their merchandise. I do not know that this is important for “safety” in the sense of personal safety, but a store without a loss prevention policy is an easy target for shoplifters. Generally, by the way, store security is more often referred to as “loss prevention” personnel. Most of them work undercover. When you see uniformed guards at places like Target, for example, that is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Some of the other posters are misinformed. Although it is true that the law on citizen’s arrest does vary to some extent from state to state, in just about every state in the USA any store employee (trained security, loss prevention, or not) can use “reasonable force” to detain a shoplifting suspect for a “reasonable time” in a “reasonable manner” if the store employee has “probable cause” that the person has committed a theft. In this context, “probable cause” means a reasonable belief (i.e. more than just a suspicion) that a crime has been committed. In fact, the retail lobbies in most states have been able to get “shopkeeper’s privilge” statutes enacted which gives the store and its personnel fairly good liability protection if a shoplifter is detained, even if it turns out that no crime was committed.

Now, many stores do not exercise their full legal rights. Because of concerns about liability suits, some stores have “no touch” apprehension policies, which basically mean that only shoplifters who are submissive and compliant with directions from store personnel are caught. Other stores – Macy’s is a good example – have very strict shoplifter apprehension policies. Their loss prevention personnel are trained not to try to detain shoplifters unless they are pretty darn certain that a theft was committed. If they have that level of “probable cause” they can and will detain shoplifters with force, if necessary, including forcing the suspect to have her or his hands cuffed behind the back. Stores with those kind of policies typically criminally prosecute a very high percentage of the persons apprehended, besides charging them with civil demand penalties. Macy’s prosecution rate is reputed to be close to 100% of the persons apprehended.

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