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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIt is estimated that there exist approximately 27 million shoplifters in the United States. That means that one in 11 people have shoplifted at some point in their lives. In the last five years, over 10 million of those people have been caught. Shoplifting is so prevalent that there is even a community of proud shoplifters showing off pictures of items they have swiped on the social networking website Reddit. The community, which has over 30 thousand subscribers, is a forum for shoplifters to share methods, advice, and tricks of the trade. The welcome message touts “Welcome to Shoplifting! If you're here to preach morals, enjoy your very brief stay. If you're here to learn and share, please help contribute to our wonderful community of allegedly corrupt and soulless individuals.”

Shoplifting Can Cost More Than You Might Think

Although shoplifting is often seen as a minor crime, the consequences can be serious. If a person is caught shoplifting, they could face criminal penalties including fines, community service, or even jail time.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyShoplifting, along with other forms of retail theft, cost retailers billions of dollars each year. It is perfectly reasonable for retail companies to take serious measures in protecting themselves from these types of losses. Sometimes, however, overzealous store personnel can focus their attention on the wrong individuals—people who have done nothing but come into the store to shop. A recent example in the Chicago suburb of Algonquin demonstrates how problematic false accusations of shoplifting can be, especially when social media becomes involved.

Targeting a 12-Year Old

Late last month, a 12-year-old girl and her 13-year-old friend were dropped off at the Target location in Algonquin, Illinois, to do some Christmas shopping. According to reports, the girls walked around the store for about an hour and a half, and each of them bought a few things. The girls say that a little while after they made their purchases—while they were waiting for their ride—store employees began following them. The 12-year-old told news outlets that one the employees accused them of shoplifting and told them to put back the items in their bags.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysRetail theft in the form of shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in the United States. It occurs so often that many retailers frequently do not even report incidents to the police because full participation in every alleged shoplifter’s prosecution would be impossible. Of course, when a shoplifter steals merchandise of a particularly high value, retailers are more likely to stay involved. According to Illinois law, stealing retail merchandise valued at $500 or more may constitute a felony offense. A recent announcement by Chicago’s top prosecutor, however, indicates that a significant change is coming regarding how Cook County will pursue felony charges for shoplifting.

New $1,000 Threshold

This past November, Kim Foxx was elected to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney after beating the incumbent Anita Alvarez in March’s Democratic primary. As one of her first major policy decisions, Foxx announced in December that she was amending prosecution guidelines for retail theft charges in Cook County. According to the Chicago Tribune, she has instructed county prosecutors that charges for retail theft, including shoplifting, should remain misdemeanors unless the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000 or the defendant has 10 or more prior felony convictions.

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