Our last posting noted that certain intervention strategies effectively prevent, deter, or diminish the incidence of shoplifting.  In turn, these methods of intervention significantly reduce the costs of law enforcement, corrections, retailers, and-ultimately- the costs paid by consumers.

If that is true, why aren’t these strategies more widely adopted and used?

First, decision-makers need to know  that there are alternatives to traditional methods of correctional intervention. Government funding, and particularly the lack of it in tough economic times, is very often determinative of whether new approaches are initiated.  When there is no money available for programs, or funding has been reduced, government officials need to become aware and informed of effective alternatives. 

Second, most people are not only uncomfortable with change; they are adverse to change. Think of changing the direction of a large ocean liner when an iceberg is sighted.  The hazard has to be sighted, reported, and a determination  made whether to change course.  If there is a decision to change direction, then how and when to change course must also be decided.

Even if a report of “hazard ahead” is heard, the sighting confirmed, and the decision to change direction is made, it will take time to initiate and successfully execute a turn involving a 250,000 ton ship. The changes in momentum, speed, and resistance (wind and water) must be anticipated and considered-individually and dynamically-for the change to be successful. 

Third, there may be social, political, economic or other incentives to maintain traditional criminal justice responses to retail theft. Being “tough on crime” can attract community support and votes. However, alternatives to traditional criminal justice responses to crime can still be considered “tough”, while at the same they can avoid costing taxpayers in excess of $31,000 per year.

That is the estimated cost of keeping one offender incarcerated in state prison for one year.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 28 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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