“Because it’s there”

That was British mountain climber George Mallory’s response in 1924 to the question “Why climb Mount Everest?”

It does not come as a surprise to me when some TIER-1 Program participants respond in similar fashion to the question “What was the reason for your decision to steal the item?” 

Answer: “Because it was there”.

The  sweater, earings, or book on display at a retail store apparently presented itself as something that had to be taken. There was risk involved, excitement, challenge, some skill- all of which very often resulted in material reward. In addition, the behavior could also elicit the admiration of one’s peers.

But the analogy does not hold upon closer examination.

First, although there are risks, variables and potential dangers involved in both activities, they can usually be carefully calculated, weighed, and anticipated in one; whereas in the other, the risks and variables are unknown, indeterminate, and uncontrolled.

Climbers know the terrain, have detailed maps, know where the fissures, cracks, and chasms are. They have prepared for the specific trek for several  months, anticipated the weather, and are physically and psychologically prepared.  They also expect, and have planned for, the unexpected.

In contrast, most first-time-arrested retail theft offenders are unprepared for, and usually do not know, the nature of the risks inherent in their behavior.

They do not know where the security cameras are placed. They do not know which merchandize contains security tags. They cannot identify retail security, some of whom look like shoppers or sales staff. And their behavior is usually impulsive and not well-planned.

It’s like climbing a mountain in the dark…and it’s snowing.

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.


© 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.