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Elderly Shoplifting

Elderly shoplifting is much more common then one would think. In fact according to recently reports this past decade crime among the elderly is on the rise. “Senior citizens committing non-violent crimes offenses like shoplifting is much more of a complex case then adults or children charged with petit-theft”- Shoplifting Attorney William Moore

At first most customers or store owners do not seem to notice our elderly shoplifters, they are more focused on keeping an eye on the youth. However, lately one local Fort Lauderdale 7-11 has experienced more items missing after a bus of elderly stops by. “Its mainly little items that go missing like air fresheners, candy bars and cosmetics, nothing too expensive but still it all adds up” – 7eleven employee.

What Is the Motivation Behind These Petit Theft Crimes?

The motivation behind these crimes could be for multiple reasons, therefore making these crimes much more complex then normal.

More information about legal representation in Broward County Florida can be found by visiting our Shoplifiting Web Page.

Mental Illness Not Needed

Often times the most common reason for defending an elderly shoplifting charged is common aging health issues. Unfortunately it’s not unusual for humans to develop memory lapses as they start to age.

Shoplifters are often honest people with no criminal background. In fact recent research has associated shoplifting crimes with depression.

One most common mental illnesses seen in cases where elderly petit-theft crimes is the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and even certain medications.

In some of these cases the individual may have experienced a memory lapse causing them to not even realize they have stolen the item.

In 1988 Jane Sutton a featured writer for a Fort Lauderdale new paper wrote an article titled “Shoplifting by Elderly May Be Done Because of Sense of Loss, Not need”.

This article reported three geriatric psychiatrists suggested mental illness, no economic need, may be what prompts some previously law-abiding elderly people to begin shoplifting late in life. The idea of stealing material items may be symbolic and compensate for the loss of a spouse, job, health or independence.

However, this is not to say that all that shoplift are mentally ill, but can be used to explain defend elderly facing shoplifting charges.

Unexpected Stress or Change / Seizing Control

During the process of aging the changes that aging individuals face can cause a great amount of internal stress emotionally, physically and internally.

The loss of control of their surroundings enables them to seek out ways to substitute their loss of control.

According to Barbara Staib of the National Association For Shoplifting Prevention in the U.S. -Shoplifting is commonly a response to some kind of loss and a need to fill a void. (click here for NASP website)

Sudden changes in their home environments such as being moved into a nursing home or loss of a spose can cause a great deal of stress internally causing the individual to act out in attempt to express their internal pain or struggle.

It is often about seizing the opportunity to momentarily exercise control when the perception is on of powerlessness” – Kathryn Westcott


Boredom is ironically another very common reason for elderly to commit petit-theft crimes. Yes it may sound strange but pure boredom in life may influence senior citizens to act out and steal. The excitement of stealing gives the individual a ‘rush’ or ‘high and can be used as temporarily relief. Most of the time the elderly shoplifters are not stealing because they want to item but rather for the thrill of risk-tasking.

Non-violent Offense Turned Violent

Through my experiences in handling elderly shoplifting charges I have found more often it is the elderly men who become violent when faced with on-site arrests for shoplifting.


As our loved ones progress in age it’s hard for the family members to witness and deal with the situation in the appropriate matter. If you are aware that your loved one is participating in shoplifting actions you should not ignore this. These actions could be the first signs of a disorder and a sign of more the come. Also, its important to note that often times senior citizens whom commite petit-theft crimes are repeat offenders.

However, it’s important to know that more often elderly shoplifters are not criminally charged “Most of the time judges are prosecutors will take into consideration the age and metal stability of the elderly committed a crime does not mean they will be prosecuted in the same way a young adult would be.”- Attorney William Moore

Depending on the nature of the problem a judge may order the individual to seek treatment which may include medication, psychotherapy, and admission into a day program or nursing home.

William Moore Criminal Defense has represented thousands of people arrested for theft related crimes. Contact our criminal defense team to learn how we can help you.

Broward County

William Moore Criminal Defense Attorneys
110 SE 6th St #1713
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 523-5333

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