Rise in elderly shoplifters due to loneliness: police study

Kyodo News

Elderly people who shoplift are likely to do so to counter feelings of loneliness and isolation, while many juveniles who get caught treat the crime as a game, according to a Tokyo police study.

Twenty-four percent of 204 people aged 65 and older recently charged with shoplifting cited loneliness as the reason for stealing from stores, the Metropolitan Police Department said. One elderly shoplifter apprehended in a supermarket said he was living alone following a divorce and had only ¥21 in his pockets.

About 8 percent of the elderly people surveyed — the second-largest group — cited lack of motivation in life, while 7 percent said their crimes were prompted by frustration, the police said. Forty percent live alone and 53 percent said they do not have any friends.

At the other end of the spectrum, 27 percent of the minors who were caught said they felt shoplifting was like a game, while 23 percent said they actually wanted the stolen items.

The study, based on police questioning, covered 1,050 people involved in shoplifting cases handled by the Tokyo police between April 20 and June 30, including 428 minors and 418 adults aged between 20 and 64.

The results underscore a rapid rise in elderly theft. The Justice Ministry said last year that 31,573 elderly people were convicted of theft in 2007, up three-fold from 1998.