PARAGOULD -- While it may seem like a small matter, shoplifting
is a crime that average citizens pay for every day.
According to Arkansas statute 5-36-102, shoplifting is the
knowing concealment, upon his person or the person of another,
of unpurchased goods or merchandise offered for sale by any
store or other business establishment that shall give rise
to a presumption that the actor took goods with the purpose
of depriving the owner, or another person having interest
Greene County District Judge Daniel Stidham explained that
shoplifting is technically theft as defined by Arkansas law,
but he further explained there is a distinct difference between
theft and shoplifting which is stated in the statute.
"The only real difference between theft and shoplifting
is the presumption created by the statute," Stidham
said. "The presumption states that when you conceal
items inside a store and then go out of the store without
paying for them, you are presumed guilty of the crime."
said he has noticed an increase in shoplifting cases in
Greene County. "It may be the unpleasant effect of
the poor economy," he said. "Increasingly, we
have seen people who are shoplifting food items as opposed
the normal items of consumer goods, such as jewelry and
Stidham explained that the usual sentencing for a first-offense
shoplifter includes supervised probation, a $250 fine plus
court costs, public service work and mandatory theft counseling
"Additionally, a lifetime ban is imposed, prohibiting
the shoplifter from ever entering that particular store again," Stidham
said. He added that, if the person were to break this ban
and enter the store, he or she would be charged with felony
For example, the district judge said, if a person is caught
shoplifting at Fred's and, at another time, is caught shoplifting
at Wal-Mart, it would be deemed a second-offense.
"Second offenders receive a jail sentence usually consisting
of 30 days," Stidham said. He added that he plans
to work with Paragould City Attorney Randy Philhours to
a program that might deter shoplifters in Greene County,
much as the hot check offenders program has deterred the
writing of hot checks.
Stidham said he recently read a story about a person who
was convicted of stealing gasoline and, as a part of the
punishment, was ordered to wear a placard in public stating
that he had been convicted of stealing gas.
"I think as far as shoplifting is concerned, justice
should be as swift as we can make it," Philhours said. "This
is a serious crime. I have always believed that justice
delayed is justice denied."
explained that, if the punishment for shoplifters were
made more serious, "it would
make the criminal realize this is a bad thing to do."
He continued that some shoplifters think of the crime as
"It's not," the attorney stressed. "We
pay for their crime every day."
Philhours said he views the crime as a kind of epidemic.
"Wealthy movie stars shoplift," he said. "It's
confounding that people who do shoplift will say they had
the money to pay for it. It just never ceases to amaze
Philhours said he looks forward to working with Stidham
on the creation of a deterrent program in Greene County.
"If we can come up with a good program to deter this
crime, that would be great," he said.