Increase in Shoplifting on Black Friday

Shoplifting is a crime that often begins in the teenage years, and surprisingly there is a notable increase in retail theft crimes that occurs on Black Friday.

Black Friday

Photo by: Matt Madd

Many families have been sitting around the table today sharing reasons they are thankful while mere hours later they will be fighting for a place in line to obtain the hottest item on store shelves. While some of the best deals can be found on Black Friday, it is certainly not the day to see the best of people. Beyond those quarreling in line and past others who may be getting physically aggressive with fellow store patrons are other crimes being committed under the radar. Shoplifting is one of these unexpected crimes that can occur despite the increased holiday foot traffic. Also not expected is the extra eyes and cameras being used to catch those taking advantage of the crowds.

Retail theft

Shoplifting is known under the Utah Criminal Code as retail theft. Section 76-6-602 states: “A person commits the offense of retail theft when he knowingly: Takes possession of, conceals, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise. . . in a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of retaining such merchandise or depriving the merchant permanently of the possession . . . without paying the retail value of such merchandise.” Shoplifting can also occur if someone alters or removes a tag in order to deprive the merchant of the full retail value.

Teens and shoplifting

Photo by: Mike Mozart

Shoplifting can be done by people of all ages, and teens are definitely not exempt from this crime. Many adults who face problems with chronic shoplifting say the practice started when they were adolescents. Teen shoplifting can begin due to a variety of reasons such as low or non-existent income, peer pressure, entitlement issues and even just for thrills. This time of year, many teens may shoplift because they feel they have no other way of obtaining gifts for their family and friends. Regardless of why teenagers begin shoplifting, most do not understand the legal consequences surrounding this crime. The criminal charges for shoplifting depend on the value of the items lifted. Charges can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony and additionally, most stores will also permanently ban shoplifters from ever entering their stores again.

Education and good examples

Before shopping for gifts and other material possessions takes over this season, parents should sit down with their teens and educate them on the laws regarding shoplifting. This is also an opportune time to help teenagers discover ways to make gifts or earn money so they can join in the holiday gift exchange. Teens who may be facing charges for shoplifting and other types of theft should consult with an attorney.

19 Year old Utah Teen Arrested for Receiving Stolen Property

A 19 year old Utah teen was arrested for receiving stolen property after accompanying a friend to sell thousands of dollars of stolen sports memorabilia.

150k of stolen sports memorabilia

Photo by: Ryan Hyde

An avid sports memorabilia collector in West Jordan, Utah called police in late July claiming his trailer loaded with $150,000 worth of sports memorabilia had been stolen. A week later, the trailer was found burned, but empty. Investigators began to follow leads on the missing memorabilia, eventually posing as a buyer and arranging a meeting with a suspect who claimed to have the stolen goods. During that meeting two individuals were arrested – 33 year old Michael Brandon Morris and 19 year old Mariah Christine Smith.

Indirect theft

During questioning Morris claimed another man had given him the sports memorabilia. Knowing the items were stolen, Morris did not alert authorities but instead priced the items and listed them for sale. Reports do not indicate whether or not his 19 year old accomplice was directly involved but it is possible she knew the items were obtained illegally. Both are facing charges for receiving stolen property.

Receiving stolen property

Utah Code 76-7-408 states, “A person commits theft if he receives, retains, or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it probably has been stolen, or who conceals, sells, withholds or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding the property from the owner, knowing the property to be stolen, intending to deprive the owner of it.” Punishment for receiving stolen property or being an accomplice in said crime can vary from class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the value of the property. Any teens who may suspect someone they have been helping is dealing in stolen property are encouraged to alert law enforcement and seek legal counsel from a juvenile defense attorney.

Felony Charges for Teen Who Received Stolen Firearm

A Utah teen is facing felony charges after receiving a stolen firearm in a drug trade.

Risky business

Photo by: Vulcan Rider

18 year old Matthew Ortega was arrested after a stolen firearm he had received in trade of drugs was linked back to him by the gun owner. Ortega, who had acquired the stolen weapon previously, had posted the gun for sale online where it was seen by the original owner. Law enforcement officers were notified and contacted Ortega, who came clean about how he had acquired the weapon. The firearm had been stolen a few weeks before by another individual and although Ortega was not involved in the burglary of the firearm, he is facing theft charges for receiving stolen property.

Receiving stolen property

When someone is the knowing recipient of stolen property, they may be charged with theft according to Utah Code 76-6-408 which states: “A person commits theft if he receives, retains, or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it probably has been stolen, or who conceals, sells, withholds or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding the property from the owner, knowing the property to be stolen, intending to deprive the owner of it.” Section 76-6-412 adds that “Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable:

(a) As a second degree felony if the:
(i) Value of the property or services is or exceeds $5,000;
(ii) Property stolen is a firearm or an operable motor vehicle; or
(iii) Property is stolen from the person of another”.

Since Ortega was just the recipient of the stolen firearm (ii) and that firearm wasn’t taken from another person, but from off their property (iii), he is facing a reduced charge of third degree felony theft. This lesser but still felony charge is likely due to the value of the firearm being between “$1,500 [to] $5,000” as stated in Section 76-6-412.

Legal purchases only

Since Ortega is 18 years old and legally an adult, he will face charges in district court and he could face up to five years in prison. Teens and young adults who purchase items from friends or acquaintances should ensure the items sold are the legal possessions of those listing them for sale. If the buyer has a hunch the items are stolen, they should trust that hunch and not participate in the deal. Teens under the age of 18 or those older who are restricted from owning firearms should refrain from buying or otherwise obtaining a gun to avoid related criminal charges. For more information on charges related to firearms, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

Vehicle Burglary

Vehicle burglaries can occur regardless of how upscale the neighborhood, and many of those car break-ins are done by minors from the same area. Whether done out of boredom or to find loose change, breaking into a car is against the law whether or not anything ends up stolen.

Vehicle Burglary

Photo by: Hey Paul

Unlawful entrance to a vehicle can result in criminal charges even if nothing of value is removed from the vehicle. Utah Code 76-6-204 explains that “any person who unlawfully enters any vehicle with intent to commit a felony or theft is guilty of a burglary of a vehicle.” If a teen opens a car hoping to find loose change or a GPS system and all they find are empty soda bottles and fast food wrappers, they are still entering the vehicle with the intent to commit a theft. Burglary of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a large fine.

Other charges

If upon entering a vehicle illegally the teen finds and removes items of value, they will obviously face charges of theft if caught. The punishment for theft depends on the value of the items stolen. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, the charges for theft can range from a class B misdemeanor for theft of items valued under $500 to a second degree felony is the value of the stolen item exceeds $5,000 or is a firearm. There are other possible charges related to vehicle burglary including:

• Possession of burglary tools, a class A misdemeanor if items were needed to break into vehicles as explain in 76-6-205;

• Criminal mischief if the vehicle or any item inside was damaged as described in 76-6-106 with penalties varying depending on “pecuniary loss” during the vehicle burglary; or even

• Aggravated robbery, a first degree felony if the vehicle broken into was occupied by a driver according to Utah Code 76-6-302.

Teens who may view vehicle burglaries as simple, no-risk crimes should be educated on the potential legal outcome that could result from breaking into a vehicle. Those minors already facing charges should consult with a juvenile defense attorney.

Car Hopping in Utah

Utah teens have several slang phrases that parents are not privy to and these seemingly innocent terms could really be illegal activity such as car hopping.

Teen slang for illegal activities

Photo by: Eryne!

Teens often create slang terms to sound cool amongst their peers and other times the reason for their code talk it is to keep adults in the dark as to what they are talking about. Just as parents should know “Molly” and “dabbing” aren’t reference to a friend or a famous dance move, the phrase “car hopping” does not mean their son or daughter is switching around which friend they are driving with. Ask any teen what car hopping is and they will likely know what it refers to even if they haven’t been involved in the activity themselves.

Car hopping

Photo by: Hey Paul

In the adult world car hopping translates to breaking into cars and stealing anything valuable. Car hopping can be done in broad daylight in the parking lot of a school or the mall, but typically it occurs in residential areas during the early morning hours when the owners of the cars and all of their neighbors are asleep. Car hopping usually doesn’t involve picking locks or breaking windows; all that is needed is a car owner feeling too comfortable with their surroundings and failing to lock their vehicle. The thief then opens the door, rummages for anything of value such as cash (and change), electronics, stereo equipment, purses, wallets, meds, and even personal documents that can be sold or used for identity theft.

Criminal charges

Photo: PixGood

Breaking into cars is not only done by people with “zero chill”, but it can also result in serious criminal charges such as vehicle burglary and theft as well as curfew violations if done between the hours of midnight and 5am (curfew limits vary by city). Parents should encourage teens to respect their curfew and the property of those around them. If a teen finds themselves with others who plan on car hopping, teens are encouraged to say “bye Felecia” and bail.