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Shoplifting by senior citizens soars in 2009

Date Posted: 2010-01-07

A 700% increase in the number of elderly citizens caught shoplifting in Okinawa has police and government officials taking a close look at the economic conditions that has caused seniors to steal.

Police say 188 senior citizens were nabbed in 2009, compared with only 28 in 2000. They say 188 is the largest number in prefecture history, enough to make them ask questions of the shoplifters. The primary answer as to ‘”Why” was “I just wanted to have a taste of good food, that’s all.” Most shoplifting, according to police, occurred at convenience stores or in supermarket food sections.

About 70% of the 100 shoplifters surveyed said they looked at products in the stores and said to themselves “That looks so good, I want to eat that.” Police emphasize that the shoplifters are not even poor people, but rather, people with enough money to live. Only about 20% were what police called destitute and lacking income.

One factor government officials and sociologists conclude is that because more senior citizens are living alone and are lonely without personal relationships and people to talk with, the boredom leads some elderly persons to make irrational decisions. A government official notes that social agencies were more pro-active a decade ago in working with the elderly, but now the seniors are being overlooked as agencies focus on younger populations.

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