In the past decade, the number of shoplifting cases in Greene County has increased dramatically.
“The number of cases that we had in 2013 was just a little above 300 cases,” Judge Stidham said. “Ten years earlier, we had three on the docket the entire year.”
Greene County District Judge Dan Stidham said people were rarely shoplifting out of necessity either.
“For the most part, it seems to be people who don’t really need to shoplift. They do it for the thrill,” he explained.
That’s why in late 2014, the county started working do modify that behavior.
Now if an offender is convicted for shoplifting, they’re given two options; do the time or wear the sign.
“But the word got out very quickly that you can’t go steal something now and just get slapped on the hand,” Stidham said.
The program started in October 2014 but because of court process, the first offenders didn’t wear the signs until February 2015.
Six people wore a sign in February 2015.
“Then in March, we had every available court date full of people wearing the signs,” Stidham said. “We actually didn’t have enough signs to accommodate people.”
Over the course of 2015, those numbers started to dwindle.
“We’ve had a 2/3 decrease in the number of cases just in the first year. I think this time next year, I think we’ll have it down to the point we had it before where we’re just seeing a few cases a year,” Stidham said.
So far, Stidham said no one has chosen three days jail time over wearing the sign in public for three hours.
“I keep waiting for someone to say ‘No, I want to go to jail,’ but no one has,” he said.
Because of that, the consequences of shoplifting have been seen by a lot of people.
“I really thought we might decrease it by a third, maybe a fourth. Maybe if we were fortunate, 40 percent or 50 percent but I did not expect to see a two-thirds drop that fast.”
Stidham said the program is similar to a hot check program he started in 2000 to combat that problem.
However, if something else starts becoming a big problem like shoplifting, the judge said they’ll look at ways to expand the program to modify other criminal behavior.”