India ranks No: 1 as the world’s biggest shoplifters topping the Global Theft Barometer survey. A small percentage of these shoplifters could actually be suffering from Kleptomania.
I happened to witness an interesting incident at a big retail store near my house. While I was grudgingly awaiting my turn in the que for the billing to commence, I could hear , what appeared to be the beginning of an argument between the security guard at the store and a girl in her early twenties. The girl was seen arguing with the guard while holding a small green plastic bottle(Mouth freshener/hair oil or whatever ). It would hardly be worth about 35 or 40 bucks max. Since the conversation was in Telugu, I could sense my listening ability and rudimentary language skills being tested to the limit on account of my curiosity. From what I could figure out of the conversation, the girl was trying to give the lamest excuse I have ever heard in my life, that too for an obvious shoplifting case. I heard her explaining in vain to the security guard that it was billing clerk’s mistake that he had not billed the item! Two of her friends who had accompanied her to the store kept looking in all directions except towards their friend, extremely embarrassed at the turn of events and the attention the whole event was generating at the store. She was let off after getting the item billed and paid for. It would be too preposterous for me to judge if she was a kleptomaniac or just a young girl who needed some severe reprimanding.
In another instance, a friend of mine had been to this famous mall in the city and was shopping at big clothing and accessories retail chain. She had noticed a well dressed couple with a cute kid at the store. A while later, she was aghast at seeing this lady coolly grabbing up a shawl from the rack with one hand and thrusting it in her bag in a deft maneuver. Her husband and child where oblivious to the whole thing and so were the others at the store. Before my friend could react, the lady just walked out of the store tagging her husband and child along. The shawl according to my friend could be worth not more than a few hundred bucks. Something which this lady could easily afford. The question now is, was she a kleptomaniac?
I would however, like to place some bare facts in front of you to have an informed opinion or at least think about it. Kleptomania is said to begin in ones teens or twenties. It refers to the irresistible urge to steal. The object being stolen would normally be of very small value which they could easily afford to buy otherwise. Kleptomania tends to occur more in women than men. 0.6% of the population could have this disorder according to studies. Diagnosing the same is a challenge as no kleptomaniac would come forward and admit to stealing. Once diagnosed, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one form of treatment to get rid of this disorder.