Wal-Mart to Prosecute Younger Shoplifters

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Wal-Mart to Prosecute Younger Shoplifters

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In an effort to curb a growing shrink problem, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has issued new guidelines that lower the recommended age at which stores prosecute first-time shoplifters. The retailer is now recommending that its stores prosecute shoplifters at age 16 instead of 18 -- a policy that in line with many other retailers, according to industry experts.

Several months ago Wal-Mart said an increase in shoplifting, employee theft, and other inventory loss was hurting its profitability in the first quarter. However, the new guidelines are based on suggestions from stores around the country that came at the start of the year, Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley told Reuters.

The retailer relaxed its shoplifting policy a year ago by recommending stores only prosecute first-time offenders when the items stolen were worth $25 or more. That guideline is still in effect.

The new policy also shortens the time a store will wait for parents before calling police on a child suspected of shoplifting. The wait time is now one hour vs. 90 minutes under previous rules.

Wal-Mart will prosecute repeat offenders regardless of age, said Simley.