Bringing shoplifters in Utah to justice

Jun 3, 2022, 4:55 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:20 am

Stock photo: Getty Images...

Stock photo: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a shoplifting epidemic in America. A recent survey of small-business owners found that a majority (54%) experienced an increase in shoplifting in 2021. And for this blatant theft, honest customers are paying the price. A county attorney in Utah explains how prosecuting shoplifters can be difficult.

Shoplifting by the numbers

Grocery stores commonly operate on a 1-percent profit margin. This means that a grocery must recover $100 for every $1 worth of shoplifted inventory, according to Rutgers University.

“For every $330 worth of products stolen, a retailer has to sell an incremental $300,000 worth of goods to break even,” said Burt Flickinger, managing director of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group. “We’ve talked to retailers across America who say shoplifting is now 2% to 3% of their total sales. That’s up from 0.7 to 1% pre-pandemic” as reported by CNN.

It’s gotten so bad, Home Depot is selling a line of power tools that won’t work unless the tool is scanned and activated by a store clerk. surveyed about 700 small businesses and 23 percent said retail theft happens daily. The National Retail Federation surveyed 61 medium to large retailers and found that organized retail crime cost an average of more than $700,000 per $1 billion in sales in 2020 as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Prosecuting shoplifters in Utah: a revolving door

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings explains that prosecuting shoplifters can be dynamic, complex and evolving. He joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic to sort through the legal process of going after shoplifters.

Dave wants to know why shoplifters aren’t put in jail for a long time.

Rawlings said the level of charges brought against a shoplifter are based on two factors.

“Most prosecutions for shoplifting are based upon the value of the items stolen and the past history of the defendant,” he said.

According to the Salt Lake City law firm of Brown Bradshaw & Moffat:

  • Class B Misdemeanor Theft
    Theft of property or services valued at less than $500. This is the most common retail theft charge in Utah.
  • Class A Misdemeanor Theft
    Theft of property or services valued between $500 and $1,500 is usually charged as a class A misdemeanor in Utah
  • Third-Degree Felony Theft‍
    Theft of property or services valued between $1,500 and $5,000 is usually charged as a third-degree felony in Utah. Additionally, a third-degree felony charge may be issued if an offender has been convicted twice in the past ten years of any actual or attempted theft, robbery, fraud, or burglary with intent to commit theft.
  • Second-Degree Felony Theft
    Theft of property or services valued at more than $5,000 is usually charged as a second-degree felony in Utah. Additionally, theft of items like a firearm or vehicle, regardless of the total value, is often classified as a second-degree felony in Utah. The same is true for any theft committed while the offender is armed with a weapon.

Rawlings added that a lack of police officers and jail bed space are creating a revolving door for convicted shoplifters.

There are now more than 600 open law enforcement positions in Utah, Rawlings said, adding one of his lead investigators could not attend a trial that the Davis County Attorney’s office investigated because it’s so understaffed.

For “these class B misdemeanor, even if it’s prosecuted, the person’s not realistically going to be doing any jail time, unless they’ve got significant priors [convictions] that’s going to bump it to an [class] A [misdemeanor] or a third [-degree felony] to keep the jail-bed populations low [or the] prison bed populations low,” Rawlings said. “It’s a revolving door.”


U.S. Chamber Letter on Organized Retail Crime and Retail Theft


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Crime, Police + Courts

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill talks to members of the media on March 31, 2023. On Thu...

Pat Reavy,

Officers found legally justified in Murray and Taylorsville police shootings

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Thursday that officers involved in two police shootings were legally justified.

10 hours ago

Chase W. Pollock reportedly hit a white Audi at the 1300 South 2100 East in Salt Lake City. He has ...

Emma Keddington

SLPD files charges against man accused of a hit and run on Mother’s Day

The Salt Lake Police Department filed charges Thursday against 40-year-old Chase W. Pollock, in connection to a critical hit and run that happened on Mother's Day.  

10 hours ago

A gas leak in Sugar House has caused evacuations, a road closure and the closure of Sugarhouse Park...

Devin Oldroyd

Sugar House Park reopen after gas leak shuts it down Thursday afternoon

A gas leak in Sugar House has caused evacuations, a road closure and the closure of Sugar House Park. Authorities are still working on this.

12 hours ago

chad daybell shown, chad daybell trial...

Sam Herrera

Chad Daybell not called to testify in murder trial, defense rests

The defense team for Chad Daybell said Daybell would not take the stand during his murder trial.

18 hours ago

A woman charged last month with sexual battery after she allegedly tugged on another woman's skirt ...

Ashley Imlay,

Woman in St. George skirt-pulling incident fired from Utah AG’s office, records show

A woman who was filmed and went viral in St. George skirt-pulling incident has been fired from her government job.

20 hours ago

Salt Lake Deputy Police Chief Josh Scharman conducts the grand opening of the Community Connections...

Eric Cabrera

Social workers with Salt Lake Police Department are responding to more callers than ever

The Community Connection Center social workers who work with the Salt Lake Police Department are getting an increase in mental health-related calls, as a result they have grown their team to able to respond to more.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Bringing shoplifters in Utah to justice