Shoplifting Like an Amateur: When Your Good Kid Gets Busted


Photo by Daniel Lobo

Last week was the first week all of my family went back to school. Husband and teenager are in college, second oldest is in high school, and the five and three year old are in preschool. I was feeling pretty relaxed. I even think I sang a few chords of Pharrell Williams‘ song, I’m Happy. The first day went off without a hitch. The second day…not so much.

I had set aside the day for contemplation and for writing. Summertime hadn’t allowed me many of those days and I was looking forward to a very productive day. In the middle of my great afternoon I received a call.

“Mrs. Hovey, this is the SRO from the High School from Hell…” (the name has been changed to protect me from SRO retribution) … “and I’m calling to inform you that your daughter is being charged with a felony.”

“Hold on while I take a swig of —– (fill in your favorite hard alcohol here).”

“Okay, now what did you say?”

“Your daughter was involved in a group shoplifting event and I’m charging her with a felony.”

(This is where I must interject and tell you that when I was young I studied pre-law that never turned into a law degree). “So you have proof that she’s stolen something over five hundred dollars?”

“Um, well no. But she was with a group of girls who stole some items from Walmart. So she’s an accessory to a crime. She’s right here and I just told her I was going to call you. I’m going to charge her and then she will have to appear in court.”

“Okay. Wait. So today she was caught with some girls who were stealing and now she’s in the office with you?”

“No, I have a tape from Walmart from two weeks ago. They sent the tape to every high school in the valley and we identified her friends. They said she was with them and so we are charging her.”

“So you didn’t actually see her on the tape stealing. You are charging her because her friends say she was with them?” I began to see where this was going.

“Well, I have to review the tape again. When a group of people rob a bank the person who drives the car or holds the door still gets charged.”

“Right. Except for the fact that she wasn’t driving and the doors to Walmart are automatic. I want to see the video.”

This is where the SRO knows I know what’s really going on and he decides the conversation is over.

“Anyway, she’ll be home after school. I will wrap this up and let you know what we’re charging her with tomorrow.” Click.

At this point my blood is boiling. I have a friend whose child stole mascara from Walmart. She was a good kid who made a very bad choice. Walmart has a million security cameras and they have plainclothes workers in the store who are on the prowl to bust shoplifters. Once the cameras catch the shoplifter they are immediately escorted up to the security office and the parents are called. Then the parents receive a $250 bill from Walmart that must be paid in lieu of going to court. If you dare fight it they have attorneys waiting to file for damages. My poor friend was beyond angry. The mascara was bejeweled and carried around as a teaching tool. I threatened my second daughter, “If you ever take anything without paying for it you’ll lose your smart phone permanently.”

It was apparent that the SRO was trying to scare her into spilling the beans about what had happened.

When she got home it was revealed that she was at a birthday party and all eight of the girls decided to go to Walmart. They took two cars. The group that my daughter was with went in and got snacks. Two girls from the other group stole some swimsuits. They told the SRO my daughter was with them (which was partially true) and so the SRO used that information to try and scare my daughter into giving him more information.

“Second-to-oldest daughter, why didn’t you tell me right away?” I asked her.

“Mom, I tried to get you to pick me up from the party that night. Neither you or older sister texted me back.”

I checked my cell phone. Yep, story verified.

The SRO called me back the next day and let me know they weren’t going to charge her with anything (which I already knew they couldn’t). Was middle child on the tape? Yep-walking in, paying for her snacks with her friends and walking out. Was it a good learning lesson? Yes. She should have told me right after she thought something shady might have happened. She was reminded why she shouldn’t steal and there are eyes everywhere. And it was a great teaching lesson for knowing what her rights are. Now she knows if she’s ever accused of a crime she needs to simply state, “I want my mom (or an attorney) here before I say anything.”

I hope I don’t get another call like that. But if I do, second-oldest-daughter knows I’ll pawn her smart phone to pay for her mistake.

To hear  more details about this fun experience, click here to listen to my iTunes podcast episode 13 with humorist AK Turner.




  1. Beth says:

    I know I wouldn’t have kept my cool in a situation like that, or have any presence of mind to call his bluff.

    Good teaching moment, momma. And wow. Just, wow.

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