Have you ever had to arrest someone for stealing food?
Yes, I have. Working in a poor inner-city there were two types of people stealing food. The most prevalent were the people who were taking the expensive cuts of meat or other items which could quickly be sold. I never had a problem making these arrests. I said to one lady "Why do you have two hundred dollars worth of steaks in your clothes? She had them in her underwear, in stretch pants and in specially-sewn inside coat pockets.
Every now and then you would get a person who was stealing some basic food item because they were hungry. Sometimes it was a homeless person taking a pre-made sandwich, or a young mother with a couple kids with them, taking a couple packs of hot dogs or some other cheap meal like cans of spam.
In these cases, I would talk to the store owner and ask if they were sure they wanted to take this to court or if they would prefer I could document the fact that the person was now banned from the store and I would remove them from the premises. Most times they would take my recommendation.
That wasn't always the case. Once I recall a man of foreign descent who owned a franchise convenience store and hated his customers. He was always saying, in very broken English, that all kids were thieves.
He once called us because a young girl about eight or nine refilled her fountain soda drink after she drank some of it. She had paid for the soda, but he now wanted to charge her again because she drank some and topped off the cup. When she said she had no more money, he called the police and wanted her arrested. I can still hear him in his broken English while waving his finger back and forth "She pays again or she goes to jail." I wanted to put him in jail, but what I did was put a dollar down on the counter and walked her out of the store.
When I got on day shift, I may have re-told this story to someone I knew at the health department. I'm not sure, but I think that became a very expensive soda. The following week they were inspected and had to replace a large refrigeration unit which was found not to be working properly.
Getting back to the homeless person, I would take them to a local charity food kitchen where they could legally get something to eat. In the case of the person, (usually a young mother) with one or two children I'd load them up in the police car, and we'd make an unscheduled stop at the drive-thru at McDonald's, my treat, a meal for the ride home. There were many happy meals consumed in the back of my patrol car.
Before you say I was stupid for wasting my money on thieves or rewarding bad behavior, here's my perspective. First, I wasn't hungry, and I had plenty of money in my wallet to invest ten bucks, so these kids also weren't hungry. I'm sure I got played more than once, but people don't forget when you treat them decently.
It would usually be a matter of a boyfriend stole the food stamps, or they were traded for drugs. But at least the day I took them home, the kids weren't hungry. I'm not so sure I did it just for them. Fact is it made me feel good, and I'll take that feeling any day of the week.
When I was 18, I worked in a food store as a security guard, and the area I was working in had a high amount of drug users and homeless.
I always worked alone, and never used to stand out on guard duty, I set sting operations, as I knew if people saw me, they'd only come back when I wasn't on shift, and probably arrange to steal even more.
So I would spend hours in the camera room working the ancient cameras which were recorded on VHS. And one time (from many), I saw a male in baggy clothes, with a giant green jacket, like a trench coat. He ran past the news stand, straight to the meat aisle. I changed the cameras quickly. I used to have this thing, where I check patrons shoes on the camera, and if the shoes were bad, I would follow them closely. Anyway, the guy was on the meat isle, literally shoving as many chicken breasts and steaks down his jumper, he just kept going and going, down the top, down the back, down the trousers. So I got it all on tape, and was rushing with the excitement that I got with every "catch" using the sting method.
I left the cameras in position, one on the guy and the others following the route to exit, to catch a contiguous route to the exit, from meat man. I burst through the doors, past the staff restaurant, HR office and burst through the doors leading to the shop floor (I get glanced at by staff members, ahhh he's caught another, they said). It's on now, I'm gonna get him. Running straight down the meat isle, I see him see me, and at this point, he was larger than DJ Khaled, and couldn't even run.
So I get to the guy, make him put all the meat back, and arrest him. The guy looks at me and says he is really hungry and has no money for food. My heart sank straight away, I eased up, he then proceeds to tell me he's sorry, but what is he supposed to do. I told him he shouldn't steal, that he has to try something else. At this point I fully let go of him, and just told him to put all the food back and leave.
There were so many people stealing food where I worked, I started letting people take some, I know it was wrong, but I just couldn't let people that are hungry, be arrested.
I think there are lots of issues in life stemming from similar causes, which in modern society we tend to brush off, as we are in this high pressure societal evolution of sorts. Forcing those who can't cope, into the distance, to use drugs or to become homeless and fade into non existence.
(Yes, obviously someone stealing many is going to sell, but the reason why someone is lured into this life, is because they're trying to put food on their table and clothes on their back. Little difference to the desperate, after a while, steal one for self, why not steal the rest in one hit. The lines blur after a while)
Oh yes. Frequently. Expensive items in large amounts. And in practically every case the person had enough cash on hand to not only pay for the merchandise but to pay cash for the bond when they were arrested.
I know, you are thinking of the poor beggar who desperately needed to feed themselves any way they could. Those people do find food. There are churches with food pantries, there are food banks, there are the various government programs and in extreme cases dumpsters. They beg for money on the street, work day labor, sell blood. They find a way.
I cannot recall any case where I arrested someone for stealing food from a grocery store or a restaurant because they needed it. It was always a game to see if they could get by with it. Either for a thrill or to make a profit reselling it.