Understanding Stealing (Kleptomania)

A person with kleptomania has a recurrent failure to resist an impulse to steal.Stealing is a crime that does more than separate a person from their belongings. It also separates the victim from their belief in the goodness of their fellow humans as well as their feeling of personal safety. Understanding more about the person who stole can help the victim heal, and it can teach the right help strategies to those who steal.

It is essential to look beyond the headlines and random statistics to understand and make a difference in people’s lives when it comes to crime. That is why the legal experts at Lawson Legal put a great deal of effort into understanding clients and what goes on beneath the surface appearance.

Recent statistics show that crimes against people are increasing (+2.6%) according to a five-year average. While this is troubling and a trend we would like to see reversed, there is more to the number than meets the eye.


Help or Punishment?

It is easy to paint people with broad strokes that offer no room for depth or nuance. These generalisations often take away the notion that everyone experiences individual circumstances that impact behaviour. Additionally, overgeneralising gets in the way of being truly helpful to others.

While it is never alright to steal, the underlying complexities can allow room for empathy and growth. An example of a common underlying problem associated with stealing is kleptomania.


What is Kleptomania?

An impulse control disorder, kleptomania, presents itself as an uncontrollable need to steal. Frequently, the kleptomaniac does not need or even want the stolen property. However, they are unable to resist the urge to take the goods.

Kleptomania is the inability to resist stealing even without reason.


Why is Kleptomania Difficult to Discover?

There is a significant amount of shame and secrecy within the life of a kleptomaniac. The need to hide the stealing makes identifying the disorder nearly impossible in some cases. Getting caught in the act of theft is often the only way others discover the condition. Knowing the signs of kleptomania is necessary to provide help and not just punishment to the perpetrator.


Typical Features of a Kleptomaniac

Because of the nature of kleptomania, a diagnosis requires a good deal of self-reporting. Hiding their activities is paramount to kleptomaniacs, so hearing clear signals of a problem is tricky. There are some commonalities involved in the condition that should be noted. These include,

  • The kleptomaniac’s theft is not a planned event. In many cases, a thief will carefully organise their heist. This is not how the kleptomaniac operates. Because the disorder is one of impulse control, the kleptomaniac is hit with the uncontrollable urge to steal with no warning.
  • Kleptomaniacs usually do not want or need the pilfered goods. Frequently, they can afford to purchase the items if desired. This is a crucial point to understanding kleptomania. The disorder has little to nothing to do with the stolen property. The theft is about the emotional reactions to the act of stealing.
  • Kleptomaniacs steal from public places but also family and friends. In some cases, they may carefully return the stolen objects if taken from private owners.
  • Because the stolen goods have no use to the kleptomaniac, they often stash the items out of sight. Kleptomaniacs also give the stolen goods to friends or family or donate them to charity.
  • Kleptomania should never be confused with rebellion. The kleptomaniac is genuinely ill and is not stealing out of a financial need because of a dare or to take revenge.

The criminal lawyers at Lawson Legal have a great deal of experience handling cases related to stealing. We understand that extenuating circumstances may be present when a person steals. We also know that this is an extremely stressful time for everyone involved with the case so that you can depend on our understanding of theft-related cases.

It is important to note that stealing is a crime with a broad range of consequences based upon several factors including,

  • The stolen property
  • Circumstances surrounding the theft
  • Age at the time of the theft
  • Prior criminal records
  • Mental health status of the defendant

If left untreated, kleptomania can shift from an occasional occurrence to a frequent act. As the kleptomaniac steals more and more, their chances of being caught increase. Eventually, they will end up with a criminal record. Even though the kleptomaniac suffers from a disorder, many people are unwilling to look past a rap sheet that includes theft. This is especially true amongst businesses that are hiring.

It is frightening to face kleptomania in yourself or someone close to you. However, psychologists and psychiatrists have several treatment options that can help.

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a crime, do not hesitate to contact the legal team at Lawson Legal. There is no charge for your first visit with one of our lawyers. We will put our years of experience as criminal lawyers to work for you. We firmly believe that everyone deserves a fair trial and will work to get you the best possible outcome.