A teenage shoplifter from West Virginia got an early Christmas gift this year.
The 15-year-old was caught with a few stolen items in his backpack as he was leaving a Kmart store in Charleston, reports WCHS.
Charleston Police Officers Brandon Rinehart and James Smith were on patrol when they were called to the Kmart in response to a reported shoplifting.
When they arrived, they "noticed the individual with a backpack" so Smith says he got out and "chased him down."
However, they were surprised to find that the only things the suspect stole was a teddy bear and a stocking. He told police that the items were Christmas gifts for his sister.
The officers escorted the young thief back to Kmart, where he returned the stolen goods and apologized to store management.
"We deal with people stealing beer, cigarettes … It's a whole lot different when you're stealing something for your little sister," Rinehart said.
"I looked at Rinehart, and I was like, 'Think we should buy it for him?' and he was like, 'Yeah let's do it,'" Smith said.
"We deal with so many people, we could tell genuineness and where it came from, from him. We could tell he was just a kid, lost, he didn't have anyone to support him, so we figured we'd do it," Smith said, as quoted by WGHP.
Almost one in three kids say they've stolen from a store, reports Family Circle, citing the Josephson Institute, which tracks adolescent thoughts and attitudes.
Of teens who have admitted to shoplifting, 72 percent say "they didn't plan to take anything," says Barbara Staib of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. "Most often these crimes aren't premeditated."
Teen girls are as likely to steal as are teen boys, and economic class is not a factor. "There are angry teens, often in poverty, who steal out of rage," says clinical psychologist Neil Bernstein, PhD. "And there are affluent ones, with credit cards in their wallets, who do it for sport."
Social status is a factor, according to Joseph P. Allen, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. "The most popular kids at middle school are between two and three times more likely to shoplift than other children. They do it to participate in whatever they see their peers doing."
However, teens do tend to steal the same type of things across the board. "They're most likely to grab hot products, like iPods and video games, as well as any items that are small, high in value and can easily be concealed," says Casey Chroust, executive vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
Rinehart and Smith were praised on the Charleston Police Department’s Facebook page for their reaction to this shoplifter. “Crime and enforcement is not always black and white,” the post began, adding that “our officers have the compassion to see the difference between an act of greed or feeding habits and someone who has no other way to provide.”