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Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Recession: Shoplifting in Spain

The unusual suspects | GlobalPost
There's a new shoplifter profile surfacing in Spain with the economic crisis: housewives and heads of households. It is called "robo famelico," literally "starving theft."

Thieves have long targeted CDs, DVDs, batteries, cell phones, expensive perfumes, razors and gourmet food items, which are later sold at a discount at flea markets. Now people are stealing even food and basic products, said Carlos Martinez, director of communication at Niscayah, a leading company in technological security solutions.

People even conceal packages of frozen fish under their shirts. “Imagine trying to keep a straight face,” Martinez said.

Those who steal to eat are embarrassed when caught. They even apologize sometimes, Martinez said. But they often keep coming back, believing it is the only way to make ends meet. And there is little supermarkets can do to stop them since non-violent theft of goods worth less than 400 euros isn't considered a crime in Spain.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Western Europe, at 18 percent. Spaniards enjoyed a period of impressive economic growth that ended abruptly when the real estate bubble burst. More than 4 million people are jobless, and more than a million households have all members out of work.

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