A number of millionaires and well-known individuals in Sharjah faced legal liabilities after they were caught allegedly shoplifting as they suffered from kleptomania - the inability to refrain from the urge to steal.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Colonel Dr Khalifa Kalander (left), director of the Comprehensive Police Stations at Sharjah Police, said, “These people were not motivated by need but [perhaps] by a psychological desire … [they] feel better when they steal.”
Col Kalander cited a number of instances of petty thefts. An Arab millionaire was arrested and referred to Sharjah Police after a nurse, who worked at a private clinic in Sharjah, alleged that he stole her mobile phone worth Dh200 ($54).
When the man was summoned by the police for questioning, he arrived in a car worth Dh500,000 ($136,129) .
During questioning, he confessed to the police that he had indeed taken the mobile phone but he did not know why he had done so.
He added that it was unintentional because he suffered from kleptomania, a mental disorder he was suffering from since childhood and sought the help of the police in ridding himself of the habit.
After having confessed to the police, the man returned the mobile phone to the nurse and even offered her compensation.
The case was amicably resolved and the nurse dropped the charges against the man.
In other incidents of shoplifting narrated by Col Kalander, an Arab businesswoman in her 40s stole a loaf of brown bread from a supermarket and when questioned by the police, she too said she was not aware of why she had done so.
An Asian woman while shopping with her daughter in a supermarket in Sharjah stole make-up items worth Dh50 ($14) and was caught on camera as well as by the supermarket employee. When the supermarket security questioned her about how the items had ended up in her bag when she had not paid for them, she claimed that her daughter might have put them in her bag. At which, her daughter protested her innocence and shouted, “Ma, you put it in the bag ….”
The innocence and honesty of the child called the mother’s bluff, said Col Kalander.
The mother and daughter were taken to the police station and the woman’s husband was informed about the incident. When he arrived at the police station, he expressed shock and embarrassment at his wife’s conduct given that he was a millionaire, said Col Kalander.
Later, the manager of the supermarket came to the police station and dropped the charges. He told the police that the man and his wife were regular clients of the supermarket and that his staff had called the police without referring the incident to him.
Most such cases, said Col Kalander, that involved the rich and the well-known were resolved amicably.
“Most of these cases involve petty thefts which were not planned in advance … such cases increase during sales season,” Col Kalander said.
When it comes to kleptomania that manifests in shoplifting, both men and women were guilty of it, he said. He added that police records show that women commit them more than men.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether the goods these wealthy and well-known people steal are worth something, said the police. These people steal things they can easily afford. Some items that are shoplifted cost as little as Dh3 (such as the loaf of brown bread).
Like many teenage thieves, these adults’ response is usually to come up with an unlikely excuse such as they took the item by mistake, or that their children put those item/items in their bag without their knowledge. Sometimes, they go into outright denial even after being caught on camera, said Col Kalander.
Some individuals in this category have a history of mental instability, and are sent for counselling following their arrest, he said.
Col Kalander said people who seek help from the police are sent to the social support division to complete their treatment. “It’s optional and free,” he informed.
“The law treats all who are involved in petty thefts as a criminal whether they intended to steal or not,” said Col Kalander.
The police file a case of theft and transfer it to the public prosecution where it is decided whether to pardon the suspect, based on his medical report, or send him/her to court.
If the accused presents a medical report in the court regarding his condition [kleptomania], the ruling depends on the judge, said Col Kalander.
Most of such petty thefts which end up in police records are usually solved amicably as the victims [of theft] waive the case, he added.
He urged people who suffer from kleptomania to seek medical and psychological help to rid themselves of this habit and protect themselves from legal action.
By Aghaddir Ali
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