Should I Tell if My Friend Stole Something?

Encouraging a friend to stop shoplifting could positively influence your friend's future behavior.
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Whether you suspect that a friend stole something or you have spotted a pal swiping items yourself, it can be difficult to figure out whether or not you should tell others about the problem. This can be an uncomfortable situation, as you may feel pressured to keep quiet, but speaking up now about a friend's stealing habits may save your friend further grief down the road.

1 Say Something or Stay Quiet?

You are concerned about your friend, but also concerned about keeping that friendship intact and strong. Teens may stay silent out of worry about what will happen to a friend if the truth gets out, or they may worry about being blamed by a friend. However, staying silent may guarantee that stealing continues -- and that your friend may eventually be arrested, banned from certain stores, shunned by family or friends or even left with a criminal record, warn the mental health experts at TeensHealth.

2 Speaking Up

Whether your friend has only stolen once or steals on an ongoing basis, silence can send her the message that you are OK with her behavior, asserts KidsHealth. You might open a conversation by saying, "I think it's wrong to take things without paying for them" or "I don't think it's OK to take something that doesn't belong to you without getting permission first." You can also ask, "Why did you take it?" to try and get a deeper understanding of your friend's behavior.

3 Getting Help

Teens may shoplift for several reasons -- boredom, loneliness and a desire to test boundaries being among them. In other cases, shoplifting or stealing can be a sign of compulsive behavior, writes psychologist Carl E. Pickhardt on "Psychology Today" online. If you feel that talking to your friend about your concerns will not stop the shoplifting, or if your friend makes false promises of stopping, talk to a counselor, teacher or your parents about what you know. A trusted adult may be able to assist you in talking with your friend or your friend's parents about the situation. Taking this step may help your friend get back on track.

4 Additional Tips

Confronting a friend about shoplifting may result in an argument or could even end your friendship. If stealing continues, you may want to avoid going to stores with your pal to avoid being labeled an accomplice. A friend who pressures you into stealing as well, or tries to encourage you to distract staff while he takes something, could also be a friend that you are better off without.

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.