Why Is Stealing on the Increase?
RIO DE JANEIRO—Sunday, October 18, 1992. The famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are crowded. Suddenly, gangs of youths invade the beaches, fighting among themselves and stealing anything of value from people on the beach. The outnumbered police stand by—helpless. For the Cariocas and the tourists, it is a nightmare in the daytime.
Really, crime involving property has become common. In large cities, thieves have been known to rob youths—and at times even kill them—to get their sneakers. Thieves walk in whether people are at home or not. Dishonest housemaids, after learning their way around a home, steal jewelry and money, then disappear. Crowds loot stores. Well-organized groups even steal people, as seen in the increased number of kidnappings in Brazil. And you could likely give other examples from your own experience or from what has occurred in your community. But why so much stealing?
Why Do People Steal?
Although increasing poverty and the use of drugs are two major reasons, the answer is not quite so obvious. The New Encyclopædia Britannica observes: “The search for a single cause of crime has been largely abandoned as fruitless.” However, the same work suggests that such problems as stealing “are directly attributable to youths’ feelings of worthlessness and resentment at being excluded from the material achievements and rewards of ordinary life.” Yes, because of the tremendous pressure of consumerism, many see no way to obtain the things they desire other than by stealing.
Interestingly, though, The World Book Encyclopedia points out: “The crime rate stays relatively stable in traditional societies where people believe their way of life will continue. Crime rates tend to rise in societies where rapid changes take place in where people live and what they do for a living—and in their hopes for their future well-being.” The encyclopedia adds: “Young people have fewer job opportunities. The unskilled jobs available seem dull when compared to the quick and exciting returns from theft. Young people are also more willing to risk arrest because they have less stake in things as they are.”
Yet, many who are unemployed or who have low-paying jobs do not steal, while vast numbers of white-collar and blue-collar workers pilfer at work as if it were part of their salary. In fact, for some fraudulent practices, a certain social status is required. Have you not heard of scandals involving huge amounts of money in which those implicated were politicians, public servants, and businessmen? No question about it, stealing is not restricted to the poor.
Recall, too, that movies and TV programs often make a joke of stealing (the hero may even be a thief), which tends to make theft more acceptable. Granted, watching such may be termed entertainment, but at the same time, the audience is shown how to steal. Is not the idea subtly conveyed that crime perhaps pays? Undoubtedly, greed, laziness, and the thought that everyone else does it with impunity all contribute to the increase in stealing. Undeniably, we live in the foretold “critical times” when self-interest and love of money prevail.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
You Must Not Steal
Despite the world’s twisted values, it is vital to obey the commandment: “Let the stealer steal no more.” (Ephesians 4:28) A person who overvalues possessions or pleasures may deceive himself into believing that theft is worth the risk. But stealing is serious in God’s eyes and reveals a lack of love for one’s fellowman. Besides, even petty theft may lead to the hardening of one’s heart. And what about being viewed as dishonest? Who will trust a thief? Wisely, God’s Word says: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer.”—1 Peter 4:15.
You certainly deplore the increase in stealing, but how do people in crime-ridden areas cope? How have some former thieves changed their life-style? Will stealing ever end worldwide? We invite you to read the following article, “A World Without Thieves.”