12/24/2014 10:02 EST | Updated 12/24/2014 10:59 EST

Ontario Shoplifting Statistics Suggest They're Worse Than Americans

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Ontario retailers might need to keep a close eye on their customers this holiday season: as nearly a quarter of them could be shoplifters.

This, according to a new poll from Forum Research.

A telephone survey conducted Dec. 19 and 20 asked 1,058 Ontarians whether they had stolen items from stores; alternately, they were given the option not to answer the question.

Fifteen per cent of respondents admitted to having sticky fingers, while 12 per cent didn't answer. Forum took this to mean that around one-quarter (27 per cent) could be guilty of shoplifting.

People in the 18 to 34 age bracket had the highest number of people (22 per cent) freely admitting to the activity, followed by people aged 35 to 44 years old, out of whom 19 per cent admitted it.

Eighteen per cent of men in the survey openly admitted to stealing, compared with 12 per cent of women.

The survey also broke down respondents by political affiliation. More people who preferred the Greens either admitted to shoplifting or didn't want to answer than any other party, with the NDP coming second.

"Shoplifting, petty theft which is relatively easy to admit to, is a young person’s game, and that's a proxy for New Democrats, Greens and the non-religious," Lorne Bozinoff, Forum's president, said in a news release.

And though this is a small sample, and only counts people who admit to the activity, rather than people who've been found guilty of it, those are high percentages when compared with statistics in the United States.

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention estimates that 27 million, or one in every 11 people, have shoplifted, while over 10 million have been caught doing it in the past five years.

A Desjardins Insurance primer on shoplifting says that more than 30 per cent of thieves plan to steal ahead of the act itself, and that it mostly has to do with "social or personal pressure," rather than anything financially-related.

It said that shoplifters "often buy certain items while stealing others," and are only caught once every 50 times.

"The excitement of not getting caught produces a euphoric chemical reaction, and many shoplifters admit that the kick they get is a better reward than the stolen goods," the report said.

The Forum Research poll was accurate +/- three per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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