Rising Tide of Retail Theft and Violence: Analyzing the Legal Implications of the Recent Family Dollar Incident in Allentown

A recent incident at a Family Dollar store in Allentown, PA, highlights the escalating concerns around retail theft and the associated risks of violence. On November 23, Raphael Garcia, a 28-year-old with no current address, was apprehended after a theft attempt at the store. During the incident, Garcia inflicted a minor laceration on an employee's hand with a knife. He was later found with drug paraphernalia and confessed to the theft and stabbing. Garcia faces charges including possessing instruments of crime and simple assault, and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty​​.

This incident is part of a broader trend of increasing theft and violence in retail settings. Recent data indicates that almost 70 percent of storefronts reported an increase in theft in the past year, and the number of assaults in several stores has surpassed the national average. From 2018 to 2020, assaults reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies rose significantly in grocery stores and convenience stores, with a 42 percent overall increase in reported assaults across the country​​.

Legally, shoplifting refers to the theft of merchandise from a store or place of business. While most incidents of shoplifting involve no threats or force, the severity of charges generally depends on the value of the merchandise involved and can range from misdemeanors to felony charges. Enhanced charges may apply for organized retail theft or if specific items like drugs or weapons are involved. Prior convictions can also influence the severity of punishments, which may include fines, jail time, probation, and community service​​.

Moreover, several states have statutes permitting store security guards or loss-prevention employees to detain suspected shoplifters, a principle known as the shopkeeper's privilege. However, any detention must be reasonable in length and manner, and based on probable cause. Detentions that lack probable cause or are unreasonable may have legal consequences for the store owners​​.

Historically, cases like People v. Kimbell (1975) have addressed the complexities surrounding shoplifting and the use of force in detaining suspects. The court in Kimbell held that store personnel had the right to detain a suspected shoplifter based on reasonable cause, and any force used must be reasonable and not excessive. This aligns with the general legal principles governing citizen's arrests and detentions by private individuals.

The intersection of retail theft and violence raises important legal questions about the balance between preventing crime, ensuring the safety of employees and customers, and the rights of individuals suspected of theft. The escalation of retail thefts and associated violence also underscores the need for clear policies and training for retail employees to handle such situations appropriately and legally.


KaplanMarx is a Philadelphia based law firm focusing on personal injury and accident cases. We pride ourselves in our community roots and help injury victims and their families every day to recover.



Get Your Free Consultation


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.