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Theft by Employees in Work Organizations - A Final Summary Report of Phase 1

NCJ Number
J P Clark; R C Hollinger; L F Smith; P W Cooper; P F Parilla; P Smith-Cunnien
Date Published
96 pages
This LEAA-funded report summarizes the findings of the first phase of a two-phase study on theft by employees. The study involves a survey of electronics manufacturers, and hospitals in Minneapolis.
A review of studies on employee theft suggests that this behavior is not a random event, but a definite response to social and enviromental factors in the work setting. This study was conducted in 9 retail store organizations, 10 electronic manufacturing firms, and 16 general hospitals of varying sizes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Company executives and security personnel were interviewed, and questionnaires were completed by almost 5,000 employees. Some onsite observations were made to review physical layouts. The use of company records was limited because few organizations had reliable information on employee theft. The research attempted to determine the amount of employee theft and relate it to demographic factors, occupational characteristics, motivation, attitudes, and organizational variables. The results were complex and varied according to the type or organization. In general, problems of theft were discovered in all organizations with employee involvement ranging from 2 to 37 percent. In all three sectors, employees with the greatest opportunity for theft--sales clerks, engineers, and nurses--also had the highest involvement. Younger, unmarried employees reported more involvement with theft than older employees. Employees with a higher involvement in theft were also ambitious to improve their life situations and careers. They frequently interacted with other employees outside work, and were dissatisfied with their jobs. Co-worker sanctions and a high likelihood of detection appeared to deter theft. The study found no strong relationship between security practices and theft rates, but did discover that a clearly articulated and uniformly enforced antitheft policy lowered employee theft. Inventory controls and screening of prospective employees were also effective in controlling theft. Management should exhibit constant concern about control of internal theft while being responsive to the needs of its workforce. Over 45 references are provided. (Author abstract modified).


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