Massachusetts Officer Buys Shoplifters A Gift Card
Jan 2, 2021, 10:04 AM
(NBC) – A call to police about a shoplifting incident turned into something much bigger for an officer in Somerset, Massachusetts, who felt the punishment didn’t necessarily fit the crime.
Five days before Christmas, patrolman Matthew Lima of the Somerset Police Department was dispatched to the local Stop and Shop for a reported theft.
“The allegation was the two females were scanning some items at self checkout but bypassing other items and bagging those items,” he said.
Lima learned the women were with two children. The adults were being detained by the store’s loss prevention department.
“I have two girls myself, similar in age to the two girls that were there,” he said. “So it kind of struck me a little bit.”
When he got there, he pulled one of the adults aside.
“She explained she was working, but the mother of the children was not working,” Lima said. “There was some other family issues going on and that what she had taken was Christmas dinner for the kids.”
Lima checked with the store and the receipt while the kids were kept occupied.
“There was nothing else on there, like health and beauty items – shampoo, anything like that,” he said. “It was all food.”
He said the women admitted what they did was wrong.
“Obviously this family was in need, and I can’t imagine having to make the decision, ‘Do I go to Stop and Shop, just only pay for what I can afford? Or do I go there and try to take things for Christmas dinner for the kids?'”
The women were issued a no trespass order from the store, but Lima decided not to charge them.
“They were very thankful,” he said. “They were kind of shocked. I’m sure a lot of people in that same situation would be thinking that there was going to be a different outcome.”
Instead, he bought them a $250 gift card with his own money so they could go to another store and feed their family – the right way.
“I just did what I felt was right,” he said. “I just tried to put myself in that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”