Why Doesn’t She Learn? – About The Theft Intervention Programme

November 12, 2018

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By Felin

“Crystal was a cheerful 10 year old girl who lived with her parents and older brother.  She was playing outside on a hot sunny day.  Feeling thirsty, she went to a nearby provision shop but realised that she did not have any money with her.  Crystal decided to steal a can of Coke.  She was caught and her parents scolded her.  Crystal apologised and promised not to do it again.  Her parents did not know that she had successfully stolen from that shop twice.  A few months later, she stole a mobile phone from her classmate.  She was suspended from school and her parents caned her.  Crystal was told to apologise to her classmate and she did, with tears streaming down her face.  Over the next few years, Crystal stole several more times. Her parents tried talking to her, scolding her, caning her and grounding her.  Nothing worked and they were running out of ideas.  When she was 14 years old, Crystal was arrested for shoplifting.  She was placed on probation and ordered to do community service.  Her parents were sad but relieved, thinking that Crystal would finally learn her lesson.  However, halfway through her probation order, Crystal stole again.  When he heard the news, Crystal’s father turned to her mother and remarked in frustration, “Why doesn’t she learn?”

Theft Intervention Programme (TIP) is a specialised programme developed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development for youths with theft offences.  We have been conducting TIP for more than a decade with youths from Singapore Boys’ and Girls’ Homes, other Children Homes and Probation Services.

All the youths in this programme have stolen more than 10 times, some even 100 times; from small items like sweets and drinks from a nearby provision shop to items as big as a motorcycle.  Getting these young people to stop stealing is not as easy as telling them not to or threatening them with legal consequences. Some of the youths wish to stop stealing but are stuck in an offence cycle.  Breaking the cycle starts with getting them to recognise and be aware of their own attitudes and deep-seated beliefs towards stealing. Being aware of these enables them to challenge and correct their thinking errors.  Ultimately, they need to understand that stealing is wrong and if they choose to steal again, they knowingly hurt someone else. The biggest weapon against them committing an offense again is not that they might get caught, but the guilt of hurting someone regardless of whether they get caught or not.  

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