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Disney Changes Policy on Fining Shoplifting Suspects

COMMUNITY NEWS FOCUS

November 05, 1996|BONNIE HAYES

Disneyland has ended its 4-year-old practice of collecting fines from suspected shoplifters immediately after they are detained. Instead, the park will request payment only from guests who are convicted of a crime, park officials said Monday.

Spokesman Tom Brocato said the policy change stemmed from recent complaints about the collection practice, which was implemented under a 1992 state law that allows stores and libraries to seek up to $500 from shoplifters to cover merchandise and security costs.

Brocato said that in the past, guests cited for shoplifting were immediately handed a notice that announced Disneyland would be demanding civil damages of no more than $500. If the suspect offered to pay the fine that very day, Disneyland didn't object, Brocato said.

"Some people chose to just deal with it right then and there," he said. "In the past, we accepted it. Now we will not." If Disneyland officials took payment from a suspect who later was acquitted of the crime, the money was refunded, the spokesman said.

Under the new policy, which Brocato said took effect six weeks ago, Disneyland began mailing the civil damage notices to guests only after a conviction had been reached. Brocato said the park holds a 95% conviction rate against suspected shoplifters.

Anaheim police said the policy change will improve the department's relationship with Disneyland's guests, who often have believed police officers were involved in the fine collection process. Anaheim police issue shoplifting citations at Disneyland, but do not enforce fines.

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