Florida cop buys groceries for shoplifter

A woman was caught at a Publix in Florida trying to sneak out with $300 worth of groceries. Officer Vicki Thomas talked to her, found no major charges in her criminal history, believed her when she said her boyfriend had recently lost her job and her children had no food at all, and gave her $100 to buy groceries instead of sending her to jail. She also informed the woman about food banks and other legal options.

Naturally, most of the comments at CNN come from the deep end of a cesspool.

Why doesn’t the woman get a job or 6? Maybe because (a) even minimum wage jobs with unpredictable schedules aren’t hiring where I live and (b) are you going to babysit her kids while she’s at work, Sunshine?? No? Hmm, why am I not surprised.

Do you really think she didn’t know about food banks? Well, yeah, most people who have not been poor before don’t know how to navigate public assistance. Maybe she’s been working class or middle class until very recently. Or are you assuming that because she’s Latina, she was born poor and grew up learning all about public assistance? If so, then shut up, asshole.

How can she afford a tattoo and all those kids but not food, oh and I’m sure she has a phone with internet too. Maybe she bought the tattoo and had the kids years ago when her financial picture was far different? Her youngest son looks to be three at the very least.

She’s just going to use that money to buy cigs and booze. If you read the story, you might note the bit where the cop talks about her youngest son went excitedly through the bag of not cigs and booze but food. The cop was present through the whole deal.

When people are this suspicious immediately of a situation where more informed people reached a different conclusion, it’s usually because they are projecting their own worst flaws onto the people in the situation. You see this a lot with the McMansion set. They’re deeply in debt with their sprawling houses and SUVs and media rooms, living paycheck and paycheck, and they know if the paychecks stopped coming and they couldn’t immediately get other jobs with similar paychecks, they’d be screwed because they don’t know how to economize. They’d keep the Netflix subscription and the cable (hey, it’s a necessity, right?) and the internet and the computer (hey, how else can they get on Craigslist to job hunt? What… library? Huh?) and they’d keep their nice clothes and then buy some more next season (hey, you have to have nice clothes to get a job) and so on and so forth. And they’d keep the booze and the cigs coming because, hey, how else are they going to cope with the stress? And then they’ll declare bankruptcy, which is actually a lot like STEALING from all your creditors, but hey, it doesn’t look the same as exiting Publix with a bunch of groceries you didn’t pay for.

So many mean people are really just pissed at themselves. So many people who accuse others of being lazy fools are themselves lazy fools. And if the hypocrisy could be switched off like a light, they’d be commenting, “Yeah, well, I’d probably have done the same. What is a food bank? And where’d I put my new colorful iPhone? I gotta look up food banks. Oh, and a glass of wine goes great with that.”

Look, people. When we’re talking about rapists and serial killers, several decades’ of attempted rehabilitation pretty much proves these people were never habilitated in the first place and therefore cannot be rehabilitated. But when you’re talking about someone stealing food (a relatively victimless crime), hundreds of years of history show that very often they are doing it for their kids and they really don’t know a better way.

How many of you are all chuckly and, “Oh, boys will be boys?” when you hear about middle class white boys stealing a car – I’m sorry, “joyriding” – and wrecking it? Or getting someone of legal age to buy them beer? How many of you rationalize white middle class boys raping girls? We judge a crime by its severity, not by the race and class of the person alleged to have committed it. If you’re not on board with that, get out of the United States. Go find yourself a country where your sort of double standards are actually encoded into the law. Because here’s a newsflash: the US is getting more progressive about this stuff, and we’re going to keep pushing it, and people who think like you aren’t smart enough to keep up with us.

Thank you, Vicki Thomas, for doing a good thing. I really hope the lady you did it for turns her life around. But even if she doesn’t, I have a feeling you’ve made a big impression on her kids and they will remember it as they are growing up and deciding how to live their lives.


  1. Cheryl H. says

    Reading this, I kept thinking, “This would be a great subject for discussion on ‘What Privilege?'”. It’s so easy for people who have a decent home/apartment and a steady income and live comfortably with all the bells and whistles to roll their eyes and pass judgment and talk about how they’d never sink that low if they were in that position. Okay, then, how about you and her switch places? Have at it! Go out and get those fast food/retail jobs you claim are available but she’s just too lazy to go and apply for. Fill your pantry shelves to bursting with with the always-stocked food cupboards have to offer. Oh, and let’s not forget all the money welfare gives single mothers to spend on booze, drugs, and smokes you’ll have coming in every month you can use for rent and utilities (because of course she’s been sucking up your tax dollars). [/tongue-in-cheek] God bless Vicki Thomas for helping this woman out and showing her compassion and offering assistance.

  2. sbg says

    I currently work very closely with people who are on public assistance. Are there some who take advantage? Absolutely. But for every person I have to bite my tongue with for griping how $150 in food benefits just doesn’t cut it and the local produce giveaway we have in the summer is useless and full of bruised items, there are five who are so grateful for $15.00 a month and the very same produce giveaway, those who can take a bunch of potatoes and onions and make soup.

    I applaud this cop for her compassion and the insight of realizing there was more to the story than a crime.

  3. Gabriella says

    Actually, I think those McMansion types that are living paycheck to paycheck are far LESS responsible than the woman in question. They have no valid reason for not being able to create a buffer between them and destitution should they lose their jobs and not get a similar-paying one quicksmart. To me, it makes more sense to live in a smaller house in a less ritzy neighbourhood and dine out in less expensive restaurants and salt away the difference for a rainy day then to live at the upper limit of considerable means and have no safety net. Being casually employed in a low-paid job, I understand not having anything to fall back on in tough times because every last cent has to go on the basics. But households on $200K+ incomes paying off $5m mortgages and taking $50k holidays several times a year (yes, I know such people) and not having anything to show at the end – got no sympathy.

    I know that wasn’t the main point of the article, but I think Jennifer really nailed it about wealthy people taking far less responsibility for their finances than the working class/poor. Also, the police officer in this case was awesome.

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