chinese market justice

At A & N Food Market, they do not play. Like any neighborhood store, this Chinese market in Flushing, Queens has its usual share of shoplifters, but has a very unusual way of dealing with the problem -- old country style: Stores' Treatment of Shoplifters Tests Rights. It's called public shame:
First, suspected shoplifters caught by the store's security guards or staff members have their identification seized. Then, they are photographed holding up the items they are accused of trying to steal. Finally, workers at the store threaten to display the photographs to embarrass them, and to call the police - unless the accused thieves hand over money.

"We usually fine them $400," said Tem Shieh, 60, the manager, who keeps track of customers on 30 video monitors in the store's surveillance system. "If they don't have the money, then we usually hold their identification and give them a chance to go get it."
You've got to hand it to these shopkeepers. It's not enough to catch and prosecute a shoplifter. You're going to be photographed and publicly shamed so that everyone in your mahjong circle knows you're a red-handed thief. And then you have to pay a fine on top of that? Like I said, they don't play.

But is it legal? Critics argue that the accused shoplifters are deprived of basic civil rights and the usual assurances in public legal proceedings, like the right to a lawyer and freedom from coercion. And these store-enforced fines sound like borderline extortion. But it's all apparently open to interpretation.

And what happens if someone is falsely accused, but gets their photo plastered on the wall of shame anyway? These practices might have followed shopkeepers over from China, but sooner or later, they sound like a disaster (and a lawsuit) waiting to happen. For now, try to keep your photo off that wall.

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