One of the most difficult crimes to control is the petty but steadily increasing crime of shoplifting. Some shoplifters are experienced criminals, while others are otherwise upstanding citizens who are tempted by what may seem a small impropriety.

That's why Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, has introduced a bill to increase penalties for shoplifting and give victimized retailers an opportunity to recover real, exemplary and punitive damages - and also to make parents liable for thefts committed by their children.Hillyard's shoplifting bill would allow retailers to collect the penalties even if a criminal conviction is not entered, providing the business can prove the person is responsible for the theft.

That provision would allow businesses to reclaim losses in cases that prosecutors do not pursue or incidents in which first offenders are placed into diversion programs.

The measure would allow retailers to claim damages equal to the cost of the merchandise, a like penalty not to exceed $1,000 and punitive damages of not less than $100 or more than $500. Attorneys fees and court costs also could be pursued.

The parents of juveniles caught shoplifting could be liable for damages equal to the cost of the merchandise, a like penalty not to exceed $1,000 plus punitive damages of between $50 and $500. Parents would be liable only if they knew of the thefts and did not try to stop them or return the merchandise.

This is a good bill that could result in increased deterrence to shoplifters. Since the Legislature has recently had one of its own accused of shoplifting, it is no wonder it is focusing attention on the issue.

Tougher Utah shoplifting laws are certainly justified.