Wouldn’t it make you sick to hear some retailer say, “They’ll [shoplifters] pick up the $800 unit and just grab it and run out the door.” And the police respond and say, “Our hands are tied because it’s a misdemeanor. It’s not worth pursuing; it’s just a waste of manpower.” Well folks, be prepared for the possibility that something similar could take place in your store(s).
Shoplifters have discovered a very useful strategy, or lack of, that provides additional help in their assault on the retailer. The state of California serves as a good example:
Imagine turning on the TV or picking up a newspaper and being hit with this glaring headline: “It turns out that thieves are smarter than politicians give them credit for, and thanks to Proposition 47 that passed in late 2014, this is something California is learning the hard way”.
According to reports, Proposition 47 downgraded a number of crimes including drug possession, fraud, forgery, and shoplifting—where the amount stolen is below $950—to a misdemeanor offense. Proposition 47’s goal was to reduce prison and jail overcrowding by reducing select criminal charges from a felony to a misdemeanor offense; one that could be disposed of with a citation, fine, probation, or insignificant jail time.
Is this new law working?
Well, the politicians will answer with a resounding, yes! Prisons and jails are less crowded. Estimates are that the state’s prison population has been reduced by 13,000 along with a savings of $150 million in the first year. However, a number of law enforcement officials and retailers take exception.
Large retailers claim shoplifting has increased at least 15 percent, and doubled in some cases, since voters approved the referendum and ended charging certain acts of shoplifting as a felony that carried the possibility of a prison sentence. Little, if any, consideration was given to the possible ramification that reduced penalties would have on the criminal element, particularly those involved in organized crime. Shoplifting reports to the Los Angeles Police Department jumped by a quarter (25%!) in the first year, according to statistics the department provided to The Associated Press. Initial FBI crime statistics show a 12 percent jump in the larceny-theft category, which includes shoplifting.
To further add to the problem of retail theft, California is among those 17 states without an organized retail crime law that specifically focuses on shoplifting rings with more severe penalties.
Bottom line, since California’s Proposition 47 was implemented, we are receiving reports from both large and small retailers that “shoplifting has increased significantly in their stores.”
Unfortunately, it is the thief who is benefitting…and the retailer is the one picking up the tab. $