Increases in Thefts Cause Increases in Concern

Robberies have been increasingly noticeable in recent months, with some featuring large bands storming into businesses and fleeing with bags full of products. The recent normalization and commonality of theft and violence have been taking a toll on industries and the economy.

“As much as $68.9 billion of products were stolen from retailers in 2019, according to one industry group. But it has become more visible, brazen and violent in recent months, forcing an industry already buffeted by pandemic lockdowns and fights over mask requirements to deal with a new problem.”

New York Times article, “Thefts, Always an Issue for Retailers, Become More Brazen”

Retail executives and security experts attribute the thefts to a number of issues, the most significant of which being the ease with which thieves have been able to resell stolen products on online marketplaces such as Amazon and Facebook. The spike in thefts coincides with a general relaxation of shop theft penalties over the last decade.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states have raised the dollar threshold for theft charges since 2005, thereby reducing the number of individuals going to jail for minor thefts. More than half of the states currently have a $1,000 felony theft threshold. The rules on theft were amended to assist minimize imprisonment rates across the country, and some studies have indicated that the reduced punishments have not resulted in increased crime. And several of the most heinous crimes conducted around Thanksgiving were significantly more than $1,000.

Despite this, the thefts have become political, with some politicians claiming that they demonstrate the failure of decriminalization attempts. Others are concerned that the recent crimes will be used as an excuse to increase fines and jail rates. According to several industry experts, the issue is not so much the legislation and its lack of enforcement by police and prosecutors, which encourages creative criminals. As per them, breaking up the criminal groups that are directing and benefitting the most from the thefts should be a top priority.

To help this ongoing issue, the FBI was partnering with a task force directed by the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Justice Department was funding the hiring of 50 more police officers in San Francisco since both cities have had high-profile store thefts to the point where it is unsafe to walk around the streets near stores. Online marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy have been reviewing their selling restrictions and usually do not allow for mass-produced items to be sold due to privacy and safety concerns.

Categories: Society