Assemblymember Steck: Legislation is Partially a Remedy for Retail Theft

“We should have better laws, but it is important not just to jump on a bandwagon and spread hysteria.

“Major crimes are down in New York State, as they are nationwide, but petty crimes, including retail thefts, have increased. To meet that challenge, I introduced legislation that would make repeat offenders eligible for bail (A.8026). If an offender is charged with the same crime three times in a two-year period, the third charge automatically becomes bail eligible. Although existing law provides certain tools for dealing with repeat petty offenders, this legislation will enable prosecutors to grapple with this issue more easily.

“On the other hand, as Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, I know that there is more going on here than meets the eye. A good percentage of these larcenies are driven by the opioid crisis. The second wave of the opioid crisis is estimated to have hit New York State in 2009/2010. Since then, larcenies including retail theft, have increased.

“In considering solutions to crimes like shoplifting, we must guard against false narratives, such as that created by the National Retail Federation based on faulty data in its annual report, which it retracted. That organization claimed 50% of the disappearance of store merchandise was due ‘organized retail crime,’ creating unnecessary alarm, whereas the reality was closer to 5%, according to experts. See Retail Group Retracts Startling Claim About ‘Organized’ Shoplifting - New York Times, December 8, 2023, by Eduardo Medina.

There is no question that New York City, and parts of Albany County, have had an increase in larceny; however, nationwide retail theft is down 7%. Poor data reporting caused national chains to claim retail theft was causing them to close, when it was a combination of online shopping, a downtrend in the consumption of retail goods after COVID, a nationwide labor shortage which has dramatically impacted the retail and security guard labor force, in addition to retail theft.

To cope with declining profitability, stores have hired less personnel. For example, when I go to my local CVS, there is only one employee in the whole store, other than pharmacy personnel, making it easy for someone to walk out with stolen goods before police can arrive.

We need to look at the whole picture to address the issues that are causing this increase in larcenies, as opposed to just fomenting fear without offering meaningful comprehensive solutions.”