California and New York Make Retail Crime a Priority

The two states plan to invest in measures to confront retail crime and introduce harsher penalties. However, is organized retail crime overblown?

California and New York may soon join nine other states that have passed laws to target those who participate in organized retail crime offenses.

Governors Kathy Hochul of New York and Gavin Newsom of California have made it a priority for the 2024 election.

In California, Newsom earmarked $373.5 million to confront organized retail theft for the next four years and plans to create legislation to target ‘professional thieves.’

In New York, Hochul plans to introduce criminal penalties for those who contribute to the sale of stolen goods, such as online marketplaces and third-party sellers.

Hochul also plans to set up a task force for building cases against organized retail theft and another to tackle ‘smash-and-grab robberies.’

However, there are doubts over the effectiveness of these measures. Gabrielle Fonrouge of CNBC reports, “[retail crime] often goes unreported and undetected. It’s also unclear how effective the proposed legislation will be.”

What further complicates the matter is that retail theft may be overblown.

In December 2023, the National Retail Federation retracted a statement saying that organized retail crime accounted for approximately half of the industry’s $94.5 billion losses in 2021.

“The NRF said that the figure it previously cited was based on a congressional testimony from Ben Dugan, former president of advocacy group the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, and that an analyst from K2 Integrity, a risk consultancy that co-authored the report, inferred the “nearly half” claim,” reports Mark Faithfull of Forbes.

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