Shoplifting has become a multi-billion dollar a year industry.
HF3331, sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park), is an effort to combat these new “organized retail crime” gangs. Presented to the House Public Safety Finance Division March 5, the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the division’s omnibus bill.
The bill would make it a three-year felony for stealing retail property valued at more than $200 with the intent to resell, putting a fake product code on an item forcing it to ring up at a lower price, or stealing property valued at $50 or more and leaving through the emergency exit.
It would also be a crime for anyone facilitating these crimes, such as a fence for stolen property or those setting up the theft rings.
A second offense within three years would be a five-year felony. A third or subsequent offense within three years would be a 10-year felony.
According to Michael Ward, an attorney for the Target Corporation and a former federal prosecutor, these organized retail rings account for more than $30 billion a year in lost merchandise. Ward said that while companies such as Target are spending thousands of dollars every year to fight this trend, the gangs are still functioning.
Ward said, because of the availability and anonymity of the Internet, these theft rings can sell stolen merchandise to a global market with high return. Instead of getting 30 cents on the dollar, they can now get twice that, Ward said.
A companion bill, SF3074, sponsored by Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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