ISSUE: Organized retail crime continues to plague Florida retailers despite Florida having some of the strongest retail theft laws in the country.

DISCUSSION: Unfortunately, retail crime -- and property crime in general -- has traditionally been viewed as a minor crime and often doesn’t receive a high priority from law enforcement and prosecutors. However, occurrences of organized retail crime are increasing. Organized groups of thieves have caused increased losses to retailers and, consequently, higher prices to consumers along with loss of sales tax revenue. The proceeds from organized retail crime have been traced to a number of criminal entities, such as terrorists and drug cartels. In the past, bills have been filed that further minimize organized retail crimes by increasing the dollar threshold for felony theft from $300 to $600. This would severely hamper retailers’ efforts to protect themselves from organized crime schemes.

Additionally, we have seen legislation and other proposals that would encourage the Department of Corrections to release “non-violent” offenders prior to their serving their full sentence. Some of these proposals are being offered as a budget-reducing method. The Federation has serious concerns with that philosophy. We maintain that “non-violent” does not necessarily equate to non-serious. Most theft and fraud fall into the category of “non-violent.” Yet, many of these criminals are as hardened as violent offenders and are as likely to be repeat offenders. Most retail crime falls into the category of “non-violent.”

There are those who advocate for pre-arrest diversion programs for first-offenders and issuing a “Notice to Appear” instead of a warrant for arrest. These practices can lead to a permanent “First Offender” status because these policies can keep the accused from having a criminal record.

POSITION: The Florida Retail Federation continues to support legislation that will deter organized retail crime. The Florida Retail Federation will oppose any effort to weaken laws against retail crime by increasing the felony theft threshold or releasing “non-violent” offenders prior to the completion of their sentence. The Federation also opposes the indiscriminate use of a “Notice to Appear” and pre-arrest diversion.

RELATED BILLS:

HB 1173 - Spano

SB 1404 - Stargel

Recent Developments:

(5/3/2013) HB 1173 passed, increasing penalties for ORC activities.