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Assembly Judiciary Committee Clears Sarlo/Girgenti Measure Strengthening Penalties For Organized Shoplifting

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Paul A. Sarlo and John A. Girgenti that would create the crime of “leader of an organized retail theft enterprise,” and impose prison time on persons found guilty of leading or participating in organized theft rings received unanimous approval today from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“This legislation would help apprehend members of these shoplifting rings on every level, from the low men on the totem pole to the ringleaders,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “Groups like these force store owners to raise prices, leaving the rest of us to have to pay more and make up for the lost profits. Tougher penalties are needed to send a clear message to these shoplifting organizations that the State is standing behind store owners and honest consumers, and we will not allow these theft rings to continue – if they are caught, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Organized retail crime is more serious than simple everyday shoplifting and that is why I am committed to fighting this growing problem,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic. “The economic impact on the retail industry is enormous and usually gets passed onto the consumers. This bill would send a strong message by increasing the seriousness of organized retail crime, above and beyond what you would be prosecuted for if it were a regular theft.”

The Senators’ measure, S-273, would define a “leader of an organized retail theft organization” as a person who acts as an organizer engaging in any scheme to use other people to transfer or sell stolen merchandise. Under the bill, leading a shoplifting organization would constitute a second degree crime, and would be punishable by up to ten years in prison and fines of up to $150,000.

Under current law, stealing merchandise valued at less than $1,000 constitutes a third degree crime, which is punishable by up to five years in prison an a $15,000 fine. The bill also defines an “organized retail theft enterprise” as two or more people collaborating to transfer or sell stolen merchandise.

This measure was approved by the Senate on February 27. It now heads to the full Assembly for approval.

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