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 leading or participating in organized theft rings received unanimous approval today from the full Senate.
“This bill is designed to go after everyone involved in shoplifting rings, including ring leaders, not just the low men on the totem pole,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “In the past, it was always the lower level workers being arrested because store employees were able to catch them with the stolen merchandise. This bill would target entire shoplifting organizations, and penalize everyone involved.”
“There is a growing problem with organized criminals stealing, repackaging, and then reselling merchandise, and it needs to be stopped,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic. “These organized rings cause significant financial losses for stores, who in turn must pass the cost on to consumers. This crime is not simply everyday shoplifting, and it needs to be stopped by creating tough penalties. I believe that through harsh penalties we can deter many from participating in these crimes.”
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 $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.
“Often, these groups are able to collaborate to steal millions of dollars worth of merchandise by moving from community to community throughout different states. They operate by stealing small items like shaving cream, infant formula and over the counter medicines from supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and mass merchandisers, then selling the stolen merchandise at flea markets, on the Internet, and even back to the stores they were taken from,” Senator Sarlo said.
This measure was unanimously approved by the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee on February 6. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.