TRENTON – Senators Paul A. Sarlo and John A. Girgenti have introduced a measure to expand the State’s shoplifting laws by establishing criminal penalties for “organized retail theft enterprises.”
“FBI statistics show that organized theft rings have resulted in roughly $30 billion in losses for businesses nationwide,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, who serves as Vice-Chair of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee. “Any way you look at it $30 billion is a large sum of money, but it is especially large when taking into consideration the types of items these criminals steal. You have to take an awful lot of shaving cream and baby lotion to make it add up to $30 billion. This bill would increase the penalties for shoplifting and send a clear message to these thieves that we will not tolerate their attempts to defraud New Jersey’s businesses.”
“With everyone rushing around for the holidays, shoplifters think they can organize to improve their ‘take,’ and nobody will notice,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic, who serves as Chair of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committees. “This bill will show them that if they team up to steal, we’ll give them hard time if they are caught.”
The Senators’ measure, S-2827, would expand New Jersey’s current shoplifting laws to include penalties for participation in organized shoplifting organizations. Stealing merchandise of $1,000 or more would constitute a second degree crime, which is punishable by up to ten years in prison and fines of up to $150,000. Shoplifting merchandise valued at less than $1,000 would be classified as a third degree crime, which carries penalties of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. Currently, stealing merchandise valued at $1,000 constitutes a third degree crime. Under the bill, an “organized retail theft enterprise” is defined as two or more persons collaborating to transfer or sell stolen merchandise
The measure also creates the crime of “leader of an organized retail theft enterprise,” defined as a person who acts as an organizer engaging in any scheme to use others to transfer or sell stolen merchandise for profit. Leading a shoplifting organization would constitute a second degree crime.
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.
This measure now awaits a vote by the Senate Law, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee.