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N.Y. Governor Rallies for Approval of $45 Million Retail Theft Proposal

The state of New York is stepping up its efforts to fight retail crime.

In a press conference and rally Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul reiterated her $45 million plan to crack down on organized retail theft that was first unveiled during her State of the State address last month.

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The funds, which are included in Hochul’s executive budget proposal and must be approved by the state legislature, includes $25 million for a dedicated retail theft unit within the New York State Police, $15 million for district attorneys and local law enforcement and $5 million to cover security costs for businesses. It also includes new legislation to protect retail workers from assault and to crack down on online sales of stolen goods.

“We’ve been successfully working with local law enforcement to drive down gun violence, murders and shootings — now we must take that same approach to curb organized retail theft,” she said. “It’s time to give police and prosecutors the tools they need to go after retail thieves and back our businesses with the full force of the law. Public safety is my top priority, and I’m committed to keeping customers and workers safe.”

Among the strategies outlined in her budget is the introduction of legislation to establish criminal penalties for online marketplaces and third-party sellers that foster the sale of stolen goods and also increase criminal penalties for assaulting retail workers.

“More and more shoplifting incidences are turning violent. In fact, since the pandemic, shoplifting incidents involving physical force have more than doubled — more than doubled. So those who harm our retail workers must pay a steep price and a punishment that fits the crime,” Hochul said.

Within the state police department, a Smash and Grab Enforcement Unit will be established that will build cases against organized retail theft rings.

The DAs will use $10 million of their funding to prosecute property crime cases and deploy dedicated retail theft teams in their offices while the additional $5 million will be used to build the capacity of local law enforcement efforts to combat retail theft. Another $5 million will be earmarked for a commercial security tax credit to help business owners offset the costs of certain store security measures.

The governor was flanked by a contingent of small business owners and union members during the announcement at her office in Albany.

“I’m not going to stand by and watch brazen thieves wreak havoc in their shops and dismantle, destroy everything they’ve built,” Hochul said. “And I know how hard it is on their workers — sleepless nights, stressing over the next encounter with these menacing criminals. And sometimes, you’re then stuck paying out of pocket expenses for the broken windows, the broken locks, replace stolen items and all the extra security. It’s becoming a never-ending nightmare for business owners.”

That includes Deborah Koenigsberger, owner of the Noie et Blank TTH vintage boutique in the NoMad neighborhood in New York, who said: “The stores in New York that have had to deal with rising retail theft just want to be able to operate and serve their communities. The state legislature needs to act so that these stores get the protections they need and so that workers and consumers feel safe.”

Nelson Eusebio, founder and director of Collection Action to Protect Our Stores (CAPS), added: “We need to take on retail theft and petty larceny because New York business should be free to operate from fear or worry about being robbed. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic retail workers were called essential and now they need Albany’s help to make sure they are safe and are able to do their jobs. We commend the governor for her action and urge the legislature to stand up for workers, consumers and small businesses.”

The budget is now with the state legislature to be approved, a process that is supposed to be completed by April 1 but can sometimes drag on beyond that.

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