TRENTON, N.J. – As organized retail crime rings continue to pillage stores and make headlines in New Jersey and across the nation, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie is joining with business leaders and local law enforcement to combat this scourge legislatively.
Sauickie met recently with those stakeholders as part of Fight Retail Crime Day, a day designated by the National Retail Federation to bring awareness to this growing problem. NRF, the world’s largest retail trade association, blames retail crimes for $112.1 billion in shrinkage last year, a jump of $18.2 billion from 2021. NRF members report significant increases in violence and aggression from these organized retail criminals.
“This is not a victimless crime. Whether in our towns or just a news story from some soft-on-crime city far away, we all eventually pay with higher prices and shuttered stores,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “Thankfully, New Jersey hasn’t succumbed to the backward defund police policies that have ravaged cities throughout the U.S. But we need to support our retailers, support our law enforcement, and ultimately communities, by passing tough legislation that makes this crime not pay.”
The assemblyman plans to introduce a resolution supporting federal legislation sponsored by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act would create a multi-agency coordinated response network as well as new tools to identify and combat ever-evolving theft trends while increasing existing penalties.
“Retail stores in New Jersey lost out on more than $2 billion last year because of shoplifting. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce applauds Assemblyman Sauickie for introducing this resolution to support a coordinated effort among lawmakers, law enforcement and the business community to stop the rise of organized retail crime,” Amirah Hussain, director of government relations for the state chamber, said.
In addition to the resolution, Sauickie has signed his name to legislation (A4736) sponsored by Assemblywomen Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno (both R-Monmouth) that creates the crime of gang shoplifting as a third degree felony. He is also reviewing other pending criminal legislation supported by retailers.
The situation is dire, according to retailers and law enforcement. It goes beyond a few people shoplifting; it involves intrastate or interstate professional rings that sometimes repeatedly target the same businesses. These syndicates steal anything from high-end goods to everyday household items, most of which is sold on online auction sites, at flea markets, or to other retailers.
It’s a low-risk, high-reward crime that has left retailers and law enforcement in a quandary: employees are barred from approaching or apprehending shoplifters due to increasing violence, while some police agencies plead for reporting in real time and others don’t prioritize shoplifting calls. Meanwhile, ringleaders can rake in millions as they rely on shoplifters for hire, who if prosecuted get slaps on the wrist.
“The evidence is on our social media feeds. These thieves share videos of individuals or crowds brazenly storming shops and department stores and leaving with armfuls of merchandise and record themselves doing it. There is no fear because the system is too lenient and riddled with loopholes,” Sauickie added. “A more proactive approach to prevention and stiffer penalties for those convicted will stem the tide of this crime wave.”