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Retail theft costs consumers

Organized retail crime has grown so out of control in many parts of the U.S. that stores are resorting to desperate measures — like locking up everyday items, boarding up windows and hiring extra security guards — to stem their losses and protect their staff and consumers.

Retail theft losses ballooned to $112.1 billion in 2022, up 19% from $93.9 billion the year before, according to the 2023 National Retail Security Survey, released in September 2023 by the Loss Prevention Research Council and the National Retail Federation.

Not only is this criminal trend hurting the retail industry, it’s impacting consumers, says DeSantis.

“That has an impact on you as a consumer because the prices will go up to reflect those stolen goods — that’s just basic business,” he said. “If [companies] are not able to sell those goods, if those are losses, they’ve got to find a way to compensate, so you end up seeing rising prices when you go into the store.

“It also just has a demoralizing effect on people when you go in [to a store] and you want to buy toothpaste and it’s like Fort Knox because it’s all under lock and key. For basic items, you’ve got to get a clerk to come and open it … just to do basic shopping. That is not something that is good for quality of life.”

DeSantis also warned that lax rules and penalties around retail theft “creates a contempt for the rule of law” that could “spill over” into other industries and types of organized crime. That lawlessness, he said, is not welcome in the Sunshine State, where he claims shoplifting has decreased by 30% since he took office.

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Hardline anti-theft bill

Florida’s new anti-theft bill (HB 549) cracks down on retail theft and also what DeSantis described as the “cottage industry of porch piracy,” which is when thieves steal packages left outside doors by couriers.

The law imposes “really serious penalties,” with prison time of between five and 30 years for those who commit retail theft and are involved in organized crime groups of five or more individuals, as well as those who solicit others (via social media) to participate in retail crime.

It also increases the punishments for porch piracy, making repeat offenses and theft of property worth $40 or more both third-degree felonies.

“I think what we’re doing has been successful compared to other jurisdictions,” DeSantis concluded, “but we also know that we’ve got to do what we can to be able to protect public safety.”

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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