Florida Legislature Proposes Bill For Stricter Organized Retail Theft Punishments

Organized retail theft bills sponsored by State Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) in Florida have each been making their way through legislative committees. If passed, the legislation would mean that suspects found guilty of retail thefts totaling more than $50,000 would face stiffer sentences.

Every day in Jacksonville, kleptomaniacs and five-finger discount enthusiasts slip into malls and stores across the region to do one thing: shoplift. Lifting items more than $50,000 from a retail store, or any store for that matter, is difficult to get away with, much less multiple times with the advancements of video surveillance and other forms of theft monitoring. In order to accomplish many of these higher value Jacksonville theft crimes, a concerted effort will be required.

Some will steal because they want to, some will even steal from the department store they work at. However, teams of professional shoplifters are on the rise, some in their early teens and others employees themselves. They will work in teams and execute thefts with pre-determined moves, using distractions, sleight of hand, and marking blind spots in security camera viewing range in order to steal items, sometimes very costly.

Many think that those accused of shoplifting are automatically impulsive petty criminals or bored celebrities with risky behavior; however, retail theft is being seen in a new and more sinister context, experts say. Since the economy took a nosedive, many people are tempted to look inward to their workplace for items they can either steal for their own use or for resale. For many, whether the workplace is a gas station, a retail store, or even an apartment complex, one may be accused of being involved in theft schemes that are very elaborate.

Many times, shoplifting happens not because the money to pay for the item does not exist or would not be gladly paid under other circumstances, but because of other legal restrictions, the item cannot be purchased. Many times in these situations, the theft occurs via creative but still deceptive means. Juveniles have in the past “paid” for cans of what appeared to be soda but was in fact stolen beer placed in a 12 pack of canned soda. Other times, people will bring grocery bags from a previous visit to the store, take the items they want from the shelf, place them in the store bags out of view of the customer service representatives, wait for the door of the store to become congested, and then slip out with the crowd, most likely unnoticed.

In cases like the previous, law enforcement, as well as store loss prevention officers become angry, as many of those cases go unsolved or unprosecuted. When those officers feel that they have in fact stopped a shoplifter, whether or not the validity of the assumption is proven or not, they will go after that many times innocent customer who decided to take a stroll through the store for a gallon of milk. The following illustrates a very common and unfortunate situation where law abiding citizens are accused of shoplifting crimes:

A busy parent is shopping at Wal-Mart with three young children. The parent is trying to watch the children while reading the label of a medicine for their sick child at home and talking to their spouse about how they are doing. While turned away, the child picks up an item and places it in the shopping cart, eventually being covered up by something else, being lost from view. The parent pays for all the items they thought was in their cart and hurriedly rushes to the door, so they may attend to their child; however, the parent is met at the door by loss prevention officers who accuse the parent of theft from their store.

From that point, one is grilled with questions from a loss prevention officer who automatically believes that one stole from the store and will tell the police officer arriving on scene that one stole from the store. Many times, regardless of one’s innocence, the officer will side with the store, many times because of all of the previous shoplifting cases they have seen.

Fortunately, if one is in such a situation and one obtains an experienced attorney, one’s attorney will be able to challenge the evidence against one, including witness testimony, questioning the conduct and manner of the arrest or search, or how evidence was processed by law enforcement

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Shoplifting an organized crime for professional thieves, Brett Clarkson, Sun Sentinel

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