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DeSantis calls on lawmakers to increase penalties for retail theft

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(The Center Square) — Florida lawmakers are taking preventative action against retail theft and porch piracy at the urging of Gov. Ron DeSantis after a new study has shown that it cost retailers over $112 billion across the U.S. in 2022.

DeSantis announced on Tuesday that while retail theft has decreased in the Sunshine State, it continues to grow in other states like New York and California according to a recent national study released by Forbes.

According to the study, 41% of small businesses across the nation stated that the number of items stolen from them has increased over the past few years. New York retailers have lost more than $4 billion, and shoplifting has risen by 63%. Because of this theft, 64% of small business owners said they had to increase their prices to cover expenses.

DeSantis stated that big cities in other parts of the U.S., like New York and San Francisco are allowing theft to take place.

“They have efficiently enacted policies that legalize shoplifting, so people just go in, they take what they want, they leave. It’s caused some of these businesses to shut down and close up shop in some of these areas,” DeSantis said, adding that it breeds a culture of lawlessness.

To ensure that this problem doesn’t grow in Florida, DeSantis has proposed harsher penalties, including making it a third-degree felony if the retail theft is committed with five or more individuals.

It would be a second-degree felony if social media is used to solicit others to participate in retail theft, and it would be a first-degree felony for those who commit retail theft with a firearm. DeSantis also wants to reduce the property value necessary to charge someone with a felony for stealing delivered packages.

“In Florida we’ve taken a different tack with all of this stuff,” DeSantis said. “We believe in being a law and order state, our crime rate is at a 50-year low, it doesn’t happen by accident. It is because you have policies that are empowering law enforcement to do their jobs, that are holding criminals accountable.”

DeSantis noted that this includes working with the Legislature to enact stiffer penalties for fentanyl dealers, ensuring state attorneys enforce the law and not nullifying the law, and eliminating any talk of bail reform.

“Florida is a law-and-order state, and we take action when we see concerning crime trends that could harm Floridians,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said. “We are leaders in the fight against organized retail theft, and I’m thrilled to stand with Governor DeSantis today to continue our goal of stopping theft by supporting legislation to stamp out porch piracy.”

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