OAN Roy Francis
12:27 PM PT – Friday, February 24, 2023
Lawmakers in Virginia have recently approved legislation that will classify organized retail theft as class 3 felony.
The legislation, which passed on Thursday, makes it a class 3 felony for anyone to “conspire or act in concert” with others to steal retail products valued over $5,000 within 90 days, and with the intent to sell the goods for profit.
Opponents of the bill, which include some Democrats, and criminal justice advocates, say that the bill would trap people, and that people only “resort to stealing to survive.”
Brad Haywood, founder of Justice Forward Virginia and a public defender said that the motivation behind passing this bill is a “manufactured controversy.”
Senator Richard Stuart (R-Va.), a supporter of the new law said that this is needed to help deter organized crime around the state.
“This is not about a poor old drug addict (stealing),” Stuart reportedly said. “This is about organized crime, people being directed and acting in concert with each other.”
Republican Delegate Kathy Byron was the lead sponsor of the House bill. Speaking with the Associated Press, she explained the reasoning behind the new legislation.
“They’re not stealing so they can go home and feed their family,” she said. “This is theft for some kind of financial gain.”
The new legislation has drawn support from retailers and many associations around the state such as the Virginia Retail Federation, and the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys.
Along with Virginia, a least two dozen other states have passed similar laws to fight against organized retail theft.
A report presented by the work group convened by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, said that approximately $1.3 billion of merchandise was stolen in 2022 in the state of Virginia alone. The state had lost more than $80 million in lost tax revenue as a result of the retail theft.
In 2022, the National Retail Federation had found that retail lost in 2021 accounted for $94.5 billion, up from the $90.8 billion in 2020.