Increasing Felony Threshold For Larceny Represents a Dramatic Raise for Thieves

October 11, 2017  by Ryan Kearney

Massachusetts Senate leadership recently released a criminal justice reform package which seeks an eighty-four percent increase in the felony threshold for the crimes of larceny and credit card fraud—from the current level of $250 up to $1,500. An increase of this size would be detrimental to the ability of retailers, law enforcement and prosecutors to protect against theft and essentially results in dramatic raises and incentives for professional criminals operating in the Commonwealth.

At the current threshold level of $250, Massachusetts retailers already experience significant losses due to theft with an estimated $1 billion in merchandise stolen from their stores annually. The majority of these losses are attributed to professional criminals and repeat offenders who see theft as a low risk, high reward activity due to weak property crime laws. This proposal stands to further weaken these criminal laws by removing the threat of meaningful criminal penalties from an expanded number of theft incidents.

Theft involving retailers is all too often treated as a victimless, minor offense. Yet the cost to retailers is real and is paid for by honest consumers in the form of higher prices. With regard to credit card fraud, this includes sharing in costs associated with data security and recovering from a stolen identity. In addition, retail theft incidents are becoming increasingly more violent according to a study conducted by the National Retail Federation—ranging from verbal assault of store clerks to assault and battery during apprehensions. The presence of any type of violence in our stores also places the general public at risk. Lastly, proceeds from organized retail theft have been found to fund serious criminal activities including drug trafficking, arms dealing and even terrorism.

Our existing larceny and credit card fraud laws should be used as tools to curb this type of behavior by targeting underlying criminal activity before it blossoms into even more serious offenses. Failing to do so is a missed opportunity. Yet the growing national political trend has been to ignore retail theft. While shrink costs continue to increase, punitive actions are decreasing. The same NRF study also found that the number of apprehensions, prosecutions and requests for civil demand have all dropped significantly over the past year while the average loss per shoplifting incident more than doubled to $798.48. Could it be that decriminalization and the increase in the felony threshold in many states is responsible for this jump?

Nationally, 37 states have increased their felony threshold for larceny crimes since 2000. But the average nationally and regionally is far below the proposed $1,500 level. For professional criminals operating in the region, states with higher threshold amounts become more attractive targets. If an increase in Massachusetts is warranted it should be to a level more reflective of the regional and national average to mitigate exposure to our businesses.

There is no desire on behalf of the retail industry to see a first time offender or a young person making a mistake to be labeled a felon. Yet, for professional criminals and repeat offenders who make the conscious decision to habitually break our criminal laws, Massachusetts must maintain a meaningful statutory deterrent to curb such actions. For these bad actors, increasing the felony threshold for larceny and credit card fraud only incentivizes their behavior and reduces their risk of conviction.

Share this post:

Comments on "Increasing Felony Threshold For Larceny Represents a Dramatic Raise for Thieves "

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment