Several large cities throughout the country have enacted plastic bag bans in recent years to become more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, these bans appear to be affecting communities in a more negative way.
Thanks to laws in several major cities banning the use of plastic carryout bags in retail stores, there has been a spike in shoplifting incidents over the past couple years, a trend that business owners, law enforcement officials and customers have duly noted.
This suspicion solidified into disturbing data a year later on the other side of the country. When a Seattle ordinance banning plastic bags took effect on July 2012, 21.1 percent of surveyed Seattle business owners said that the plastic bag ban led to an increase in shoplifting problems. Seattle’s Lake City Grocery Outlet, for instance, had thousands of dollars worth of goods stolen that year.
Austin, Texas instituted a plastic bag ban in March of this year and officials have noticed that shoplifters are trying to take advantage of the new law, though no conclusive data exists on the subject.
Ah, the hazards of the nanny state...
This is yet another example of why paternalism just doesn't work. Urban social engineers may be well-intentioned (though many actually aren't), but the policy they craft tends to turn out rather badly. When you start policing the small daily choices people make -- the cars they drive, the soft drinks they imbibe, the bags with which they pick up groceries -- you can't predict what's going to happen. People might accept the intrusion, or they could circumvent it and choose something that's even worse for society than before.
So listen up, Bloomberg-ites!