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OPINION

Jail the Shoplifters

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Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

Brazen shoplifting is hurting all of us.

I'm brushing with bubble gum-flavored children's toothpaste because it takes too long to get a clerk at the pharmacy to unlock the adult toothpaste. Before the shoplifting scourge, shoppers could (SET ITAL) actually (END ITAL) browse and read product labels.

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Target, Home Depot and other retailers announced last week that they are taking big hits to their profits because of double-digit increases in theft nationwide.

That's after hiking prices on consumers. When the guy next to you loads a bag with whatever merchandise isn't locked up and walks out without paying, keep in mind that you're paying for his stolen stuff.

Stores are fleeing San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Portland, cities that soft-on-crime mayors and district attorneys have made into shoplifter's paradises. Downtown San Francisco is slated to lose Nordstrom and Saks OFF 5TH. Anthropologie and Whole Foods have already fled. That means lost jobs and sales tax revenue, empty storefronts and decay. What's a city without stores?

If we allow our politicians to embrace the philosophy that shoplifting is caused by poverty and should not be criminalized, we will kill our cities and descend into lawlessness.

The Left argues that jailing shoplifters is criminalizing poverty. NPR reporter Sandhya Dirks says taking necessities without paying shouldn't be considered a serious crime.

Ridiculous. Most poor people don't steal. It's an insult to claim they do.

True, homeless people with mental illness or addictions sometimes steal. But organized thievery is increasingly the problem. Thieves go into drugstores carrying calculators to be sure the value of the items they're loading into their bags doesn't exceed what the law defines as a misdemeanor -- $1,000 or less in New York and most states. A felony risks jail time, and shoplifters will put items back on the shelf to avoid that. They can return the next day for another haul.

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They're gaming the law and stealing goods to resell them, not because they're hungry or need diapers for a baby.

In New York City, nearly one-third of shoplifting incidents reported to police last year were committed by the same 327 people -- professional thieves -- who were arrested a total of 6,000 times.

But they're still on the streets. "We have individuals that have been arrested over 30 times just this year," reports Michael Lipetri, New York Police Department chief of crime control strategies.

San Francisco and Los Angeles have the most retail theft in the nation. A poll shows that Californians want to toughen their state's law to make stealing goods worth more than $400 a felony. The Democratic majority in the state legislature is pushing back -- protecting the crooks, not the public.

Not so in Florida, which revised its law last year to allow prosecutors to aggregate what a thief steals over time in multiple stores and charge the thief with a felony. Some Democrats objected that it would "only penalize poor people" and urged lawmakers instead to "deal with systemic poverty."

That's the same drivel New York state lawmakers are parroting to oppose reform. Back in January, retailers banded together to ask Albany lawmakers to revamp the law so prosecutors here can charge serial shoplifters with a felony based on their aggregate haul. So far, no results. That's a shame.

In 2022, shoplifting complaints in New York City surged 45% from the prior year. Target on Greenwich Street was hit 646 times last year. As one Target employee said in frustration, "at some point, there won't even be a store."

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On May 17, Mayor Eric Adams unveiled his long-awaited plan to stop retail theft. Adams wants to place kiosks in often-hit stores, where he suggests the needy can sign up for social services instead of stealing. "I'm sorry, but that's just a pipe dream," said Ralph Cilento, a retired NYPD lieutenant commander of detectives.

To be fair, Adams doesn't have much to work with, since Albany Democrats refuse to act. But the kiosks only legitimize the myth that poverty causes crime.

Criminals commit crimes, and they should be arrested, convicted and incarcerated.

Tell your lawmakers it's time to stop coddling shoplifters and their leftist apologists, and start protecting the rest of us.

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