Governor signs bill aimed at curtailing ‘organized retail crime’
Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a measure designed to crack down on what Attorney General Ashley Moody calls “organized retail crime.”
DeSantis on June 17 signed SB 1534 by Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Jonesville, sponsored the companion, HB 1511.
Under the measure, a perpetrator who steals 10 or more items from at least two different locations within a 30-day period could face a third-degree felony charge. Stealing 20 or more items will be deemed a second-degree felony.
Criminal justice reform advocates, including Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, called the measure too harsh.
Brandes warned during committee debate that a teen-aged shoplifter could face felony charges, and a ruined future, for stealing school supplies.
Rep. Michael Grieco, D-North Bay Village, noted that lawmakers vowed last year to reverse a trend of harsher sentencing laws that have led to mass incarceration. Second-degree felonies are “usually reserved for pretty violent crimes,” he said.
“I think we’re going in the wrong direction if we’re going to be increasing penalties for non-violent offenses,” he said.
But supporters, including the Florida Retail Federation and Attorney General Moody, said stiffer penalties are necessary to counter the rise of “boosting,” or organized retail theft rings.
Boosting, they say, is when a thief loads a shopping cart with high-value items and bolts out of the store to an accomplice in a getaway car.
The House voted 80-36 on March 8 to grant final legislative approval. The Senate approved it 38-0 in February.
“Thank you, Sen. Jim Boyd and Rep. Chuck Clemons, for your hard work on this important bill, which will help us stop organized retail theft and build a stronger, safer Florida,” Moody said in a Tweet.
A Florida Retail Federation study showed that 69% of its members experienced an increase in organized crime in 2021. The group wrote in a statement that the legislation will give prosecutors the tools they need to “impose meaningful penalties.”
“Florida leads the way in holding criminals accountable for their actions,” said FRF President Scott Shalley. “This legislation will protect Florida retail businesses from the rising impacts of organized retail theft.”