Thursday, November 30, 2023

NY governor slammed for rejecting retail crime task force while store owners lose billions to theft 


New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is under fire for vetoing a retail crime task force as retailers in the state report a loss of billions of dollars to shoplifting

The bill, which received bipartisan support, would have created a panel of experts to outline ways to respond to retail theft in New York State. Hochul rejected the bill last week, sparking outrage from retailers and lawmakers statewide.

“Retailers throughout the state are extremely disappointed to learn that Governor Hochul vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have established the New York State Organized Retail Crime Task Force,” Melissa O’Connor, the president and CEO of the Retail Council of New York State, wrote in a statement. “I spoke with Governor Hochul at length to discuss the need for immediate action and an effective, collaborative response to this problem. She made it abundantly clear that retail theft prevention will be a priority for her administration, and we look forward to working with her to achieve results.”

O'Connor's organization highlighted state retailers' self-reported loss of $4.4 billion to shoplifting in 2022 as reason to form the task force.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers also condemned Hochul for the move, arguing that passing the bill would have brought "relief" to store owners.

“I am disappointed the governor did not sign this legislation,” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-Marcy, said. "It is important to support our hardworking local businesses and this task force would review solutions to creating a safer environment for business owners as well as customers.”

Retailers and law enforcement from the Capital Region have stressed the need for a statewide response to theft, noting that it is having a "devastating effect" on communities.

"When we see these organized retail theft operations, we've got to respond to it," Albany Police Department Chief Eric Hawkins told CBS6 Albany. "So, now we're diverting resources from places that's sorely needed."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams launched the city's own retail theft task force earlier this month, touting its “360-degree” capability to confront shoplifting.

“I am proud to convene this group of experts and practitioners as we continue to take a 360-degree approach to combatting retail theft and curbing this serious issue that plagues cities across the country,” Adams said. “Together, we recognize the importance of safeguarding our businesses, protecting jobs, and ensuring a safer and more vibrant city for all who live in, work in, and visit our great city.”

Organized retail crime is growing into a substantial threat for store owners throughout the U.S. Stores have lost a combined $112 billion in sales in 2023. Major retailers like Walmart and Cosco are beginning to rethink their self-checkout offerings, which they believe contributes to additional shoplifting and lost profits due to customer error.

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