Why don’t more stores press charges against shoplifters?

Retailers in Florida lost more than $5.4 billion in revenue to theft in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation. In Georgia, it was more than $2.3 billion.

Despite these major losses caused by shoplifters, many stores have policies that decline to press charges against the thieves.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson said that’s frustrating to her both as a prosecutor and as a citizen.

“Theft is a problem. We’re seeing it across the country, and sending the message to the community that you can come in and take whatever you like and you’re not going to be held accountable — yes, that’s frustrating to me,” Nelson told News4JAX I-TEAM investigator Vic Micolucci.

Nelson said the state can sometimes choose to prosecute offenders without a victim — in this case the store — pressing charges. But their job becomes much more difficult without the store’s cooperation.

“And it sends the wrong message,” Nelson said. “It certainly sends the wrong message to law-abiding citizens who are working hard to pay their bills.”

The thefts don’t just harm the retailers; they also cost the state lost revenue from sales tax.

In 2022, Florida lost out on $325 million in retail sales tax dollars due to theft, and Georgia lost out on $94.2 million.

According to data from the Loss Prevention Research Council, one of the reasons retailers are opting for a “hands-off” approach to catching shoplifters is an increase in violence, particularly from those involved in organized retail crime.

More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents told the LPRC that they were seeing even more violence and aggression.

And the consequences for retail theft go beyond lost revenue. Retailers reported being forced to close a specific store location (28%), reduce operating hours (45%), or reduce or alter in-store product selection (30%) as a direct result of retail crime, the LPRC said.

So, what can be done?

Thursday night, Vic is taking you inside a University of Florida lab that can help stores think like criminals to ultimately cut down on the items stolen, which could end up saving consumers like you some money.

Press play below to watch a preview of “Shoplifting Solutions,” which airs at 6 p.m. Thursday on Channel 4.

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