New Florida proposal would increase penalties for shoplifters, porch pirates, group theft rings

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday morning said he backs new Florida legislation that would increase penalties for shoplifters and people who steal packages from outside homes.

“Part of it is to make sure that the penalties are severe enough to deter people from doing this in the future,” DeSantis said.

Across the country, some stores said they are closing and limiting what they put on the shelves, or raising prices due to shoplifting.

Under current Florida law, retail theft is a misdemeanor and only upgraded to a felony if someone commits five different retail thefts within 45 days, DeSantis said.

MORE: Stopping shoplifting? Researchers at UF lab think like a shoplifter to deter, detect costly crime

DeSantis said the new law would make it so anyone who commits up to three retail thefts in a year can be convicted of a felony.

“That’s going to make a big difference because people have to suffer really significant penalties when that’s the case,” DeSantis said.

The Republican-led Florida Legislature is also expected to pass the law that would increase penalties for groups of five or more people who steal from a store to a third-degree felony. It would also be a second-degree felony to use social media to solicit others to participate in retail theft, DeSantis said.

MORE | Some retailers have a hands-off approach when it comes to shoplifters. Police say that’s a mistake

Another new law would increase penalties for people who steal packages of people’s front porches, sometimes referred to as “porch pirates,” by reducing the stolen property value necessary to charge criminals with a felony.

“We strengthened our retail theft laws about two years ago. This further strengthens those laws, and we’re giving our law enforcement resources,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

It would also be a first-degree felony if an individual commits retail theft with a firearm or has already had two or more prior convictions of retail theft.

According to a national study by Forbes, 75% of small business retailers reported monthly losses between $500 and $2,500 due to theft.

In December News4JAX spoke with Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith who is one of many law enforcement leaders calling for harsher punishments.

“You know, it starts off with, uh, a simple retail theft and if they’re allowed to leave and no repercussions or arrest or prosecution, then it turns into bigger thefts, then it turns into burglaries, car burglaries, carjackings,” Smith said.

News4JAX Insiders had plenty to say about the new proposals:

Hawkeye wrote: “Penalties are only effective if people are caught. Stores won’t change their policy of no-interference.”

Inigo said: “Does the law change the abysmal solve rate for these type crimes?”

Blonde Bomb says: “Thank you, Governor DeSantis!!! The second time should be a felony, IMHO.”

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