Retail merchants fear theft bill will increase crime

Retail merchants fear theft bill will increase crime

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Retail Merchants of Hawaii president Sheri Sakamoto said a bill to raise the threshold for felony theft from $300 to $750 will encourage shoplifters to steal more.

"It will really affect retailers specifically. They now can steal up to $749.99 and have less consequences to their crime," she said

Rep. Karl Rhoads is chairman of the House Judiciary committee. He said the bill targets agricultural theft, and shoplifting is considered separate but prosecutors do have leeway. "Even if the Governor signs this bill it's still a crime to steal amounts between $300 and $750, it's just the penalty is not as high," he said.

Theft is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Advocates for raising the dollar threshold say $300 is way too low, and it costs taxpayers about $49,000 a year to incarcerate an offender. "So when we're talking about property crime that's under $1,000 and we're paying $134 a day, you've got to start looking at that and saying, That really doesn't pencil out," Community Alliance on Prisons advocate Kat Brady said.

She also believes raising the threshold will keep those who steal property with low dollar values from getting locked up with hardened criminals and coming out worse. But Sakamoto said if the bill becomes law and shoplifting and other forms of retail theft increase, it won't just affect retailers."All of those costs, you have to remember, will eventually go back to the consumer," she said.

The last time lawmakers raised the threshold amount was in 1986 when it went from $200 to $300.

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