Increasing protections for Michigan businesses and consumers

·2 min read

It’s not news that shoplifting is a large criminal enterprise and that these crimes have been hurtful for both businesses and consumers.

Shoplifting has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry that wreaks havoc on already struggling supply lines and small businesses. As time goes by, criminals are growing bolder in an effort to increase their potential payouts — which creates a dangerous scenario for everyone involved.

Over the last year, Michigan and other states have experienced an increase in organized retail crime. We’ve seen news stories of train cars or delivery vans being ransacked, and instances where dozens of thieves run into a store, grab thousands of dollars in merchandise and then bolt in separate directions. This kind of activity, sometimes referred to as flash mob robberies, is costing the retail industry billions of dollars annually and placing shoppers in unnecessary danger.

Worse yet, those who benefit most from this criminal activity prey on vulnerable youth and other susceptible members of our communities — coercing at-risk kids and people with drug addictions to commit these crimes — as a way to protect themselves.

The Senate recently approved legislation to build upon Michigan’s Organized Retail Crime Act, which was passed in 2012, and put stronger penalties in place that go after the real bad guys — the leaders of these organized crime rings.

The Organized Retail Crime Act outlined felony sentencing for organizing, supervising, financing or assisting another person in committing organized retail crimes. Senate Bill 691 would add similar language to the state’s racketeering penal code in order to provide more legal leverage against criminals at the top of this criminal activity.

If signed into law, this bill would give the state more power to prosecute those who are behind these crime rings to the fullest extent of the law.

The Michigan State Police, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Michigan Retailers Association all support this bipartisan measure, and I was happy to vote for it as it was before the Senate. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Judiciary awaiting further discussion.

Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Niles, represents Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties.


This article originally appeared on Sturgis Journal: Opinion