Local Retailers Discuss Shoplifting Concerns with State’s Attorney

The BBA attended a community forum hosted by the office of the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, TJ Donovan, to discuss the issue of shoplifting and its impacts on both small and large retailers in Burlington and the surrounding area.

This well attended meeting presented the opportunity to have an important dialogue between retailers, loss prevention specialists, and the state’s attorney’s staff about what retailers are seeing in their stores and how it needs to be addressed at the court level.

In an effort to target the problem of Organized Retail Crime, which has links to drug trafficking and wider criminal enterprises, the State’s Attorney’s office will begin to meet monthly with retailers to share resources and streamline the flow of communication between the retailers who are catching the individuals in their stores, the police who take statements from retailers and the courts who process those charges. The BBA will be attending these meetings and disseminating relevant information to our retail members.

Several years ago, legislators made a change to how shoplifting could be prosecuted, limiting it to no more than a 6 month charge at the misdemeanor level unless there are aggravating factors (i.e. more than $900 worth of goods stolen, or the use of a “booster bag”, pictured above, lined with foil and duct tape to prevent setting off in store security sensors).  Shoplifting is not seen as a “serious crime” (as opposed to homicide, sexual assault or the like) and limiting the charges that can be brought against an individual for an instance of shoplifting can prevent low level occurrences from receiving unduly harsh penalties.  This has created an issue though, where repeat offenders and individuals participating in organized retail theft are not receiving strong enough consequences if each stand alone case that comes before the court is for goods that are valued below the $900 level.

The State’s Attorney’s office is encouraging retailers to be in communication with their Deputy State’s Attorney, Aimee Griffin, to ensure that the necessary information is being communicated to the courts when known repeat offenders’ cases are coming to trial. The BBA will remain active in this dialogue, and we encourage our retail members to reach out to our Member Services & Events Manger, Sarah O Donnell with questions, concerns and reports to keep us informed of what’s happening in the stores downtown.

Additional information about Organized Retail Crime, including a training video on recognition and prevention can be found at http://www.icsc.org/organized-retail-crime-prevention