Move to repeal New Virginia law on organized retail theft blocked for this year

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) — A move to repeal a new Virginia Legislation that would have made organized retail theft a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, failed this year when members of a AA House subcommittee on Monday referred the bill to Virginia for further study. Voted to send to State Crime Commission.

The new law, which took effect in July, was passed by the state legislature last year with bipartisan support, including from Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin and state Attorney General Jason Miyares. Class 3 conviction for someone conspiring or acting in concert with one or more people to steal more than $5,000 worth of retail merchandise over a 90 day period, with the intent to sell the stolen goods for profit. A crime is committed.

The Virginia law was passed after groups of thieves were seen in viral videos on social media shamelessly steal bags of goods From stores across the country. The National Conference of State Legislatures then said that at least two dozen states have enacted laws to address organized retail theft.

Some Democrats and criminal justice advocates opposed the bill, arguing that it could entrap people who resort to theft to survive, including low-income people, the homeless and those struggling with addiction. .

Brad Haywood, a public defender who founded the criminal justice reform advocacy group Justice Forward Virginia, said then that claims that retail theft has reached crisis levels in recent years are exaggerated. Last month, the country's largest retail trading group withdrew from a claim Organized retail crime accounted for nearly half of the $94.51 billion in so-called industry shrinkage, which measures the overall loss in inventory including theft. It is unclear how much retailers are losing broadly due to organized retail crime or whether the problem has become worse in recent years.

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Haywood, who supported the repeal effort, said he wished the bill had had a full hearing, but said he planned to push for repeal again next year.

"I think we've missed an opportunity to demand betterment from people who are trying to take advantage of fear in criminal justice," he said.

Del Fernando "Marty" Martínez, the bill's lead sponsor, said he asked to send the repeal bill to the Crime Commission because the new law has only been in effect for six months and its effectiveness is not yet clear.

“I want more data on whether the bill is working or not. "I want more data as to why this is a Class (3) felony," Martinez said.

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