Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) announced that the New York State Senate has passed legislation he sponsored to raise penalties for criminals who use “booster bags” and other anti-security devices to steal merchandise from store shelves. A booster bag is a handmade bag used by professional shoplifters. The inside of the bag is usually coated with special material, typically multiple layers of aluminium foil, when an object is placed inside the bag, the security panels in the detector antennas at the store exits are unable to detect the signal from the transmitter and a shoplifter can easily steal dozens of items with very little effort.
It is estimated that each year, billions of dollars in merchandise are stolen from store shelves by shoplifters using booster bags. While it is true that the multimillion dollar companies lose a lot of money at first, the consumers end up paying for the stolen goods by higher prices. Senator Fuschillo stated that the current penalties are inadequate in deterring professional shoplifters that use booster bags. Normally, a first time offender is deterred when they are caught by law enforcement, the ends are not justified by the means. But a professional shoplifter can make thousands of dollars from a single robbery. According to Fuschillo, the punishment needs to change in order to deter professional shoplifters.
Under Senator Fuschillo’s legislation (S527), criminals who use a booster bag or other anti-security device to steal merchandise would be guilty of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a class E felony which is punishable by up to four years in jail. Shoplifters who use booster bags to steal face only misdemeanor charges under current law, unless the value of the stolen goods is more than $1,000.
In addition, the proposed law would raise the penalty for criminally possessing a booster bag or other anti-security device from up to three months in jail to up to one year in jail, in addition to any other applicable charges. The legislation was also approved by the Senate in 2011, but the Assembly failed to act on it.
The legislation is “strongly supported” by the Retail Council of New York State. In a memo of support, the Council stated that organized retail crime is the most serious security issue facing merchants of all sizes, costing them $30 billion each year which is passed on directly to customers. The Council further stated “thieves caught using booster bags must receive a penalty reflective of the serious nature of the crime and the broad impact it has on consumers throughout New York State” and that Senator Fuschillo’s legislation “takes a significant step forward in that regard.”
The legislation has again been sent to the Assembly for consideration. Do you think a higher punishment is going to deter criminals from stealing as often? Or will the criminals find a better way to steal so they don’t get caught?