WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A bipartisan plan in Congress aims to help law enforcement crack down on organized retail theft, which has surged nationwide in recent years.
“This is a problem that we have to deal with,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said at a news conference Thursday.
“It’s happening in every community,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., added. “It’s not a one-off, it’s not one person.”
They are part of a bipartisan group that has introduced a bill that would create a centralized agency to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute retail thieves, even across state lines, with “the same penalties applied whether it happens in California or in Iowa,” Grassley said.
The National Retail Federation says store theft surged 20% from 2021 to 2022, costing retailers more than $112 billion. Lawmakers acknowledged the increase started during the pandemic, but said they don’t believe it’s linked to rising prices.
“Retail theft rings have been around for decades, really, and they haven’t been impacted by the national economic cycles in the same way,” Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., a former prosecutor, said.
He said the thefts aren’t just property crimes.
“People are actually getting hurt and, in some instances, killed,” he said.
He said federal intervention is necessary to protect businesses and communities.
“We’ve got some stores that are going to go under because of the losses that they’re suffering. Some of those are grocery stores,” Ivey said.
The bill has the support of nearly 80 lawmakers in the House and Senate but many more will need to sign on for it to pass.