Hochul blasted for rejecting retail theft task force


(The Center Square) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is being criticized for vetoing a bill to create a crime task force to address the loss of billions of dollars to retail shoplifting across the state.

The proposal called for a new 15-member commission, including law enforcement officials, retailers and lawmakers, to review the state’s current laws and provide recommendations to help prevent retail theft, enhance consumer protections and address the economic impact of retail theft.

But Hochul vetoed the measure last week without issuing a statement explaining what she objected to in the bill.

The move prompted sharp criticism from Republicans and Democrats, who argued that the task force is necessary to help deal with rising retail theft and organized shoplifting levels.

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-C-Rome, said he was “disappointed” that Hochul vetoed the proposal and vowed to continue to push for protections for retailers in the state.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a major problem for businesses across the state,” he said. “This bill would have provided ideas that could help address this issue and bring some relief to business owners.”

Melissa O’Connor, president and CEO of the Retail Council of New York State, said retailers are “extremely disappointed” that Hochul rejected the proposal.

“Stores that invest in New York communities lose $4.4 billion to retail theft, and this illegal activity certainly has community safety implications,” he said in a statement.

The council is meeting with lawmakers, prosecutors and law enforcement “to hold organized retail crime syndicates and repeat shoplifters accountable,” she said.

O’Connor said she also spoke with Hochul to “discuss the need for immediate action and an effective, collaborative response to this problem.”

“She made it abundantly clear that retail theft prevention will be a priority for her administration, and we look forward to working with her to achieve results,” she said.

Nationally, organized retail crime is estimated to cost retailers an estimated $100 billion a year, according to the 2022 Retail Security Survey.

Retailers reported a 26.5% increase in organized retail crime incidents from 2021 to 2022. At least eight in ten retailers reported that violence and aggression associated with organized retail crime increased in 2021, the report’s authors said.

“Gov. Hochul has missed a golden opportunity to rescue New York businesses with this misguided veto,” Republican Oneida County Executive Picente said in a statement. “Retailers and establishments across the state … are suffering at the hands of thieves that are stealing away their livelihoods.”

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