Hochul Aims to Curb Organized Retail Theft With $40M in State Budget

The efforts include a $5 million tax break for retailers to beef up their security


Thieves pillaging retail stores across the country will likely have a more difficult time plying their odious trade in New York.

Gov. Kathy Hochul laid out further details Wednesday on her state budget for the plan to curb organized retail theft. The budget includes $40 million that will help local law enforcement agencies create task forces to handle the problem as well as elevating assault of a retail worker from a misdemeanor to a felony.

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“This is not one person running and grabbing a candy bar. We know that these are transnational criminal organizations that are using the Internet [as a] marketplace,” Hochul said during a press conference. “We’re also making it illegal to foster the sale of stolen goods. … We’re going to make sure that prosecutors can charge third-party sellers who are profiting off the misery of our stores.”

The budget also includes a $5 million tax incentive to help businesses beef up security personnel, offsetting the cost of hiring more people for loss prevention, according to Hochul.

While retailers have been complaining about massive revenue losses caused by shoplifters — with target partly blaming the closing of its East Harlem location on theft — the extent it’s been caused by organized groups of thieves has been difficult to quantify.

The National Retail Federation recently backpedaled from its widely cited report showing the extent organized crime was behind the thefts, which has captured the attention of lawmakers on the national level, as well as retailers who have been bracing themselves against raiding parties, Commercial Observer reported at the end of 2023.

Over the last five years ending in May 2023, for example, the New York City Police Department recorded a 77 percent increase in retail theft in the five boroughs, with the numbers growing by 41 percent from 2021 to 2022, Mayor Eric Adams’s administration said last year.

“[About] $500 billion of stolen or counterfeit products account for up to 10 percent of the total e-commerce market,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal said during the announcement. “This hurts our local retail businesses from the big box stores to the luxury retailers to the small businesses, and it also hurts the legitimate online sellers.”

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.