N.Y.: Gov. Hochul’s plan to deter retail theft

March 5, 2024

The ongoing trend of organized retail theft is rippling across through the retail industry, contributing to store closures that have impacted communities far and wide.

This upsurge in coordinated thefts, including smash-and-grab robberies and chronic shoplifting, is dealing a major blow to the financial health of retailers of all sizes. The impact goes beyond inventory loss; it is driving up insurance costs, eroding a sense of safety for employees and customers alike, and in some cases, causing irreversible harm that it’s making it financially untenable for businesses to remain open.

Last legislative session, the New York state Legislature passed the bipartisan New York State Organized Retail Crime Task Force Legislation, S.6714-B/A.6568-B, which would’ve tasked a panel of law enforcement and retailers with studying the escalating problem of organized retail theft—a move that was axed by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s veto. In her veto message, she argued that the financial burden of this task force—along with other proposed commissions and task forces— “would create significant staffing and other programmatic burdens on state agencies.”

According to a statistic by the Retail Council of New York State, retailers statewide lose an estimated $4.4 billion a year from retail theft and resale on the illegal market. Additionally, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2023 National Retail Security Survey, 67% of retailers reported an increase in organized crime related violence and aggression compared to in 2022. This trend has sparked calls for more effective measures to protect businesses and consumers alike.

In response to the complex challenges retail theft presents, Hochul’s 2025 Executive Budget includes three Article VII proposals aimed to tackle retail theft more effectively, targeting both its symptoms and causes.

The proposals

No. 1: Increase penalties for assault on retail workers. Public Protection and General Government, Part N, aims to elevate the assault of a retail worker to a Class D felony—equivalent to assault in the second degree. This change would offer retail employees the same level of protection under penal law as first responders receive.

Under New York Penal Law Section 120.05, individuals convicted of Assault in the Second Degree may face a sentence ranging from two to seven years in state prison.

Should this proposal be incorporated into the finalized FY 2025 Executive Budget, it would take effect 180 days after enactment, marking a significant step toward enhancing the safety and protection of retail workers.

No. 2: Make it illegal to foster the sale of stolen goods. Public Protection and General Government, Part B proposes to establish a Class A misdemeanor for fostering the sale of stolen goods. A person would be guilty of fostering the sale of stolen goods if he or she facilitate the sale of them knowingly or unknowingly.

If this proposal were to be included in the finalized FY 2025 Executive Budget, it would take effect 180 days after enactment.

No. 3: Establish the commercial security tax credit. Part E of the governor’s Revenue Budget aims to support retailers impacted by theft by introducing the refundable commercial security tax credit program. This program would offer a $3,000 tax credit per New York state retail location to businesses with 100 or fewer employees that have physical stores open to the public and spend over $12,000 on retail theft prevention.

Eligible measures include security personnel, cameras, perimeter lighting, locking systems, alarm systems, access control or other anti-theft devices. If included in the finalized FY 2025 Executive Budget, retail businesses that already have invested in—or plan to invest in—security improvements from this year up to 2026 would benefit, as the program covers taxable years from Jan. 1, 2024, to Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2025. The program would also be capped at $5 million per calendar year.

The fight against retail crime continues

As New York continues to grapple with the effects of retail crime, the measures proposed by the governor in the 2025 Executive Budget herald new possible solutions to this growing crisis.

By seeking to enhance protections for retail workers, criminalize the facilitation of stolen goods, and incentivize security measures, these proposals can open a new chapter in the fight against retail crime.

Theophilus Alexander
PIA Northeast | + posts

Theophilus W. Alexander joined PIA Northeast as a government & industry affairs specialist for the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2023. Prior to joining PIA, Theo had served in both houses of the New York State Legislature. Previously, he worked as a legislative analyst for Hon. New York State Sen. Samra G. Brouk, D-55, and he served at the New York State Assembly, as a policy analyst with New York Assembly Program & Counsel. Theo received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y.

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