State Senate Lawmakers Approve Tougher Laws for Organized Thieves Rings :: WRAL.com

– State Senate lawmakers voted Monday to approve increased penalties for organized retail theft rings and the criminals who run them. State House lawmakers approved a similar measure last week by unanimous vote.

The Senate approved the measure 43-0. He is now going to the Chamber, where he is supposed to pass.

Senate Bill 766 would define organized retail theft as a crime under state law. This would increase the penalties for the organizers, including prison terms for the ringleaders of the biggest organizations.

Retail theft rings are a growing problem in North Carolina, said Andy Ellen, president of the NC Retail Merchants Association, the lead group behind the measure.

“We had a $400,000 product bust in Cabarrus County and a $240,000 product bust in Charlotte, with power tools, baby formula, Tide pods, over-the-counter medications, all retail organized crime,” Ellen said. “These are things that you can easily get rid of in the secondary market, whether online or at a pawnshop and/or flea market, and things that you can return for a profit.”

Ellen says most networks operate through highly organized shoplifting orchestrated by teams of “boosters.”

“Some of them have up to… 100 or so people who will go into stores with a shopping list of what they want them to steal,” Ellen said. “They will spread out on I-85, I-40 or even in our rural areas, and identify and target certain goods and certain retailers that they want to rob.”

Thieving rings also sometimes engage in armed robbery, like Cary’s last December that netted tens of thousands of dollars worth of designer handbags.

The bill also requires high-volume online sellers to disclose more information to marketplace sites they use, such as eBay, Facebook and Amazon. Ellen was quick to add that most sellers on these platforms are legit. But the bill would require sellers to return large volumes of retail goods to verify their identity.

Ellen says too often repeat offenders are not jailed because they keep the amount of each theft below the level required to make it a crime. The bill allows those charged with organized retail theft to be charged for the cumulative amount they stole over a 90-day period.

“Retail shoplifting costs us, as a nation, about $69 million” a year, Ellen said. “It’s about $500 per family that we all pay because of these stolen goods.”

According to a recent report by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, these retail thieving rings are also commonly involved in other types of organized crime, including drug trafficking and human trafficking.

“Recent investigations have also identified retail organized crime schemes exploiting undocumented migrants coerced into stealing goods to pay off ‘coyotes’ who smuggle them across international borders,” according to a press release from the federal agency.

The ACLU was the only group to speak out against the bill in committee last week, citing concerns about rising incarceration.

“Senate Bill 766 gives law enforcement stronger recourse to prosecute these criminals and shows business owners that these criminal networks will not be tolerated,” said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. , Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, in a statement after the bill passed the Senate. .

Medical Marijuana Heads To House

The state Senate also voted to approve a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions in North Carolina.

The Senate passed the measure on Monday with a 36-7 vote after giving the bill initial approval last week. The bill is now going to the House, where it is likely to face more opposition and could linger until later in the year.

Legislative leaders have said they want to wrap up the short session by July 4. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters last week that he didn’t think House Republicans would be willing to pass the measure before then. “I don’t see any appetite to address this in the shorter session,” said Moore, R-Cleveland.

Senate Bill 711 would establish a medical marijuana supply system that would be tightly regulated by the state. Ten vendors would be allowed to grow, process and sell the drug at a total of 80 dispensaries across the state. Patients with a short list of debilitating conditions, including cancer, ALS, and those in palliative care, could purchase it with a prescription from their primary physician, if that physician has taken additional courses and received certification to prescribe the drug.

A WRAL News online survey of registered voters in the state found strong bipartisan support for the legalization of medical marijuana. Seventy-two percent of respondents said medical marijuana should be legalized, including 64% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats and 78% of unaffiliated voters. The survey was conducted in April.

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