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*** UPDATED x1 *** Both sides of proposed shoplifting penalty reduction

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017

* From WGEM TV

A new proposal by the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform has been met with multiple opponents.

Right now, any theft valuing over $300 will land you a felony charge in Illinois. An Illinois criminal justice reform group has asked lawmakers to raise that thievery threshold to $2,000, in an attempt to combat prison overcrowding.

Executive Director Amy Looten of the Quincy Chamber of Commerce said on Monday that there are many reasons to oppose it. […]

“This sends a message to potential shoplifters that well you know it’s not that big of a deal.” Looten said. “The punishment’s not going to be that big, and we just think that’s the wrong message to send.” […]

“If you take away the punishment side of it, and you’re just going to slap them on the hand, they’re more likely to come back, and there’s more people that are going to try it for the first time.” [Quincy Menard’s Assistant General Manager Scott Warner] said.

* From the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform report


Under current law, a theft where the property was not taken from a person is a felony if any of the following conditions are present:

    * Theft of goods worth more than $500 is a Class 3 Felony. If the goods are worth $500 or less the defendant is guilty of a Class 4 felony if he has previously been convicted of any type of theft.

    * Theft from a school or a place of worship, or theft of government property, is a Class 2 felony if the value of the items taken is more than $500. If the value of the goods taken from these places is worth less than $500, it is a Class 4 felony.

    * Retail theft where the value of the items taken is greater than $300 is a Class 3 felony. If the stolen items are worth $300 or less, the defendant is guilty of a Class 4 felony if he has previously been convicted of any type of theft.

Processing non-violent theft offenders puts a significant strain on the prison system. In 2015, for example, there were 2,630 offenders sentenced to IDOC for the Class 3 or Class 4 felonies of retail theft or theft not from a person. Typically these inmates have short and unproductive terms of incarceration; in 2015, nearly half (49 percent) of those who were sentenced to prison for a Class 3 felony theft received the minimum sentence of two years.

Theft of all types is a serious problem, but treating those who steal relatively small amounts (a single laptop or smartphone, for example) the same as those who steal on a large scale seems disproportionate, and does not make the best use of prison resources. Before theft not from a person becomes a Class 3 felony, the value of property taken should be greater than $2,000. Theft of items worth less than $2,000 should be a Class A misdemeanor. Similarly, before retail theft becomes a Class 3 felony, the value of the property taken should be greater than $2,000. Retail theft of property worth less than this amount should be a Class A misdemeanor.


*** UPDATE ***  From Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association…

“We can all agree that non-violent offenders, particularly first-time offenders, should not necessarily be sitting in prison. That is why IRMA has proudly been a part of solutions already enacted to address those situations. But the answer is not to diminish the seriousness of retail theft and erode the sales tax base. Any suggestion that retail theft is a victimless crime is simply wrong — $2 billion in losses to business and government has consequences.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:08 pm:

    I guess I’d like to know what other states do. $300 does seem low for a felony, but $2K seems high.

    And I’m sure Ms. Looten never gets tired of the obvious jokes.

  2. - Anon #262 - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:10 pm:

    I don’t have a problem with moving the cost of this problem from the state to the businesses.

  3. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    A misdemeanor can still get you in jail for a year. It’s hardly “not that big of a deal”.

  4. - Blue - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    Great chart here on the impact inflation has on threshold over time.

  5. - PJ - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:23 pm:

    Does anyone really think someone walks into a store, looks up the relevant state statute to see exactly how much in value they need to steal to be under the felony limit, and then makes a well-calculated decision about their shoplifting?

    For this measure to increase shoplifting, you need to buy that the above is how people choose to shoplift.

  6. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:24 pm:

    Once again I doubt that there are many first time offenders in prison for low level theft. It is the repeat offenders that go.
    I have no problem with raising the monetary amount required to make it a felony however I would eliminate where the theft occurs. A theft is a theft. Also lower amounts could be used to determine felony status if it is a second or third offense.
    Finally “Typically these inmates have short and unproductive terms of incarceration”what makes it productive? Longer terms? Give them a longer term and teach them a trade that they cannot get a license for because they have a felony?

  7. - weltschmerz - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    And they wonder why there are food deserts and pharma deserts in Cook County.

  8. - Ben Ruddell - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:30 pm:

    There is no “message” being sent to shoplifters. Ample research has conclusively shown that raising the felony theft threshold has no impact on overall property crime or larceny rates. There is plenty of evidence that in general, you don’t successfully deter criminal behavior by raising penalties. The Chamber should avail itself of that research.

    If we really care about reducing crime, we should enact the Commission’s recommendation to raise the threshold. Prison is the criminal justice system’s least effective and most expensive form of punishing low-level retail thieves, as it will only cycle them through the IDOC and return them to their communities, likely increasing their risk of recidivism. Instead we should do what actually works: community supervision using evidence-based practices, including providing structured opportunities for offenders to pay restitution.

  9. - Annon3 - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:35 pm:

    Ms Looten’s organization has been very effective at keeping this ridiculous threshold for a felony, I sincerely hope they fail this time. I doubt in the large counties it is charged, however smaller counties it can be a horrible Club of “plead to this X or we will charge the felony”
    It is rare that the IGA can pass up a cheap felony for publicity sake I hope they do the right thing this time.

  10. - Sideline Watcher - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    We should just spread out on a table how much $300 would get you in 1970 and how much $300 would get you now. Then you can see why it needs to be updated.

    Also…acting as though marks on your record from a criminal justice perspective is “not a big deal” screams that she doesn’t understand how much of a big deal it is for the folks that disproportionately get caught up in it.

  11. - AlfondoGonz - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:47 pm:

    The findings of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform came after a ton of hard work and thorough research. Their presentation last year in from of a joint committee hearing, and the documentation they provided along with it, makes me feel very confident when I say people should differ to their findings (despite a perfectly understandable instinctual feeling of “I don’t know…”)

  12. - Julian's Melange - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    “There is no “message” being sent to shoplifters. “Ample research has conclusively..” Please give us one example to avail upon.

    More likely the loud and clear message to thieves would be: please feel free to steal up to $1,999 worth of stuff. Don’t worry, be happy. This is horrible legislation for retailers that will eventually cost consumers. Here’s an idea - instead of passing this bill, why don’t all those in favor of it simply sign-up to pay into a fund that goes to the would be thieves who then will feel less of a need to steal. Probably help the judicial system out as well.

  13. - Sticky Bandits a.k.a. Wet Bandits - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:59 pm:

    In 1970, $300 would be worth $1,877.62 in today’s dollars. Seems to be how they found the $2,000 figure.

  14. - Rarely Posts - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:03 pm:

    Several inflation calculators online say that $300 in 1970 dollars is equivalent to about $1900 today.

  15. - Rarely Posts - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:05 pm:

    D’oh! Hate it when that happens!

  16. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    - weltschmerz - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    And they wonder why there are food deserts and pharma deserts in Cook County.

    Are you calling everyone who lives in a food desert a potential criminal? Why would you do that?

  17. - PJ - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:38 pm:

    “More likely the loud and clear message to thieves would be: please feel free to steal up to $1,999 worth of stuff. Don’t worry, be happy.”

    This is a pretty terrible take. Do people feel free to take $299 worth of stuff right now? And do you understand that the $300 mark was set in 1970, and that is about equal to $2000 today?

  18. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    If the inflationary numbers provided above are accurate I withdraw my concerns and support this. Happens too often where a dollar figure gets set in stone and forgotten about over time.

  19. - Lawabider - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    How many first time offenders are sent to prison for shoplifting? I would be willing to bet very few…those that do, either have a history, stole large amount of money, or have other charges along with it (ex. Resisting).

    $300 seems low though…but $2000…maybe if I shoplift a car or 4 TV’s?

  20. - Ben Ruddell - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:43 pm:

    @Julian’s Melange:

    . A recent study conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which examined crime trends from 2001 to 2011 across 23 states, found
    • Raising the felony theft threshold has no impact on overall property crime or larceny rates.
    • States that increased their thresholds reported roughly the same average decrease in crime as the 27 states that did not change their theft laws.
    • The amount of a state’s felony theft threshold—whether it is $500, $1,000, $2,000, or more—is not correlated with its property crime and larceny rate.

  21. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:48 pm:

    I did not know shoplifters could be charged with felonies. That’s insane.

    What’s the goal of that policy? So they can get training to be armed robbers in state prison?

    Welts, I’m trying to make sense of your comment. Are you suggesting the current law that allows shoplifters to be charged with felonies is the cause of food deserts?

    Could you flesh that out a little bit?

  22. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:56 pm:

    –I did not know shoplifters could be charged with felonies. That’s insane.–

    At some level they need to be. There are organized rings of shoplifters.

  23. - Anon - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 1:59 pm:

    Keeping the threshold the same for many years steadily lowers the threshold in real dollars. Three hundred dollars buys a lot less today than in, say, 1980. Consequently, raise the $300 to what it would be worth had it been adjusted for inflation since it was enacted. Then add a COLA to raise it automatically each year to keep up with inflation.

  24. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 2:04 pm:

    Is the $2 billion annual cost just for Illinois? That is in the same ballpark as IDOC Budget. Sounds like we could spend more to cut the losses.

    The likelihood of arrest and speed of conviction play a role in deterrence. Increase the likelihood of arrest, speed the time to conviction and you can cut thefts.

    I would support increasing the felony thresholds if the system were reviewed to increase deterrence. Then track the effect of the changes.

  25. - Payback - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 2:05 pm:

    I support the new threshold for felony charges based on the rate of inflation. The Illinois criminal code is from what year, 1963?

    Another scam is the $300 threshold for criminal damage to property. Teenager flattens tire or breaks window, cops tell homeowner to “get an estimate” to fix, and prosecutor squeezes with felony charges. That should be upped for inflation also.

  26. - Thoughts Matter - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    I Dont have a problem with the increased dollar figure. I also suggest we quit treating thefts from schools, government and religious places differently.

  27. - IRLJ - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 3:30 pm:

    Sounds like a smart-on-crime proposal.
    And of course IRMA, perhaps second only to the Illinois version of the NRA as a powerful special interest Springfield lobbying group, is quick to object. Sad.
    Most shoplifters don’t know, or care, about the statutory amount for a felony. What counts is what the State wants to do with those who are convicted.

  28. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 4:55 pm:

    To the bill:

    Most retail theft in the U.S. is committed by store employees, not customers.

    The polite industry word for it is “shrinkage.”

    The employees doing the stealing presumably passed a criminal background check. They aren’t career criminals. So why are they doing it?

    They are underpaid, undervalued, the subject of discrimination, sexual harassment, and just plain old capricious abuse. They are poorly trained, poorly supervised, and management has poor systems in place to prevent employee theft.

    In other words, most of the theft problems that retailers suffer are problems of their own creation, problems that are largely the result of their desire to maximize profits, but they expect society to pick up the costs of their failures.

    Crazy, crazy that we would spend $36,000 a year to incarcerate someone for stealing a $300 jacket from a department store, especially if that person was an employee.

  29. - Anon - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 5:03 pm:

    Cogent point, YDD.

  30. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 9:22 pm:

    YDD. Your post is not fit for the dogs.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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