Since the Democratic majority. led by Steve Yeager, passed Assembly Bill 236 in 2019, the Silver State has seen a 15 percent increase in property crimes and a staggering 39 percent increase in drug-store thefts on the Las Vegas Strip. At the time, Attorney General Aaron Ford was “intimately involved” and enthusiastically backed the bill that overhauled Nevada’s criminal justice system.
The bill raised the threshold for felony theft from $650 worth of stolen goods to $1,200. A criminal who steals up to $1,200 worth of goods will be charged with misdemeanor larceny instead of a category D felony.
At the time of consideration, Yeager told Nevada Newsmakers, “We have a very low threshold of theft here. It is $600 for a felony. Your average iPhone is going to be $1,200. So if you take an iPhone, you are looking at having a felony.
“So we looked at adjusting those levels,” he said. “Initially the bill had proposed $2,000 for a felony, which put us in line with most other states. But that was a concern for some of the businesses. So we did what we do in the legislative building. We sat down, we talked about it and we have come to a place where I think everybody can agree is appropriate and that is $1,200 (threshold for felony theft).”
Yet, increasing the threshold has not only seen an increase in organized, retail theft in Las Vegas, but businesses in Northern Nevada have reported an increased in retail theft and ‘flash mob’ robberies. The Reno Police Department told News 4: “We have seen an uptick in retail theft. We are seeing California theft rings coming to Nevada and stealing merchandise.” To note, California’s threshold for felony theft is $950.
In response to the increased threat, the City of Reno recently announced that the police department would be “intensifying efforts to fight theft by increasing patrols at several malls and shopping centers” through the holiday season.
The neighboring city of Sparks also announced the “Back Our Business” initiative to combat retail theft. City Attorney Wes Duncan in partnership with the Sparks Police Department has implemented a “zero-tolerance policy with a focus on deterring retail theft, seeking restitution, and prosecuting repeat offenders that victimize businesses.”
“There is a growing trend across the City of Sparks and our region for thieves to enter businesses and steal items from them in our community. The Sparks City Attorney’s Office will aggressively prosecute those who rip off businesses and brazenly steal,” said Duncan. “Our focus will be to deter retail theft, prosecute repeat offenders, and send the message that the City Attorney’s office and the City of Sparks will not tolerate retail theft in our community.”
“Furthermore, our office realizes that with all the financial pressures occurring in the lives of Sparks residents, especially around the holidays, retail theft increases the cost of doing business and those costs are unfortunately passed to consumers. Retail theft hurts everyone in our community, and I will not sit by idly and allow businesses to be stolen from in our city,” added Duncan.
The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act would establish a coordinated multi-agency response and create new tools to tackle evolving trends in organized retail theft, which cost nationwide retailers an estimated $112.1 billion in 2022.
“So I have legislation working with our retail establishments and working with Senator Grassley bipartisan legislation, to actually help address the issue of organized retail crime and give our law enforcement more tools that they need to address it. It’s a peace of mind for our small businesses but it’s also going to let the criminal element know that we’re coming after them. We’re going to do everything we can to give the tools to law enforcement to stop this,” Cortez Masto said.
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