New Colorado law expands tools to fight ORC
DENVER—Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper yesterday signed a bill into law that gives law enforcement officials and state prosecutors more tools to combat organized retail crime.
The law increases penalties for triggering emergency exit alarms and expands the definitions of tools used by professional shoplifters, two areas often related to cases of organized retail theft, which costs Colorado retailers $500 million in stolen merchandise each year, according to a news release from the original bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Barker. That figure was attributed to a 2007 study by the National Retail Federation and FBI.
"The intent [of the bill] was to create awareness of the issues and to enhance our current laws, or add to our current laws, as necessary to help law enforcement and prosecutors be able to take a harder stance on some of the perpetrators of retail crime," Robyn Cafasso, chief deputy district attorney of El Paso County's economic crime division, told Security Director News. Cafasso is a member of the Colorado Organized Retail Crime Alliance (CORCA), which formed earlier this year.
Specifically, the new Colorado law makes triggering fire and exit alarms, or attempting to deactivate those alarms or preventing them from sounding, acts of disorderly conduct, a class 2 misdemeanor.
The law also expands the definitions of “theft detection deactivating device” and "theft detection shielding device" to include techniques and methods organized retail criminals employ. The definition of "theft detection deactivating device" is changed to include "jumper wires, wire cutters, and electronic article surveillance removal devices." The law also throws out an old definition of "theft detection shielding device," which said such a device "includes, but is not limited to, any laminated or coated sack or container that is capable of avoiding detection by a theft detection device." It was replaced with language that says a "'theft detection shielding device includes, but is not limited to, foil lined or otherwise modified clothing, bags, purses, or containers capable of and for the sole purpose of avoiding detection devices."
Some believe the new law doesn't go far enough, Cafasso said, "but I think a little at a time is a better way to approach it."
Creating a new felony charge related to organized retail theft was discussed within CORCA, but Cafasso said since new felonies come with fiscal notes attached, it likely wouldn't have passed. "So in an effort to avoid going down that road, knowing that it's probably not going to work, we thought enhancing the laws we already have" is a better idea, she said. "Adding a misdemeanor doesn't create the same heartburn that a felony does," she said, referring to the elevated charge against triggering fire or exit alarms.
In addition to the new law, Cafasso said she and other CORCA members are working to better educate law enforcement about organized retail crime and how existing laws can be used by law enforcement officials and prosecutors to bring enhanced charges against perpetrators, such as aggregating smaller thefts over a period of time to reach the felony threshold, which is $1,000 in Colorado. Looking at professional shoplifters as more than just petty thieves is also important, she said. "Many shoplifting perpetrators are part of organized groups, or loosely organized groups, working together in some fashion, and that in my opinion as a prosecutor puts them under a potential charge of operating as an organized crime ring, which is a very high-class felony," Cafasso said.