New York seeks to bring hammer down on professional shoplifters

Thursday, February 2, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y.—The New York State Senate this week passed legislation that makes it a felony to use "booster bags" and other anti-security devices to steal merchandise from retailers, joining a number of other states that have sought to combat organized retail crime.

Booster bags are crafted to prevent security devices at store exits from detecting stolen merchandise. The bags can be as rudimentary as a simple shopping bag lined with aluminum foil. "Current penalties are inadequate in deterring professional shoplifters from using booster bags to plunder store shelves," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., said in a statement . "That needs to change, and that’s exactly what this legislation would do."

"New York is in good company and joins approximately 25 other states with language about the unlawful use of theft detection shielding or deactivation devices, which include booster bags," Joe LaRocca, the National Retail Federation's senior advisor for asset protection, told Security Director News. "In most states the possession of these devices can be charged as felony burglary (entering a structure with the intent to commit a crime) or a specific theft statute."

Currently, shoplifters caught using booster bags in New York face misdemeanor charges unless the value of the stolen goods is more than $1,000. Sen. Fuschillo's proposed law would make shoplifters who use a booster bag or other anti-security device to steal merchandise guilty of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a class E felony punishable by up to four years in jail. In addition, the legislation would raise the penalty for criminally possessing a booster bag or other anti-security device from up to three months in jail to up to one year in jail, in addition to any other applicable charges.

The legislation is “strongly supported” by the Retail Council of New York State, which said organized retail crime is the most serious security issue facing merchants of all sizes.

The legislation has been sent to the New York State Assembly for consideration. The Senate approved the same piece of legislation in 2011, but the Assembly failed to act on it that time.