While business owners in the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce recognize and appreciate the fact that Governor Rauner is attempting to cut state expenses by reducing the number of inmates in Illinois prisons, we are concerned about the recent proposal to increase the threshold to $2,000 (from $300) to prosecute retail theft as a felony. The increase sends a message that not only can thieves steal more, but their penalties will be much less.
We can agree that non-violent offenders, particularly first-time, should not necessarily be sitting in jail, but the answer is not to declare open season on retailers. Studies repeatedly point to the fact that shoplifters steal many times before they are caught.
According to the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), in 2015, the national loss reported from retail theft was estimated at $60 billion and Illinois’ share was just more than $2 billion. Not only does this impact the state and local government’s income from sales tax, it increases the cost of goods to ALL customers. Store owners, especially those working with a low profit margin, simply cannot absorb this loss, so they typically pass it on in the form of higher prices. We all pay for retail theft.
With a $2,000 threshold, a shoplifter could steal an Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer, 1-carot (tw) diamond stud earrings or 58 pairs of denim pants (@$34/pair) and be charged with a misdemeanor, which currently comes with probation and a fine of only $1,500-$2,500. The fine could be less than the value of the stolen item!
This proposal by the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform diminishes the seriousness of retail theft and erodes our sales tax base. A $1,700 increase is just not reasonable. On behalf of the members of the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce, we urge Governor Rauner, Senator Jil Tracy and Representative Randy Frese to reject this recommendation and reinforce that fact that retail theft is serious business. If total rejection is not possible, we at least expect a more reasonable dollar amount.
The letter above was mailed to Governor Bruce Rauner, IL Senator Jil Tracy and IL Representative Randy Frese.