DeSantis Signs New Law to Increase Penalties on Porch Piracy, Retail Theft 

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
April 9, 2024US News
With retail theft being an ongoing problem nationwide, Florida and California lawmakers introduce new bills in hopes of solving growing retail theft problems. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that will increase penalties for retail theft throughout Florida and seeks to prevent "smash and grab" thefts and porch piracy.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that increases penalties for retail theft and porch piracy amid growing concerns over the crimes across the country.

The state will not tolerate the “lawlessness” that is allowed in “high-crime states,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday. “[HB549] is pretty much doing the opposite of what states like California and New York have done.”

The new legislation, HB549, cracks down on shoplifters and people who steal packages from outside homes. Under the new law, offenders who commit organized retail theft with five or more people face a third-degree felony. It would also make it a second-degree felony if a person uses social media to solicit others to participate in coordinated retail theft.

Additionally, the legislation targets offenders who commit retail theft with a firearm or already have two or more prior retail theft convictions, making it a first-degree felony.

HB549 strengthens existing law and adds porch piracy to it, according to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. It reduces the stolen property value necessary to charge criminals with a felony for stealing delivered packages.

According to recently published annual statistics, porch pirates stole $8 billion dollars of goods in the past year, and 44 million Americans have had a package stolen in the last three months, the attorney general cited.

“Florida is a law-and-order state, and we take action when we see concerning crime trends that could harm Floridians. We are leaders in the fight against organized retail theft, and I’m thrilled to stand with Governor DeSantis today to continue our goal of stopping theft by supporting legislation to stamp out porch piracy,” the attorney general said in a previous statement.

Recent Forbes data revealed that 41 percent of small business retailers said the value of items stolen in 2023 increased compared to previous years. According to the national survey, 75 percent of small business retailers reported monthly losses between $500 and $2,500 due to theft.

Mr. DeSantis said the new legislation ultimately protects consumers from high prices because businesses are forced to increase prices in order to cover the costs of stolen goods. He also pointed out that retailers have to store basic items such as toothpaste “under lock and key” to prevent theft.

The state has actually seen a decline in the rise of retail theft for the past four years due to its law and order, according to the governor. He compared the data to New York, which lost more than $4 billion due to retail theft. Furthermore, shoplifting increased by 63 percent in New York City, according to the Retail Council of New York State, an Albany-based lobbying group.

In California, lawmakers have proposed measures to increase shoplifting arrests and prosecutions as the state deals with a rise in retail theft. Assembly Bill 1990, the Secured Transactions and Organized Theft Prevention (STOP) Act, would allow police to stop suspected thieves via probable cause. Another measure would allow prosecutors to punish serial theft offenders with three years in prison.

New York’s law goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2024.

“Governor DeSantis continues to strengthen Florida laws to fight organized retail theft, cracking down on the kind of professional shoplifting that we’ve seen plague other states,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass.

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