The coronavirus pandemic has spawned enormous changes from public health crises and disrupting schooling to economic distress and high unemployment. Perhaps one of the most fascinating shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the fluctuation of crime. At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, even before stay-at-home orders were issued in many places, there was a drastic decrease in crime as large numbers of people disappeared from public places.
Ever since these early months of the pandemic, however, crime has bounced back to its usual rates as individuals across the country have adjusted to the new normal. What’s even more interesting is the way in which certain categories of crimes have actually seen a significant increase. For instance, the number of organized retail thefts has swelled dramatically. We’ll discuss why this is the case and whether the pandemic is entirely to blame.
Why Has Retail Theft Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
In a Buy Safe America press release published in 2021, the retail coalition announced that large numbers of asset protection managers at leading retailers across the country reported an increase in organized retail crime. In fact, some of the largest retail crime ring busts have occurred over the past year, including one in San Francisco that recovered $8 million in stolen merchandise. In Florida, officials broke up a ring that allegedly stole nearly $85,000 of easy-to-resell items like diapers and energy drinks.
But why, exactly, is this the case? The press release theorizes that criminals are looking for more creative ways to cash in as more consumers shop online amid the pandemic. Perhaps this is the result of more relaxed law enforcement. Others have noted that the mask requirement has led to an extra level of stress and potential violence. And, of course, many are stealing out of necessity. The pandemic has led to a relentless churn of high unemployment and economic uncertainty resulting in a growing subset of Americans stealing food to survive.
It’s also important to consider that the pandemic may not be entirely to blame for the increase in retail theft. Certain findings, like this study from the National Retail Federation, found that retail crime was increasing even before COVID impacted the United States. The NRF study hypothesizes that the current wave of U.S. criminal justice reforms are at least partly fueling such scams by making them “low-risk, high-reward crime.”
Understanding Florida’s Retail Theft Laws
If you’ve been arrested for retail theft in Florida—no matter the reason or cause—it’s vital that you get in touch with a seasoned lawyer as soon as possible. Retail theft, otherwise known as “shoplifting,” is taken very seriously in Florida, and the penalties following a conviction could have a devastating effect on your future, your family, employment, reputation in the community, and overall well-being.
Under Florida law, shoplifting is considered either petit or grand theft, and the penalties vary depending on the value of the merchandise stolen.
- Merchandise worth less than $100: This is considered petit theft in the second degree, which is punishable by 60 days in jail
- Merchandise worth between $100-$300: This is petit theft in the first degree and is punishable by up to 364 days in jail
- Merchandise worth more than $300 but less than $5,000: This is considered grand theft in the third degree, a felony that could lead to up to five years in Florida state prison
Knowing how a criminal record can limit a person’s life and career, West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Brian Gabriel works tirelessly to craft defense plans that deflect allegations and aim to have charges dropped or significantly reduced.
Contact an Experienced West Palm Beach Theft Defense Attorney
If you’re facing charges related to organized retail theft or a similar crime, it’s crucial that you speak with an experienced West Palm Beach theft defense attorney as soon as possible. For legal assistance, look no further than The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel. Brian Gabriel takes a client-centered approach, and you can be assured that your rights will be protected throughout the legal process. Attorney Brian Gabriel is dedicated to safeguarding you against your accuser by investigating your case in detail and building a robust defense.
Attorney Brian Gabriel has served the community of West Palm Beach for over 30 years, and he understands the complexities that are often involved in these cases. After an arrest related to retail theft, you can be confident that you’re in capable hands and that attorney Brian Gabriel will fight for your rights. Call (561) 622-5575 or complete a contact form for a free consultation.