New York State In-depth

This proposed NY law could increase charges against serial shoplifters

STATEN ISLAND, NY – New York Republicans unveiled their latest push on crime on Tuesday, including legislation from Rep. Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) aimed at curbing serial shoplifters.

The bill, for which the former police officer is a major sponsor, would allow prosecutors to combine the value of items involved in a petty theft conviction with the value of items from convictions in the 18 months prior to that indictment.

If the combined value of those items exceeds $1,000 and the offender already has two prior convictions for petty theft, the legislation would allow the charges to be combined into one grand theft charge.

With a Democratic-controlled state Legislature and a House of Governors, it’s unlikely any of the Republican bills will become law, but Reilly said the bills would help address the state’s “crime crisis.”

“Governor [Kathy] Hochul and state legislatures have the power to end it, but until they do, innocent New Yorkers will continue to be victims of the revolving door justice system created as a result of the out-of-Albany Democrats’ dangerous and disastrous agenda,” he said.

“The policies proposed today by my Republican colleagues in the Assembly and Senate are common sense and will literally create a safer New York.”

For years, elected Republicans, including Reilly and Rep. Michael Tannousis (R-East Shore/South Brooklyn), have made the criminal justice reforms of the past decade a central topic of conversation. Her newly elected colleague, Rep. Sam Pirozzolo (R-Mid-Island), made this a focus of his successful campaign last year.

Pirozzolo’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the Republican bill, but Tannousis, who will serve as a sponsor of the bill, posted a video on Twitter sharing his support for the criminal justice changes.

“Crime has gotten out of hand in recent years,” Tannousis said. “I’ve spoken on this topic since I started running for office in 2019. … You have to stop playing politics with people’s lives.”

The congressman, who served as a prosecutor in the Bronx and Staten Island before taking office, pointed to one particular area where he sees the greatest need for change: judicial discretion.

Republicans say they will address judicial discretion along with bail reform and investigative changes that they say have created a “revolving door” criminal justice system.

Earlier this month Mayor Eric Adams, another proponent of changing criminal justice reform, said index crimes — grouped as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand theft auto — rose 22.4% in 2022, but In December, this figure fell by 11.6% compared to the same month last year.

Crime has risen from record lows before the coronavirus (COVD-19) pandemic, but still remains low compared to decades earlier.


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