(NewsNation Now) — The Wisconsin State Assembly has approved a Republican-authored bill that would create tougher penalties for coordinated shoplifting.
The proposal comes in response to reports last year of gangs of shoplifters stealing numerous items in full public view from high-end department stores in California. In one incident in November, 80 people descended on a Walnut Creek Nordstrom. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law in July reestablishing the crime of organized retail theft.
There have been no reports of similar smash-and-grabs in Wisconsin, but the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, Duey Stroebel, said in written remarks to the Senate judiciary committee that the state must send a strong message that organized theft rings will be punished.
Following a wave of organized retail crime thefts late last year, a NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ survey found that Americans felt less safe during the holiday season, even though it didn’t deter most from continuing to shop in-person.
As reports of smash-and-grab robberies appeared across the country, some retailers and police called for tougher penalties to combat retail crime.
In California, for example, critics placed blame on progressive policies such as Proposition 47, a ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by state voters in 2014 that reduced certain felony theft and drug possession offenses to misdemeanors.
Under Wisconsin’s bill, the severity of penalties for committing thefts as a group would be determined by the total value of the all the stolen items. Under current law, penalties vary from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the value of the stolen property.
The Assembly passed the bill 59-33 with no debate. The measure goes next to the Senate.