Thank you, Governor Hochul, District Attorney Katz and Superintendent James for convening this event to discuss an issue that has presented significant, if not unprecedented, challenges to retailers in New York State for far too long.

Our organization represents thousands of stores in every corner of the state, ranging from the smallest independent merchants to national and international brands. I can tell you that addressing organized retail crime and habitual retail theft is a top priority that requires immediate action with our partners in state and local government.

For context, retail establishments in New York lost $4.4 billion in revenue as a result of theft in 2022. The same study noted that the State of New York lost $176 million in retail sales tax dollars due to theft – revenue that certainly could be appropriated to other state-funded programs and services.

The financial loss to merchants investing in the state is stunning, but this is not our primary focus when discussing the issue with leaders in New York. Our priority is the safety of our customers and employees, as 88% of retailers report that “shoplifters are somewhat more or much more aggressive and violent compared with one year ago.”

The challenges presented by retail theft activity do not stop at the threshold of a retail store – community safety is also an important consideration as we continue to examine the issue and meaningful solutions. Retailers have reported that theft and violence have resulted in a reduction of specific store operating hours, reduced product selections and even closure of certain store locations. It is clear that the impact of retail theft and related crimes on local communities is real and significant.

Over the past several months, our industry has hosted meetings with countless stakeholders – the executive, mayors, district attorneys, state and local lawmakers, local chambers of commerce, business improvement districts, and law enforcement, just to name a few. It is abundantly clear based on those conversations that a thoughtful, comprehensive response is required in short order.

I want to thank Governor Hochul for taking the time to listen to the concerns of the Retail Council and small business owners over the past several weeks. We strongly and actively support the specific initiatives outlined in the Executive Budget proposal, as we have prioritized many of these concepts for quite some time.

We strongly support the governor’s proposals, which include:

  • Interagency coordination at the state and local level – and related funding – which is absolutely critical to identify emerging trends and habitual offenders.
  • Dedicated prosecutors in District Attorney Offices for cases involving retail theft, along with funding for implementation.
  • The allocation of $25.2 million in new funding to “deploy a dedicated State Police team to build cases against organized retail theft rings and create a new State Police enforcement unit dedicated to this purpose.”

It’s important to note that a similar approach was taken in California, which increased proactive organized retail crime investigations and operations by over 310%, recovering 187,515 items stolen from retailers.

  • We also support the allocation of $5 million in state funding to “build the capacity of local law enforcement efforts to combat retail theft.”
  • Finally, we strongly support legislation to increase penalties for the assault of retail workers, along with the creation of a “commercial security tax credit” for small businesses.

This comprehensive approach is necessary to address the challenges facing stores that invest in New York communities, and the employees who witness retail crimes far too often.

In my conversations with state lawmakers who represent myriad parts of the state – from Buffalo to the Bronx – they have acknowledged legislative action must happen in 2024.

On behalf of retailers located in every district throughout New York, we respectfully urge leaders in both Houses to include – and support – the governor’s retail theft prevention plan in their one-House budget proposals in March.

Thank you.

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