Gov. Lujan Grisham announces legislation to tackle organized retail crime
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday announced the introduction of legislation designed to combat the funding of organized crime through retail theft and support the prosecution of organized retail crime.
Sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews, House Bill 234 will target offenders funding organized crime through retail theft, including by creating the crime of organized retail crime in state statute and allowing for the aggregation of multiple retail theft crimes over a period of time in order to target repeat offenders. The bill was introduced following the governor’s creation of the Business Advisory Council on for Crime Reduction last week, which will ensure that New Mexico’s business community has a voice in decisions around public safety policy. A 2021 report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association detailed the total estimated economic impact of stolen sales in New Mexico at $819.8 million.
“There’s no question that organized retail crime is having a detrimental impact on the bottom line for New Mexico businesses, especially small ones,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “This cowardly crime also means higher prices for New Mexican consumers – it’s time to crack down on organized retail theft.”
HB 234 does the following:
- Amends the crime of “shoplifting” to allow prosecutors to aggregate the retail market value of merchandise shoplifted from the same or multiple retailers over the course of ninety days so the prosecutor can charge them with a higher felony (determined by the value of merchandise stolen) rather than a bunch of misdemeanors for each theft.
- Creates a new crime of “organized retail crime” for those who engage in a concerted effort with others to: steal or help steal merchandise worth $2,500 or more over the course of a year; receive, purchase or possess merchandise worth $2,500 or more over the course of a year knowing or believing it is stolen; or recruits, coordinates, organizes, supervises, directs, manages, or finances another to commit organized retail crime or shoplifting (regardless of the amount of merchandise stolen). Those convicted or organized retail crime are guilty of a second-degree felony.
- Expands the definition of “robbery” to include the use or threatened use of force or violence to retain anything of value stolen from another person or to effect an escape from the scene of a theft.
- Redefines the definition of “racketeering” to include “organized retail crime,” which allows convictions for organized retail crime to serve as a predicate offense for a racketeering charge (in addition to the organized retail crime conviction).
“Virtually everyone I meet has a story of encountering retail theft and wants it to end. Organized retail crime puts employees and shoppers at retail stores in danger and it’s time New Mexico law treats this conduct seriously,” said Rep. Marian Matthews. “The Organized Retail Crime bill I am sponsoring focuses on holding these thieves and their fences accountable, so that New Mexicans can shop safely and operate their businesses in peace.”
“For far too long, the citizens of New Mexico have been subject to persistent criminal activity,” said Steven B. Chavez, managing partner of Mesa del Sol and chair of the governor’s Business Advisory Council for Crime Prevention. “I’m optimistic about working with the governor and her team to gain the support of the business community to achieve real change in our state.”
“Organized retail crime has become more prevalent and more violent over the last several years,” said Rob Black, President and CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce. “These criminal organizations put our employees and our customers at risk daily, which is why the business community welcomes and appreciates the efforts of the Governor and the legislature to provide the tools that our law enforcement agencies need to help protect our communities.”