The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would establish the crime of organized retail theft and add language to the Code of Alabama targeting retail theft.
SB206 or the Retail Theft Crime Prevention Act, is sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss. Chambliss said the intent of the bill is to prevent shoplifting while adding to the Code of Alabama’s definitions of retail theft.
“Currently, the Code section used for prosecution is the Theft code and it doesn’t fit properly,” Chambliss told APR. “This bill is written specifically for Retail Theft and will help slow the huge monetary losses that our retailers endure every day resulting in higher prices for all of us.”
The bill outlines definitions for determining the intent for cases when an individual or group attempts to shoplift from a business.
Sen. Rodger Smitherman and opposition to the legislation stating that individuals who pass the cash register and may simply forget to buy an item may be falsely perceived to be stealing.
Sen. Sam Givhan said he agreed there was a problem with shoplifting but wanted to be cautious about how the bill was implemented. Givhan provided an example where he had forgotten to buy items and stated that people forget water cases under their shopping carts all the time.
“I had two cans of tuna in the back of the buggy, went through the cash register, she didn’t see it and I forgot about it,” Givhan said. “I go back in and pay for it and she said you know this happens more than you think.”
Chambliss said there is room to address the concerns of both Smitherman and Givhan with an amendment.
However, Smitherman expressed his frustration with the lack of concern for citizens and the focus on businesses.
“Everyone of these comments is talking about the business, the business, the business, nobody is talking about the citizen,” Smitherman said. “At some point we’re going to have to realize we represent regular citizens.”
Data shows that wage theft amounts to over $50 billion dollars a year of stolen money from workers, which is 100 times more than all robberies, burglaries, and motor vehicle thefts.
APR asked Chambliss if he was concerned with wage theft and if he planned on proposing a law to combat it. Chambliss replied, “I am not familiar with wage theft.”
The Alabama Legislature has never created any laws protecting workers from wage theft.
The bill was reported favorably with 9 votes in favor, 1 against, and 1 abstention.