Increasing felony theft threshold for shoplifting would be step in wrong direction

In response to the Nov. 28 editorial “State should raise felony theft threshold,” it is important to keep in mind that shoplifting is not a victimless crime. US retailers lose more than $30 billion annually to shoplifters and sophisticated theft rings involved in organized retail crime. The estimated $750 million in stolen merchandise in Massachusetts translates into $46.8 million in lost sales tax revenue, and results in increased prices for honest consumers.

Increasing the felony threshold for shoplifting, without increasing the current statutory fines, would be a step in the wrong direction. A first-offense fine of $250 for the theft of $1,000 worth of merchandise is an inadequate deterrent against future theft. The notion that the punishment must fit the crime must go both ways.

No one wants to see the life of a first-time offender ruined by a felony conviction for shoplifting, yet as the editorial points out, our courts avoid such harsh outcomes by acting responsibly and fairly in their application of the law. If professional criminals or repeat offenders are unwilling to take advantage of the opportunity presented by such leniency, then they should certainly be held accountable for their ongoing criminal activity.


Ryan C. Kearney, general counsel

Retailers Association of Massachusetts