CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — Organized retail thefts are on the rise nationwide.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police warned people about the trend last year. Officials recently released a video of three people taking $21,000 in goods from an Ulta Cosmetics store.
A new North Carolina law is sending a message to criminals.
“They’re making it clear that if you work together to do crime that certainly there’s going to be a stiff penalty, and now, they are looking at the fact that based on the amount of the impact that it had on the business, there’s going to be a stronger consequence as well,” added attorney Walter Bowers, with Wooden Bowers, PLLC.
The law says if people conspire to commit a crime, it’s a Class H felony for any amount exceeding $1,500 in damage.
The Class of felony correlates with the amount of merchandise stolen. Over $20,000 is a class G felony, over $50,000 a class F felony, and over $100,000 a class C felony.
“In North Carolina, there are only two classes that are higher, one of them obviously being homicide,” added Bowers.
Jail time increases with this change in classes as well. In June, two men stole seven purses from the Gucci Store at South Park Mall for a total of $16,000, according to CMPD.
The new law adds all organized retail thefts in 90 days. As a result, the value of items stolen could add up quickly and, at the highest level of charges, could lead to 15 years behind bars. Under the old law, this would have been a Class H felony with a term of 4 months to 2 years in jail.
“There is a strong message being sent that we’re going to protect our business owners, we’re going to protect our economy,” Bowers said. “And if you work together to do these types of crimes, there’s going to be some significant consequences.”
The law goes into effect on Dec. 1, right as the holiday season begins. Bowers says that when these types of crimes rise, the new law should work as a deterrent.
“Once the word gets out that doing these types of crimes comes with a much stiffer penalty, I do think it will have some type of impact,” he said.