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In effort to alleviate fears of business owners and customers, New York state working to combat retail theft

New York state working to combat retail theft
New York state working to combat retail theft 02:11

LONG ISLAND -- As retail theft continues to climb, state leaders are pushing for more policing, and tax credits for businesses that improve safety.

Organized shoplifting is costing businesses billions, and creating anxiety and fear for customers and store owners.

Tariq Kahn has been in the retail business on Long Island for 45 years.

"I have never seen it as bad as we have seen for the last several months," Kahn said.

Kahn owns and operates several convenience stores and has witnessed the smashing, grabbing and fleeing.

"Retailer is just open game. Walk away with anything. No one is going to challenge," Kahn said.

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Statewide, retailers lost $4.5 billion last year. The cost was passed on to the consumer, said Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association.

"Simple shoplifting has really graduated to organized, sophisticated crimes. It's like the Wild Wild West out there," Cohen said.

Some retailers and civic groups met with Gov. Kathy Hochul in Albany and said they are pleased with her new proposal to budget a commercial security tax credit.

"There are some tax credits that can be used for stores to upgrade their safety equipment," said Kent Sopris, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

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Business owners who invest in qualified retail theft prevention expenses would get substantial tax credits, working with state police and district attorneys.

"I have stores in blue areas and red areas. This is not a political thing," Sopris said.

"Put a security guard in every place. It's going to cost a little money, but you know what? It's the best thing," West Hempstead shopper Joseph Fiorello said.

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Merchants on Long Island suffering through a 35% spike in larcenies want an increase in penalties.

"We are all victims when retail theft happens," said Ashley Ranslow, president of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

And the NFIB is worried that shoppers are being scared off.

"It drives up the cost of things and it also creates an environment where people are hesitant," Ranslow said.

Hesitant to shop where goods are locked up.

"Most of the employees who work, including myself, they don't want any kind of confrontation," Kahn said.

He said an attack on stores, like shoplifting, is an attack on us all.

There are now pending bills in Albany to create a statewide office to combat retail theft and to increase penalties for repeat offenders.

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