Bill would increase maximum shoplifting penalty, lower felony th - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Bill would increase maximum shoplifting penalty, lower felony threshold

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It's a full-time job keeping up with the growing and costly crime of shoplifting.

"They actually film these boosters who are going into our retail establishments and taking the products and bringing them out to the fence and to the higher level folks," said Lisa McGill Sweatman with the South Carolina Retail Association.

Investigations into shoplifting rings can go on for years, often without much consequence to those caught. That's because South Carolina has a $2,000 felony threshold for shoplifting.

"What we have are folks, individuals, who have 11 misdemeanors and never gets a felony because of that," said Sweatman.

A bill progressing rapidly through the State House aims to increase the maximum shoplifting penalty from 5 to 10 years, and lower that felony threshold.

The bill also aims to criminalize product code tampering, something that's drained millions of dollars from retailers like Home Depot.

"We're looking at $15-20 million being stolen from them in just one case," said Sweatman.

But small businesses are also feeling the sting of missing merchandise.

"A business making about $2 million a year, you're looking at $15,000 to $30,000 worth of stuff that just disappears," said Agata Chydziskni, a manager at Cromer's Peanuts.

Much of that stuff can end up just down the road at flea markets discounted up to 75 percent.

"Unfortunately, the flea markets are heavily involved in this," said Sweatman.

Unfortunately, consumers feel the impact of large scale theft where it hurts most: our wallets.

"So when we have this volume of theft that's being taken from us, unfortunately we have to make up the difference on what's being taken for us, and so it does go back to the consumer," said Sweatman.

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