Proposal would increase penalties for retail theft

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's a crime that bleeds thousands of dollars out of South Carolina retail businesses every year.

Now state lawmakers are taking a stand against professional shoplifting rings by carving out more comprehensive theft laws and penalties.

Part of the problem is South Carolina has some of the most lenient felony theft thresholds in the southeast.

According to the South Carolina Retailers Association, a person would have to steal $2,000 worth of merchandise before being charged with a felony.

Under a proposed Senate bill, prosecutors would be able to charge multiple shoplifting acts in different counties into one count, raising the possible prison sentence to a maximum of 10 years.

It's a step towards dismantling shoplifting rings that are drawn into South Carolina because of the state's lenient theft penalties.

"The Walgreens representative for four counties in upstate said  her chain loses up to $30,000 a month to organized retail crime," said Jack West with the South Carolina Retailers Association. "And it's similar with big box stores."

A companion bill passed the state house last week with no opposition.

Under the proposed Senate bill, penalties would also be created for using false information to obtain a refund from a business and tampering with product codes.

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