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With Inflation Rising, Small-Time Thefts Count As Felonies

Some states haven't changed their thresholds for felonies in years. Advocates are pushing them to update standards, arguing that outdated laws are unfairly making felons out of people who committed minor crimes, Axios reports. ​​An analysis by the police reform advocacy group Campaign Zero found that the felony threshold for larcenies like shoplifting can be as low as $200 in New Jersey or high as $2,500 in Texas and Wisconsin. New Jersey hasn't adjusted its felony theft threshold since 1978. New York's remains at $1,000 -- unchanged since 1986. New Mexico, one of the poorest states, has a threshold of only $500. "Because of inflation, $1 today is worth a lot less than $1 in the 1980s. And so a state (with a decades-old unchanged threshold) is then applying felony punishments to crimes of lesser and lesser significance," said Jake Horowitz of Pew Charitable Trusts.

The National Retail Federation, which has been sending out alarms about jumps in shoplifting, has blamed increased felony theft thresholds for reported retail crime surges. Organized retail crime costs retailers more than $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales on average. Pew examined crime trends in the 30 states that raised their felony theft thresholds between 2000 and 2012 and found that raising the felony theft threshold had no impact on overall property crime or larceny rates. Since 2000, more than two dozen states have raised the value of stolen money or goods allowing prosecutors to charge thefts as felonies, rather than misdemeanors.


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