Hochul unpacks details of major effort to combat retail theft — including tougher penalties and tax credits

NYS Gov. Hochul at a desk with American flag behind her
Gov. Kathy Hochul
Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul rolled out the details Wednesday of a $40 million package filled with sweeping measures, including retail-focused anti-theft teams for police, to combat rising retail theft across the state. 

The legislation included in the recently-enacted state budget features more penalties for anyone who assaults retail workers, as well as a $5 million tax credit to help small business owners invest in security for their shops, such as through new security cameras or devices.

“We’re going to give peace of mind to shop owners,” Hochul said during a press conference announcing the plan. 

Hochul’s focus on organized retail theft comes as crime data showed a significant spike in these crimes over the past six years. For example, larceny offenses in New York City spiked by 51% between 2017 and 2023. Robberies, grand larceny and petit larceny in the city are up by 86% during that same time period.

Approximately $40.2 million will go to retail theft teams within state police, district attorney offices and local law enforcement, including 100 NYS Police personnel dedicated to fighting organized retail theft. 

“I promised the retail workers and our small business owners that I would protect them  and we are doing just that,” Hochul said. “Here in New York, we are standing up to organized retail theft, backing our businesses and their workers with the full force of the law, and restoring that sense of security and peace of mind so they can focus on what they do best.”

New penalties for assaulting a retail worker

The new laws mean that anyone who assaults a retail worker will face increased penalties, elevating the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. Prosecutors will also be allowed to combine the value of stolen goods when they file larceny charges. 

According to Hochul, the budget will now let retail goods taken from different stores to be aggregated for the purposes of reaching a higher larceny threshold when stolen under the same criminal scheme.

“No one was able to add up the totality of stolen goods from different places. So we made sure that you can add that up and have it go toward the charges,” Hochul said. 

Criminals in New York can forget about selling stolen goods online, too. The plan will now make it illegal to foster the sale of stolen items. A person will be found guilty if they use any website or physical location to sell stolen goods, Hochul said.

State Senator Brad Holyman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) said shoplifting and organized retail theft have “plagued countless small businesses” across NYC.

“While penalties previously existed for possessing stolen goods, until now there was no specific law that targeted e-fencing, or reselling stolen items online, which has increased by nearly 60% since 2015,” Hoylman-Sigal said. “It’s been estimated that criminal enterprises are selling over $500 billion in stolen or counterfeit products through online marketplaces like Amazon, Craigslist, eBay and Facebook Marketplace, with little to no consequences.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said the new legislation will allow his office to build on existing anti-theft programs. 

“The protections that were enacted today send a united and clear message that our businesses, and hardworking New Yorkers serving our communities, must operate in safety and without fear of lawlessness,” Gonzalez said.