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Ron DeSantis looks at blue states and does the opposite
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Ron DeSantis looks at blue states and does the opposite

With property crime riding high in California and New York, Florida looks to crack down on retail theft and porch piracy.

One of the hallmarks of our time is the rise of “anarcho-tyranny”: centralized government control of our lives alongside rampant anarchy and lawlessness in the streets. Retail theft, porch piracy, street takeovers, and flash mobs are becoming commonplace. So even as our government cracks down on political opponents who protest election results or pray in front of abortion clinics, theft and street crimes have essentially been legalized in large swaths of urban America.

Florida is having none of that.

It turns out that criminals respond to incentives and distinctives.

Governor Ron DeSantis is on a mission not only to make Florida a free state but also to ensure that Floridians enjoy ordered liberty without the anarchy. That’s something of a departure from the current trend.

DeSantis signed anti-rioting legislation in 2021 and recently a bill to outlaw “public camping” on city streets, sidewalks, and in parks to stem the tide of vagrancy. On Tuesday, he announced new legislation to ensure the trend of flash theft mobs and porch piracy are kept out of Florida as well.

“Part of it is to make sure that the penalties are severe enough to deter people from doing this in the future,” the governor told reporters at an event in Cape Coral. “Right now, we have a situation in Florida where you only get a felony if you do five different retail thefts within a five-day period. … If you [steal] and get caught, you go back to the well again. They should drop the hammer on you!”

Cracking down on theft

HB 549 by Rep. Bob Rommel (R) would make repeat retail theft a third-degree felony and a first-degree felony for anyone who commits the crime with a firearm or who already had two prior retail theft convictions.

To dissuade flash mobs, the bill would make it a second-degree felony to recruit others into the crime through social media. It would also make it a third-degree felony even for a first offender if his action included five or more people stealing together.

Any retail theft committed against a senior, of which there are obviously many in Florida, would result in a charge of first-degree aggravated retail theft.

Finally, the bill would require any retail criminal to pay restitution for any merchandise stolen or property damaged.

To deter the growing trend of porch piracy, Rommel’s bill would make it a third-degree felony to steal property valued at more than $40 and a second-degree felony to steal property valued at more than $100 or for anyone who steals property from more than 20 dwellings.

Senator Jay Trumbull is sponsoring a companion bill in the state Senate.

Florida is the nation’s third-largest state with several urban areas, so naturally DeSantis has been vigilant to guard against the social deterioration plaguing other cities.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed is that ... you go into, like, a pharmacy and the toothpaste is behind lock and key,” DeSantis said. “It’s almost like Fort Knox, some of these places, just for normal items.” He called out cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York that have “effectively enacted policies that legalize shoplifting.”

California set the trend

According to a 2020 survey of 61 retailers by the National Retail Federation, organized retail theft skyrocketed by nearly 60% since 2015 and cost stores an average of $719,548 per $1 billion dollars in sales.

What changed around that time? California voters in 2014 passed Proposition 47, which turned many felonies — including property crimes — into misdemeanors. The state also changed sentencing rules and increased early releases. As a result, violent crime in the Golden State rose 13%, and burglary, larceny, and auto theft skyrocketed in 2015 and 2016. This is why we are seeing “smash and grab” flash mobs in California more than anywhere else.

As California goes, so goes the nation. Unfortunately, laws loosening penalties on theft are not limited to the left but have been part and parcel of the Koch-backed “criminal justice reform” agenda.

Oklahoma politicians in 2016 went the way of California and passed State Question 780, which downgraded drug and theft crimes across the board. In 2018, Sooner State lawmakers made those changes retroactive, which led to the single-largest prison release in a single day, when 462 felons walked out the door on November 4, 2019.

Before long, Oklahoma began experiencing some of California’s most notorious trends. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office in 2019 announced a new task force to combat the growing burglary trend and placed the blame squarely on the new laws.

“Since the threshold of certain crimes changed some felonies to misdemeanors back in 2017, we have seen a steady increase of thefts in Oklahoma County,” wrote the sheriff’s office in a Facebook post. Little has changed. Criminals now know to steal less than $1,000 in merchandise each time and then sell the items on the black market before going back for more.

It turns out that criminals respond to incentives and distinctives.

The cost of 'reform'

Liberals like to suggest property crimes are not as serious as crimes of violence, but they are devastating to quality of life. Retailers lost $112 billion in theft in 2022, which is passed down to an already tapped-out consumer. Also, 44 million Americans have had a package stolen in the last three months, according to Security.org, with the average value of the stolen items hovering around $50. That’s tough for so many people treading water with inflation.

Without an effort to get tougher rather than weaker on theft, stores are going to continue to close because workers are too scared to come to work and consumers are too afraid to shop. Then, of course, as more people avoid stores and opt for online purchases, they’re confronted with porch piracy. It’s a direct result of a decade’s worth of “criminal justice reform.”

Thankfully, Florida’s governor and attorney general are having none of it. The quality of life of our parents may be becoming a luxury good in this country, but we can at least laud the effort to shore up law and order in the Sunshine State.

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Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz

Blaze Podcast Host

Daniel Horowitz is the host of “Conservative Review with Daniel Horowitz” and a senior editor for Blaze News. He writes on the most decisive battleground issues of our times, including the theft of American sovereignty through illegal immigration, theft of American liberty through tyranny, and theft of American law and order through criminal justice “reform.”
@RMConservative →