Worthen Explores Organized Retail Theft in Interim Study
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Rep. Rande Worthen Phone: (405) 557-7398 OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, hosted an interim study Tuesday to learn about the effects of organized theft from retail stores. Interim Study H22-018, was hosted before the House Judiciary - Criminal Committee, which Worthen chairs. District 5 District Attorney Kyle Cabelka told the committee that since the minimum amount of property that had to be stolen for a charge to be considered a felony was increased from $500 to $1,000 in 2016, his district has seen a ""dramatic increase"" in petty larceny. Cabelka said petty larceny cases carry a $500 fine and a sentence of 30 days in jail. ""I believe because the punishment is so minimal, we continue to see it happen over and over and over again,"" he said. Cabelka said many defendants aim to keep the total cost of the items they're stealing under $1,000 so if they were caught, they'd face a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Detective Jason Miller with the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) said the OKCPD's Organized Retail Crime Unit was created in 2017 in response to a ""significant uptick"" in retail crime. He said the unit recovered over $2 million worth of property stolen from retailers and filed over 175 charges last year. Miller noted that people travel from out-of-state to commit retail theft because they consider the risk of being caught ""very light"" due to ""how lenient"" Oklahoma's law is. ""Organized retail theft is costing Oklahoma's business owners thousands of dollars, which drives the prices up for other consumers, a problem which touches all of us,"" Worthen said. ""When a punishment is so light that it's worth the risk of getting caught, it puts Oklahomans in danger and costs taxpayer dollars to pursue these cases. I hope that we will soon consider changes that will benefit our law enforcement officers and business owners as well."" Worthen said he is exploring legislation that could help address the increase in retail theft.