NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s a major problem costing businesses millions and inconveniencing shoppers. Lawmen and women, state leaders, and retailers met on Thursday to come up with ways to tackle organized retail crime.

Twenty-three different law enforcement agencies, and 30 different retailers including small businesses and big box stores, came together to learn more on how to hold shoplifters accountable. “We need judges to do their job when you all arrest those people,” said Rep. Marian Matthews (D- ABQ).

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During the conference put on by the New Mexico Organized Retail Crime Association, leaders said organized retail crime costs retailers billions of dollars a year while taking away jobs. The goal of Thursday’s event was to create partnerships with one another. “This is an opportunity to look at the retailers. The ones that are impacted. The ones that are impacted financially and what is it that we can do working together to really put a stop to that,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Office, Raul Bujanda.

In 2022, the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce launched a retail crime criminal intel database making it easier for retailers and law enforcement to track crime data together. “We’ve built a free online platform for retailers and law enforcement to upload and share information so that they can better build cases under the new statute,” said President of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, Rob Black.

At the last legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 234. It allows prosecutors to combine the value of merchandise stolen from retailers over the course of 90 days.

“Before, we weren’t able to connect those different incidents and they were all charged as misdemeanors now because of the new statute we can aggregate those together with our online data sharing,” said Black.

House Bill 234 makes it easier to pursue felony charges instead of misdemeanors. Prosecutors can charge up to a second-degree felony if criminals steal more than $20,000 worth of items.