SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) — Some lawmakers are looking to crack down on organized retail crime. Two bills that both deal with the shoplifting epidemic were heard in the same committee Friday.
One bill is from the Republican side of the aisle, while the other comes from the Democrats and is backed by the governor.
House Bill 55 is sponsored by Representative Bill Rehm and four other Republicans. House Bill 234 is sponsored by Democrat Representative Marian Matthews. Many people came to speak about both bills.
When asked how they would characterize the problem of organized retail crime in New Mexico, the president and CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Rob Black said, “Growing and severe. We have an ongoing epidemic of people going into stores, multiple times a day, stealing multiple times a day, and then selling that or trading those goods for drugs.”
Black came to speak as an expert witness in support of House Bill 234 but said: “I hope one of these two bills gets out of committee because it’s essential for our retail community and our customers. That’s just New Mexicans in general. That we provide our law enforcement the tools to tackle this problem.”
House Bill 234 adds a definition of what organized retail crime is, includes it under the Racketeering Act, and allows prosecutors to charge anyone involved with it—from possessing stolen merchandise to recruiting and organizing the thieves.
House Bill 55 was more straightforward: stacking separate shoplifting crimes together in a calendar year period to get steeper charges.
“I don’t think they work well together. They’re trying to address the same issue. It’ll be up to the committee to address what will be the best way they believe to tackle the issue of organized retail crime that’s happening in New Mexico,” Black responded after being asked if both bills could support one another.
House Bill 55 failed to get out of committee. House Bill 234 passed the committee unanimously on a nine-to-zero vote. It now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
In a poll released last week, the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce found that 40% of all New Mexicans said they’ve witnessed a shoplifter in action in the past year.