NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A state lawmaker is pushing bills to address the recent rise in shoplifting. Representative Bill Rehm, a Republican from Albuquerque, has joined four colleagues in sponsoring House Bill (HB) 55.

HB 55 would create a new criminal charge for organized retail theft.

If approved, the charge would target shoplifting rings that hit stores on two or more occasions. It would also change the severity of the charges based on the dollar amount stolen from stores over an entire year, instead of on a case-by-case basis.

“Once we rack it up to a felony, then we have more power to go ahead and do something with these individuals,” said Rep. Rehm.

Rehm introduced the bill during last year’s session, but it did not make the list of the governor’s priorities.

Rehm said it’s getting support in the Capitol this session, including from the governor.

Representative Rehm and fellow Republican Randall Pettigrew have also introduced HB 57. It’s a bill that would give retailers immunity from lawsuits when they use “reasonable force” to detain a suspected shoplifter until police arrive.

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Rehm said state law currently allows stores to detain shoplifters, but many times suspects sue, claiming they were injured while they were held. This would protect retailers from those tort claims.

If the state doesn’t crack down on shoplifting, Rehm fears retailers may try to leave the state.

The Organized Retail Theft Bill is expected to go before a House Committee Friday.

The Retailer Tort Immunity Bill is scheduled to be heard in committee later this month.