MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Thieves have recently been hitting popular retail stores in North Alabama in broad daylight, working in teams and raiding business after business.
Retailers in Alabama have expressed concerns that if state leaders don’t crack down harder on this crime it will get much worse.
Both lawmakers and retailers are now on high alert.
“We’re talking about sophisticated groups of criminals that are making a business and making a living stealing and reselling stolen items,” said Kristy Cornell of Home Depot.
Retail theft is rising even in smaller areas like Decatur where 10 thieves were recently charged for stealing from Walmart.
The reason it’s not a top priority to address, according to lawmakers, is that retail theft in Alabama is a small offense.
“We did not have the ability in Alabama to charge,” said Barry Matson of the Alabama District Attorneys Association.
Matson said because of the now cartel-level of crime, the state will adopt new laws for stiffer penalties. The official charge is now “organized retail crime.”
The bill marks a change in policy to the state’s criminal code involving simple merchandise theft.
“We’ve had cases where people have driven all down the eastern seaboard all the way from Maine down here to Alabama hitting every Target and every Walmart and every Walgreens,” Matson said. “We didn’t really have the ability to get those folks because we didn’t have this organized crime statue.”
The new legislation reportedly makes it easier for retailers to press charges with an upgrade from a misdemeanor to a Class B felony.
“We certainly support this legislation that would add more accountability and would add more transparency to these high-volume sellers that are selling on an online marketplace,” said Cornell.
Governor Kay Ivey signed the Retail Theft Crime Prevention Act into law on June 14.
Morgan County is hopeful to charge those Walmart thieves under this new law.