Florida Gov. DeSantis Slams New York, California Policies Fueling Retail Theft in Announcing New State Crackdown

On Tuesday, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis slammed New York, California, and “many leftist jurisdictions” he claims “are enacting policies that ignore retail theft or even encourage it” while announcing new legislation in the Sunshine State that further cracks down on porch piracy and retail theft in the state.

“Those policies are dead on arrival in Florida. We catch criminals and prosecute them,” wrote DeSantis on X after a news conference he hosted at a Stuart, Florida, Walgreens, where he signed legislation known as HB 549. The new legislation raises penalties for porch piracy, retail theft, and using social media to incite looting.

“You look at a place like California, they passed Proposition 47 that allows people that commit retail theft to be charged with misdemeanor, even if it had traditionally been a felony. That means they get numerous retail theft offenses. Did they get held accountable? No, they get a slap on the wrist,” said DeSantis. 

“You look at New York; they eliminated cash bail for many offenses, including offenses for retail theft, so that now you can only get a felony theft charge if you steal more than $1,000 worth of merchandise; anything less, you get a desk appearance ticket that has caused people to loot stores and do $999 worth of looting. And then they leave knowing that they’re not going to be held accountable,” he continued.

The governor said the U.S. experienced $112 billion in retail theft in 2022 alone, including $4 billion in New York that year.

DeSantis said shoplifting has increased by 63% in New York City, 24% in San Francisco, and 81% in Los Angeles.

“Now, that has an impact on you as a consumer because the prices will go up to reflect those stolen goods. That’s just basic business,” said DeSantis. “It also just has a demoralizing effect on people. When you go in and you want to buy toothpaste, it’s like Fort Knox because it’s all under lock and key for basic items. You got to get a clerk to come and open it and all this stuff just to do basic shopping. That is not something that is good for quality of life. And then, of course, if you can have people come in and just steal retail and walk out, that creates a contempt for the rule of law that has a spillover effect in areas far beyond retail theft.”

He explained that, in comparison, Florida has seen a 30% decrease in shoplifting since Gov. DeSantis first took office.

“Nationwide, 88% of retailers have reported that shoplifters are more aggressive and violent now compared to just a few years ago, 49%. So, they have observed much more violent and aggressive behavior. Why? Because I think these people come in and they have a sense of entitlement that they can take what they want and that they’re not going to be held accountable,” explained DeSantis.

“And so, I think the behavior has reflected that. You see stores closing down in different parts of the United States, whether that’s Target closing nine stores in Portland and Seattle, Walmart closing stores in Chicago, Nordstrom closing stores in San Francisco. That is a direct result of the lack of commitment to the rule of law and holding criminals accountable,” DeSantis continued.

The new legislation institutes a third-degree felony — which is punishable by up to five years in prison if criminals — five or more individuals — commit retail theft.

It additionally enforces a second-degree felony, punishable by as many as 15 years in prison, if criminals with five or more individuals commit retail theft and use social media to attempt to solicit others to participate.

The committing of retail theft with two or more previous convictions or a firearm constitutes a charge of first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

The law also grants authorities the ability to charge a felony for multiple retail thefts occurring within 120 days, an increase from 30 days. Additionally, HB 549 increases the punishments for porch piracy. Property theft in an amount lower than $40 is a first-degree misdemeanor. A subsequent violation is a third-degree felony, and property theft valued at $40 or higher is a third-degree felony.