NJ lawmakers would make flash mob shoplifters face jail time
New legislation introduced by two New Jersey senators would target flash mob shoplifters who ransack stores, destroy small businesses, and grab anything they want.
“We’re seeing more and more instances where flash mobs of shoplifters have run through clothing stores, pharmacies, and even a 7-Eleven recently, where they smash and grab anything that isn’t bolted down,” said state Sen. Jon Bramnick, R-Union, and co-sponsor of the bill.
In years past, shoplifters were considered to be unruly kids who acted out, Bramnick said. But flash mob shoplifters are gangs who go into retail stores, ransack the stores, steal things, and they do this openly and notoriously where they basically don’t get into any trouble.
There is a shoplifting statute in New Jersey. But Bramnick said in this state, shoplifting is considered a petty disorderly offense. The person will get a small fine and maybe a slap on the wrist.
“But these gangs that go into stores are basically saying to society, guess what? We are rejecting civilized behavior. We’re going to do what we want and also, they don’t fear the result,” Bramnick said.
So, the bill created by Bramnick and state Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris would make flash mob shoplifting a third-degree crime with a minimum, mandatory jail term of one year with no parole, and no excuses.
Bramnick said maybe if these flash mob gangs who shoplift do a year in jail, they’ll think twice before destroying someone’s property.
The senators said the organized looting of stores seems to be happening mostly in New York City and California as a result of the state’s decision not to prosecute most shoplifting crimes in recent years.
But Bramnick said he and Bucco wanted to get ahead of the curve and create this legislation before flash mob shoplifting showed up in New Jersey if it hasn’t trickled in already.
“We’re seeing a combination of organized criminal gangs and flash mobs planned on social media that have the ability to destroy a business in a matter of minutes,” said Bucco.
With videos of these incidents widespread on Tik Tok and social media, New Jersey won’t be safe unless people know they’ll face real jail time for participating, he added.
Videos of such incidents have led to copycat crimes. In New York City, for example, groups of looters brazenly entered stores with duffel bags and even suitcases that they fill with stolen goods before leaving.
Bramnick promises to work with the retail industry to try and put a chilling effect on people who think they can attack civilization without regard to people’s rights.
“It’s hard for the very expensive boutique stores. But can you imagine somebody puts their life into it, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and people completely disregard all that work? Well, now spend a year in jail and we’ll talk about it after that,” Bramnick said.
The bill next goes to a committee and Bramnick said he hopes it moves quickly through Trenton.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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