Revised shoplifting bill proposes stricter punishments

Updated: Jan. 10, 2018 at 9:49 PM CST
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D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - For three years, State Representative Randall Patterson has been working with south Mississippi police departments to come up with a bill to deter shoplifters.

He introduced a bill last year that made it past the house, but failed in the senate.

Patterson says he hopes this year will be different with the support of Senator Mike Seymour.

"It's just costing us a bunch of money in our small business arena, even the bigger retailers too," said Seymour.

That cost, according to Patterson, could be into the billions nationwide.

Several retailers at the promenade in D'Iberville say shoplifting costs their stores thousands every year. They say that it's usually the consumers who pay the price for those crimes.

That's something shopper Rhonda Gage isn't OK with.

"It's not fair to us who are just average consumers out shopping for our families to have to pay higher prices because of somebody else's mistake or wrong doing," Gage said.

Seymour believes the bill adds enough punishment to deter most people from stealing.

"It has different phases," he said. "Most of them deal with just the amount between a felony and a misdemeanor."

In the house version of the bill, first and second offenses would be misdemeanors punished by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

A third offense would be considered a felony with a $1,000 fine and possibly three years behind bars. The bill also says any offense with more than $500 in merchandise would be considered an automatic felony offense.

James Harris of Gautier, believes it will have some effect, but doesn't think it will do what law makers are hoping.

"I think it'll knock down the offenses quite a bit but, at the end of the day, the people that are shoplifting will still shoplift," said Harris.

Patterson and Seymour both know it will take some work in committee, but hope to see the bill pass this session.

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