Alabama House Judiciary Committee

Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Fairhope, left, addresses the Alabama House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

(The Center Square) – The Alabama House Judiciary Committee amended and approved a bill on Wednesday that would create the crime of organized retail theft and impose penalties. 

The bill is now headed to the House floor. 

Senate Bill 206 is sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, and passed the Senate last Thursday unanimously. The bill defines organized retail theft as the pilferage of merchandise from a store and reselling it online or via other means. 

Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Fairhope, handled the bill in front of the committee. He said the amendment approved by the committee would deal with the committee's issues with the thresholds for the different felony degrees that he said could've led to "minor shoplifters" being charged with felonies.

One scenario Simpson discussed was a "smash and grab" type robbery where the value of the stolen merchandise was aggregated together, which would be covered in the bill. 

Organized retail theft would be a first degree felony if $2,500 worth of merchandise or more was stolen or if multiple items were taken during a 180-day period with a total value of $1,000 or the illegal heist of a firearm. 

Second degree retail theft would constitute at least $500 worth of merchandise stolen up to $2,500. 

According to the National Retail Federation, organized retail theft reached $94.5 billion in losses in 2021, which is an increase from $90.8 billion from 2020.

Regional Editor

Steve Wilson has been an award-winning writer and editor for nearly 20 years at newspapers in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi and is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and University of Alabama graduate.