Lawmakers considering changes to Alabama's shoplifting laws

WAAY 31 talked with small business owners about what's at stake for them if either of the two bills pass.

Posted: Apr 30, 2019 4:01 PM
Updated: Apr 30, 2019 5:08 PM

Lawmakers are considering changes to Alabama's shoplifting laws.

They're looking at dueling bills right now. One would significantly broaden the definition of shoplifting. Another would allow police to arrest suspects in the store before they walk outside.

WAAY 31 talked with some small business owners about what's at stake for them.

“It all happened in the fitting room," Denise McNeill said. "We were able to pull the footage, but she stole nearly $400 worth.”

Denise McNeill has been running Indigo's Boutique for five years. She says shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes.

“I did have one lady who pulled up in a Mercedez," McNeill said. "So, it’s people that you would not expect at all.”

McNeill told WAAY 31 any case of shoplifting is a big blow to her livelihood.

“It’s devastating to small business owners," she said. "This is my only income.”

And McNeill said there have been other cases.

“We literally stood at the door and we asked, ‘Would you like to pay for the pair of earrings that you slipped in your purse?’ And she simply stated, ‘I’ll put them back,’” McNeill said.

So, when McNeill heard Alabama lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow police to make arrests in store, she was thrilled, saying it would save her time and money.

Right now, the threshold for shoplifting in Alabama is $500. A separate bill would raise that nearly 400% to $2,500.

The bill's sponsor says it will help with prison overcrowding, but McNeill sees it hurting her business.

“If an individual knows that they can come in and get away with more items, and only receive the small punishment, why would they not?”

If that particular bill passes, McNeill says she’ll have to become more cautious, and make sure more eyes are on customers.

“I’m still in the development of my business and not taking a lot of money home, which means now I’ll take less money home, because I’m going to have to pay another employee," she said.

WAAY 31 reached out to the Alabama Retail Association for a comment. They told us they support the bill where shoplifting arrests can be made in store, but they fear raising the threshold will harm retailers.

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