Across New York, retail stores like Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany are dealing with theft issues not only impacting business owners, but the safety and quality of life of staff and shoppers.
Co-op CFO Todd Jackson said the state needs to help.
"We need help. This stuff, really, it threatens our staff and it takes away what we can do for the community," Jackson said.
According to The Retail Council, retail organized crime is a $100 billion annual operation, and at $4.4 billion, New York is one of the top jurisdictions impacted. State Assemblyman John McDonald sponsored a bill passed last session to create a task force examining the issue.
"We've got a problem folks. These individuals are bold. They're brazen and yes, it's criminal," McDonald said.
The 15-member panel would include appointments from the governor, state Legislature and the attorney general and include representation for stores, employees and law enforcement. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said it's an issue that connects to the economy, addiction and bail reform.
Apple said one individual there has been arrested more than 25 times this year for larceny.
"The problem is that we have people who are afraid to do business locally. We've got people that are afraid to go into those businesses. We've got people that are afraid to be employed by those businesses. We've got all kinds of crap locked up in those businesses," he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has until the end of the year to sign the bill. She hasn't indicated whether she intends to yet but at a law enforcement conference Thursday morning said dealing with the theft is priority.
She said bail changes last year did give judges more flexibility to hold repeat offenders.
"If people walk into a store and they see someone sweeping the shelves feeling like they can get away with it, they need to know we've changed the laws," Hochul said.
McDonald said the task force would work to get firm statistics, look at how stores deal with theft and how law enforcement can better coordinate across jurisdictions.
"My hope and I think the hope of many is that Gov. Hochul will look favorably upon this legislation, sign this into law during this busy holiday season so we can help address what I think is an atrocity."