Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul is not done talking about crime

The governor highlighted her proposals to curb retail theft on Wednesday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, and Queens DA Melinda Katz, left.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, and Queens DA Melinda Katz, left. Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul is putting an iron fist on retail theft. At a press conference today, Hochul discussed her plan to tackle growing numbers of larceny in the city, saying she wants to tackle it like she has tackled gun violence, which has decreased in recent years. According to the governor, larceny offenses were up 51% in New York City from 2017 to 2023.

“We're not talking about, you know, a kid who makes a mistake one time. We are not criminalizing poverty here,” Hochul said. “We really are focused on what has become a sophisticated organized retail operation, the smash and grab efforts. They go in and swipe everything off the shelves.”

Crime has already emerged as a Republican talking point during this election year. Last year, Hochul spent a great deal of her political capital to roll back bail reforms. This year, she’s focusing on retail theft. Hochul’s budget agenda for the 2025 fiscal year includes

  • Introducing legislation to create criminal penalties for the resale of stolen products and increase penalties for assaulting retail workers. 
  • $25.2 million in funding to deploy and create state police teams to build cases against organized retail crime rings.
  • Providing $10 million in funds to help district attorneys prosecute property crimes and build retail theft teams/task forces.
  • $5 million to aid local police combat retail theft. 
  • $5 million to help business owners offset store security costs and measures.

Both houses of the state Legislature will present counter budget proposals next month. The state budget is due in April.

In 2022, New York lost $4.4 billion in revenue as a result of theft and $176 million in sales tax dollars, the governor said. Retail Council of New York State President and CEO Melissa O’Connor, who attended the conference, said that those lost tax dollars could have been appropriated to other state-funded programs and services.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz thanked Hochul for changing bail laws last year. She said retail theft creates the impression that the city is unsafe. 

“I can tell you that crime is down. I can tell you that shootings are down. I can tell you that murders are down. But when you’ve just witnessed that at your local drugstore, crime is at 100%,” she said. Katz said in Queens, police are using so-called trespass affidavits to warn thieves not to return to a store after they are caught stealing. 

“This is a program that allows us to give people a second chance while still arresting for shoplifting, stealing or robbery or assault in that store,” Katz said.

Katz said that 318 businesses have registered for the initiative and that 329 people have been served with trespass affidavits. Out of 329 individuals, 22 people came back to the same store, she said. 

Apart from fighting retail theft, Hochul has been adamant that she will protect the safety of retail workers by creating penalties.  

“We have to protect these workers and send a message that there are consequences when you touch one of these individuals who's exposed who's out there providing a service for God's sakes.”