New York business owners torch Assembly Speaker Heastie for refusing to back stronger penalties for violent shoplifters

New York business owners are fed up with state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) after he refused last week to back Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to strengthen penalties for violent shoplifters, the New York Post reported.

In an effort to curb rampant theft, Hochul’s budget proposal called for increased sentences for shoplifters who assault retail workers. Heastie rejected the plan, claiming that it would not be effective at preventing retail theft, Blaze News previously reported.

“All the other times that we’ve raised penalties on different classes of people, that hasn’t stopped assaults. We still need to get to the root issues of what’s going on. We’d be open to talking about the organized crime rings that people have, but I just don’t believe raising penalties is ever a deterrent on crime,” Heastie stated last week. “You can stop anybody in the street and ask them what is the penalty for assaulting anybody, and they probably won’t be able to give you an answer.”

“I don’t want to make it sound like we’re not concerned about stemming what’s happened to retail workers,” he continued. “We care very deeply about that. We just have other ideas of how to get there.”

Heastie’s refusal to implement tougher jail sentences for violent shoplifters ignited outrage among New York City business owners battling the retail theft crisis.

Nelson Eusebio, who heads the National Supermarket Association and Coalition to Save our Supermarkets, told the Post, “How do you deter crime except by penalty?”

“Our workers are on the front line dealing with shoplifters and criminals,” Eusebio added. “It’s open season on retail workers in the city.”

A CVS retail worker explained to the news outlet that the thieves were “not taking one or two” items but “taking the whole shelf.”

“Nobody wants to deal with it,” the employee stated, noting that even “low-price products” are being locked up.

“Now the items get locked up, and the people don’t,” the worker added.

Kenneth Giddon, co-owner of Rothman’s New York in Union Square, told the Post on Monday that a violent flash mob targeted his clothing store twice over a three-week period in December 2021. He called Heastie’s stance on increased penalties “ridiculous.”

“I’d be glad to talk to him so he can learn what it’s like firsthand dealing with these problems and getting the same people who come back over and over and over again to rob us,” Giddon told the news outlet. “He’s completely out of touch.”

“We’ve had employees punched during shoplifting instances,” he added. “Retail jobs are important for the economy, but why should people work in a dangerous situation and not be protected?”

“Common sense says that stiffer penalties deter crime,” Giddon continued. “People believe now that they can shoplift and not be punished for it, and that is really, really bad for our society. So what’s the next crime that you’re not going to be punished for?”

New York retailers lost approximately $4.4 billion in 2022 due to rampant shoplifting and organized retail theft rings.

Former Governor David Paterson (D) told WABC that he was “kind of surprised” Heastie did not support Hochul’s plan to boost criminal sentencing.

“These are people who are not high wage earners. Most of them are not unionized. … When people come in to rob the stores … that there should be any leniency for this type of thing, I really don’t understand that,” Paterson said. “People like myself who have always been advocates for a fair trial for people — not let the deck get stacked against them as it used to be in the past — are having to recognize that there’s going to have to be a greater sense of punishment than there is right now.”

Heastie did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.

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