Organized retail theft is a very real problem. Yesterday the Oregon Supreme Court made it worse by elevating many otherwise class C and B felony shoplifting cases into Class A felony mobster prosecutions.
In 2007 the Oregon legislature created the seperate crime of Organized Retail Theft; making it a class B felony and thus more serious than routine theft which is normally (an expungeable) class C felony.Organized retail theft is simply defined as committing theft or thefts of merchandise of over $5,000.00 dollars within a 90 day period. It turns out that this stautue really wasn't necessary. That's because according to yesterday's decision by the Oregon Supremes most organized retail theft - even if not really all that organized - amounts to criminal racketeering - A class A felony. What's more, one needn't worry about what the stolen property was worth or how often or over what period it was taken. According to yesterday's decision if you commit theft with another person on more than one occasion you and your cohort now qualify as a racketeering enterprise subject to prosecution under Oregon's Rackeeter Influenced and Corrupt Organization (ORICO) Act. That's right...shoplifters are now treated in Oregon just like the Mafia.
This expansion is unfortunate, unnecessary and perhaps unconstitutional in its soon to be varied prosecutions. As noted, there are laws already on the books that deal with group criminal liability - we used to call these "conspiracies," and as noted above "organized" theft rings. Will all theft conspiracies and organized theft prosecutions be charged now as Mafioso-like racketeering organizations?
We think that much theft is driven by addiction, mental illness and sometimes simple economic necessity. Many who are convicted of theft, if given the right resources, can transcend the issues that led to the conviction(s) in the first place. Some eventually earn the ability to have such convictions set aside or expunged. Charging shoplifters with unexpungeable classs-A felonies will often be overkill.
In yesterday's case? 2 guys stealing shrimp, diapers and beer from Safeway on 3 occasions within 2 months - not enough to be charged with the lesser offense of organized retail theft mind you - were convicted of Racketeering...Unacceptable