De Los Santos Bill Highlighted at Press Conference to Address Theft and Violence at Retail Establishments

Albany, N.Y. – On Tuesday, March 21, the Collective Action to Protect Our Stores (CAPS) coalition held a press conference to address crime and safety in retail establishments. CAPS members and advocates joined with elected officials at the Million Dollar Staircase in the New York State Capitol Building, in support of legislative initiatives, including three bills that were particularly highlighted, to address theft and violence against retailers. Sponsoring one of these bills is Assembly Member Manny De Los Santos of District 72, who said, “Violence against retail workers is an epidemic.” His bill, the Retail Workers Protection Act (A5260A), sponsored in the Senate by Senator Scarcella-Spanton (S5479), would add retail workers to the list of currently protected workers, including nurses and police officers, for example. If this bill passes, assaulting a retail worker would be a Class D Felony offense. “Retail workers are essential workers,” said Assembly Member De Los Santos in defense of the bill, which has since won many co-sponsors, 25 of whom are listed at the time of this writing.

Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton of District 23 said, “With shoplifting and theft on the rise, we need to deter crime and ensure that our retail workers are protected when they clock into work. My legislation with AM De Los Santos to make assault of a retail worker a class D felony will improve the safety of retail workers and patrons statewide, and I will always prioritize public safety.” Reflecting on the presser, Nelson Eusabio from CAPS said, “We want to thank all our legislative champions who stood up for us in Albany. We have a chance to enact real change in New York that will protect workers and let consumers shop in peace. These are basic, common sense pieces of legislation and we are happy that legislators in Albany hear us loud and clear.”

The two other bills highlighted were S1644 Hoylman-Sigal/A1504 Rosenthal to create the offense of fostering the sale of stolen goods, and S4448 Thomas/A4121 Dinowitz which would raise a subsequent offense to grand larceny in the fourth degree. Senator Kevin Thomas, District 6, said, “Retail stores are experiencing shoplifting at an alarming rate. We must take steps to deter criminals from shoplifting and raise consumer confidence. My bill would increase charges for repeat offenders to grand larceny when the person has been previously convicted of petit larceny within the last two years. I believe this common-sense change to our penal law will help protect retail businesses and create a safe environment for their customers.” Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, District 81, said, “When the mom and pop stores in our neighborhoods are the victims of retail theft from repeat offenders, our entire community suffers.Even one individual who repeatedly steals from a store is one too many because the damage done is incalculable.Increasing the penalty for stealing property when the individual has been convicted of petit larceny within the last two years will limit the harm shop owners will face.”

The following legislators also shared their thoughts (listed in alphabetical order of surname):

Assembly Member George Alvarez, District 78 said, “To protect our small businesses is an obligation to the overall well-being of our communities, not only because of the important work they do, but because they are the foundation of our growing economy. The safety of our retailers and their customers is a huge priority in our neighborhoods, and I am very proud to co-sponsor a bill that will protect New Yorkers and keep our businesses thriving.”

Assembly Member Patrick Burke, District 142 said, “I want to commend Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos for his leadership in prioritizing the safety of retail workers. This crucial workforce must be afforded the same protections as other essential workers, and I am proud to co-sponsor A5260.”

Assembly Member Marianne Buttenschon, District 119, speaking on A5260 said, “No one should have to go to work and not feel safe. This is a measure that is important to ensuring the workplace is safe for all.”

Assembly Member Brian Cunningham, District 43 said, “An assault on our small grocers and bodegas is an assault on our communities. The rise in violent incidents and murders in our bodegas, where our owners and operators are simply trying to make a decent living providing necessary products and services, is completely unacceptable. We as legislators must do our part to help protect our small business owners. I am proud to co-sponsor Assembly Member De Los Santos's legislation to ensure retail employees and owners receive the same protections as other essential workers.”

Assembly Member Taylor Darling, District 18, said, “Retail workers need to be protected against the theft and violence that they have been facing. They are losing revenue as well as a sense of safety in their own workplace. Repeat offenders need to be held accountable for the negative impact they have had on these retail workers and their lives. Many complaints have gone unaddressed because of a lack of enforcement on this issue. People need to feel safe at work and people need to feel safe going to the store to buy groceries. I stand with these workers to enact retail establishment protections.”

Assembly Member Charles Fall, District 61 said, “Our retail workers have been essential before the pandemic and remain essential after. These workers go to work every day to feed their families and make sure that New York’s five boroughs have the goods and services they need. Time and time again, we are seeing retail workers in danger as they are violently attacked, and their stores are robbed. I’m happy to co-sponsor Bill A05260, which elevates an assault on a retail worker to a class D felony of assault in the second degree. Supermarkets, Mom and Pop shops; they are the backbone to our community, giving our residents necessities sometimes 24hrs a day. We owe it to them to do everything in our legislative power to make sure they are protected.”

Assembly Member John T. McDonald III, RPh, District 108 said, “As a former business owner for over 30 years, I am well aware of the issues in the retail community. Safety of staff and customers are critical, and these bills work to reinforce those priorities and I am pleased to stand in support of this effort.”

Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, District 38 said, “I am proud to co-sponsor A5260. Since the pandemic, violent crimes in convenience stores have increased 42%. The small business owners and their employees, many of them immigrants, are entitled to safety and respect. Their shops are often the first place we go for basic necessities any time of day. They are essential workers, and they deserve the same protection as other essential workers such as nurses, firefighters, sanitation workers, and paramedics.”

Assembly Member Nader Sayegh, District 90 said, “New York State needs to approve the Protect Our Retail Stores and Workers Legislation to hold individuals, especially repeat offenders, accountable for their crimes. I call upon my Assembly and State Senate colleagues to pass the Protect Our Stores Legislation and send it to the Governor for approval.”

Assembly Member Yudelka Tapia, District 86 said, “I want to thank Assemblyman Manny De Los Santos, along with the rest of our colleagues. Now is the time to pass legislation to protect small businesses and retail workers. I recognize that these coalitions accompanied with legislation display the best way to deter physical assault against these essential workers. I am proud of all our efforts to support these selfless retail workers, and I look forward to taking the feedback we have gathered to pass common sense legislation.”

Assembly Member David Weprin, District 24 said of bill A5260, “We have seen a concerning rise in acts of violence perpetrated against retail workers across New York. This is absolutely unacceptable! Retail workers are professionals who interact with the public day-in and day-out, and they deserve additional protections in the law. I'm proud to be a prime co-sponsor on this critical bill to ensure the safety and well-being of retail workers”

Assembly Member Jaime Williams, District 59 said, “It's about time we take these measures to ensure the safety of our retail workers. No one should have to be working in fear!”