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New bill hopes to address organized retail theft in Arizona; critics call it too broad

A bill introduced in the Arizona Legislature would enhance the penalty against those who engage in multiple incidents of organized retail theft.

House Bill 2435 would allow judges to sentence someone who has a record of at least two prior convictions to 4.5 years in state prison, up from 2.5 years.

Republican Rep. Alexander Kolodin says it is necessary in order to address the economic and social harm organized theft is causing. 

“I’ve gone into stores: ‘oh, we don’t sell that anymore,’ ‘why don’t you sell that anymore,’ ‘well because people are stealing it too much.’ Or the prices go up because of it and it puts pressure on hardworking families and makes them in an even more precarious situation," Kolodin said. 

But opposing Democrats like Rep. Analise Ortiz, think the bill doesn’t take into account the non-organized criminal who robs multiple stores. 

“This is too broad, it doesn’t address the underlying needs that people have in our communities to take care of themselves, to be able to pay their rent, to be able to get by and not be taking these desperate measures," Ortiz said.

The legislation passed one House committee and is awaiting a hearing in front of another one.

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Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.