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Arizona Senate approves bill allowing for citizen's arrests in all retail theft cases

Justine Wadsack
Justine Wadsack in a Senate committee meeting at the Arizona State Capitol on Feb. 15, 2023

The Arizona Senate has passed a bill that would let anyone make a citizen’s arrest if they witness a shoplifting, regardless of the value of what’s stolen.

Citizen arrests are currently allowed in felony theft cases, where the value is more than $2,000.

SB 1613, approved by the Senate this week on a 16-14 party-line vote, would include not just the store owner or employee but any "private person.''

Pima County Attorney Laura Conover says the bill proposed by state Sen. Justine Wadsack (R-Tucson) could put people’s safety and lives at risk.

"The police chief and myself and our community outreach teams have no doubt spent hundreds, if not maybe a thousand hours, out in the community counseling against exactly this. We want our small business owners, we want the employees, we want customers to be safe," Conover said.

Conover said prosecutions are taking place. And she said they don't require anyone to try to detain a shoplifter.

"We have an extremely high charge rate of ... organized retail theft because 90% of this is on camera,'' she said.

The bill now goes to the House.

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.