A pair of Bronx pols have launched themselves into the fight to protect victims of racial profiling at department stores by pushing a new bill that bans stores from continuing to seek penalties after an alleged shoplifter is proven innocent.
State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda’s new “Cessation of Collections” bill would protect alleged shoplifters the pols claim are still often subject to coughing up cash even after they are acquitted in court.
A lawyer loophole
Current New York state “general obligation” laws make alleged shoplifters liable to pay up to $500 in penalties on top of the retail price of the allegedly stolen merchandise.
An entire industry exists of third parties who hunt down the fines, which the alleged criminals are often bullied into agreeing to pay in order to escape detainment, Sepulveda said.
“ They are ferocious in collecting the penalties, and these people have been run through the mill already,” the freshman pol said.
Under the proposed bill, a new clause would be added to the state “general obligations” bylaw, section 11-105. The added subdivision would force the stores, or any third parties associated with the stores, to cease any attempt to collect fines or merchandise after an alleged shoplifter is proven innocent.
‘Shop and frisk’
The proposed law comes on the heels of massive racial profiling allegations at Barneys and Macy’s in Manhattan.
The “shop and frisk” brouhaha bubbled over in October, when a black college student from Queens alleged in a suit that he had been accused of shoplifting a $350 belt that he had rightfully purchased from the Madison Ave. Barneys.
Since then, more black shoppers have come forward to claim that the department stores detained them on suspicion of shoplifting before they were released without charges.
The new bill only affects alleged shoplifters who are charged with a crime. But the recent scandals at the high-profile stores made right now a prime time to introduce a bill protecting acquitted shoppers.
“It seems like a no-brainer for introduce this legislation,” Sepulveda said.
Diaz and Sepulveda held a rally in front of the Bronx Macy’s in Parkchester on Friday, Nov. 2 to drum up support to the proposed law.
“This legislation is intended to protect consumers – especially Black and Hispanic men and women who shop at Macy’s or elsewhere – and who are not guilty of any criminal activity,” Diaz said. “They do not deserve to be fined by the stores for crimes they did not commit.”