Ocean City Prosecutor Declares War on Shoplifters
In Ocean City, New Jersey theft is a big problem on the Boardwalk said Capt. Steven Ang of the Ocean City Police Department. The Municipal Court, business owners and police department have adopted a zero tolerance policy to shoplifting and do not allow offenders to plead to a lesser charge.
Ocean City prides itself on being a safe place relatively free of violent crime with shoplifting being the city’s most common offense. There has been a decline in the number of violations, dropping from 131 in 2010 to 53 in 2013. Capt. Ang attributes this decline to the police meeting annually with the business owners to address shoplifting, which remains their #1 concern.
In the past, the prosecutor, Donald Charles, would occasionally downgrade shoplifting charges to a municipal ordinance. However, he no longer does that. Mr. Charles said that surveillance videotaping has eliminated the need to take some cases to court because “it is hard to deny you did it when that’s you on camera.” He said that the zero tolerance policy discourages people and that word gets out on the street “You don’t want to shoplift in Ocean City.”
Shoplifting in New Jersey is committed when a person takes or conceals merchandise, alters or removes price tags, transfers merchandise to another container, causes merchandise to “under-ring,” or removes a shopping cart from a store, with the intention of depriving the merchant. A person caught concealing merchandise can be presumed to have intended to take it without paying for it. The charge and the potential penalty are dependent on the value of the goods that were supposedly taken during the shoplifting. The following chart shows what level of theft charge, the classification, and the potential penalties.
|2nd Degree||full retail value of $75,000 or more||imprisonment of 5-10 years||fine up to $150,000|
|3rd Degree||full retail value of $500 but less than $75,000||Imprisonment of 3-5 years||fine up to $15,000|
|4th Degree||full retail value of between $200 and $500||Imprisonment up to 18 months||fine up to $10,000|
|Disorderly Persons Offense||full retail value of under $200||imprisonment up to 6 months||fine up to $1,000|
Additional mandatory penalties include:
- for a first offense, at least 10 days of community service
- for a second offense, at least 15 days of community service
- for a third or subsequent offense, up to 25 days of community service AND imprisonment for no less than 90 days