Recently a representative of QuikTrip went before the Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council with a warning not to let the pendulum of criminal justice reform swing too far in one direction. The council is working on reclassifying various criminal offenses into groupings. Each group would have a certain range of punishment. Under current law each individual offense has its own range of punishment.
The council was created in 2018 and consists of 22 members most of whom represent a range of law enforcement and judicial entities. According to the act that created the council, its recommendations “shall be intended to reduce or hold neutral the prison population.”
Given the makeup of the council, it’s safe to say there’s zero danger of it going too far with criminal justice reform. One wonders, then, why QuikTrip was brought in to testify that the company saw an increase in property crimes after the people voted in SQ 780 that raised the felony limit for theft from $500 to $1,000. If some members of the council have in mind finding a back-door method of effectively lowering the felony limit on small, nonviolent property crimes, it would be a mistake, and it would not be in keeping with its mandate.
QuikTrip says the company’s inventory loss in Oklahoma is four times higher than that of other states and warned that “there is a certain segment of society that is terrorizing merchants.” But, using OSBI statistics, Oklahoma Policy Institute points out that overall property theft reports in Oklahoma continued a downward trend after passage of SQ 780 three years ago and raised only slightly after passage of new liquor laws last year allowing alcohol in convenience stores. Certainly, theft of a bottle of wine adds up quicker than a fountain drink or bag of chips most people would get away with, and it’s likely more tempting to some customers. Importantly, OK Policy also reports that property theft reports in Texas continued a downward trend there when Texas raised its felony limit from $1,000 to $2,500.
QuikTrip is the best convenience store chain I’ve seen anywhere, by far. As a Tulsan, I’m in and out of their stores several times a day. I don’t want them to be victims of theft, and I don’t want to blame the victim for someone else’s crime. But as a customer myself, I’ve seen people walk out without paying. Given the design of many of their stores, especially the newer ones, with unobservable and unobserved doors in all directions, it’s easy to see why some people take advantage of the open invitation.
QuikTrip is run by very smart businesspeople. Perhaps they should employ better risk management practices and not rely on taxpayers to pay the actual and social costs of felony charges and imprisonment for petty thieves, obnoxious as they are. It’s correct there is a cohort of people who essentially stay alive by begging and petty theft. If society truly wants to provide room, board, and medical care for them, the criminal justice system is the least cost effective way to do it.