News and Tribune

Opinions

June 21, 2014

OUR OPINION: New law will help time match the crime

Are you thinking about stealing a candy bar, pencil or pack of cigarettes?

If so, it’s probably best to wait until July 1.

That’s because Indiana has finally wised up and made a long overdue change to how it classifies certain theft offenses.

For years, someone caught shoplifting a pack of gum has potentially faced the same charge as a person who stole a car. Indiana classified those crimes as class D felonies, punishable by up to three years in prison.

Starting July 1, a provision in Indiana law drops felony theft to a misdemeanor if the stolen goods are valued at less than $750.

It’s about time that change was made to the amount of time someone charged with relatively minor theft can do in jail. Correctional facilities are already overcrowded, and it makes little sense to add to that by handing down jail setnences to people committing minor thefts. Probation is a better option.

This week, retailers announced their displeasure with the change, unhappy with the $750 threshold which will take effect July 1.

“We’ve got a huge problem with that,” Grant Monahan of the Indiana Retail Council told Maureen Hayden, Indiana Statehouse reporter, for a story published this week in the News and Tribune.

We can understand Monahan’s stance. His job is to look out for the interests of his membership — Hoosier retailers.

Stealing $749 out of someone’s wallet or purse is significant, as is stealing the same amount of jewelry from a store or taking an iPad or iPhone from a retailer.

It’s something the Indiana General Assembly should look at when it convenes in January, and we’d support a lower limit to trigger a felony charge — perhaps $100 or $200. The state could even look at establishing several theft levels based on the value of the items stolen.

What legislators should not do is repeal the new law, because the change to the criminal code was needed.

It’s wrong — and illegal — to steal, but there is a big difference between boosting a car and shoplifting a loaf of bread.

We think that’s something everyone can agree on. If a crime is committed, the state should do the best job it can in making the punishment fit that crime, and this change to the criminal code was a step in that direction for Indiana.

— The News and Tribune editorial board is comprised of Publisher Bill Hanson, Editor Shea Van Hoy, Assistant Editor Chris Morris and Assistant Editor Jason Thomas. Responses can be sent to shea.vanhoy@newsandtribune.com

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