Smash and grab robberies area already making headlines across the country, just a week into the holiday shopping season. In Memphis, 25 criminals smashed through the window at a high-end sneaker store. In Washington, a string of organized retail theft attacks included thieves driving stolen cars into storefronts. In Baltimore, eight stores were hit in one night. North Carolina had several incidents like those last Christmas, and lawmakers here said “enough.”

Starting December 1, 2022, a state law went into effect that increases the penalties for organized retail theft. It also increased the penalties for damage to property or assault during such a robbery. 

The bill passed the N.C. General Assembly over the summer to combat what the National Retail Federation says is a rise in overall shoplifting with organized retail crime jumping almost 60% since 2020. The crimes increase during the holidays, often as “smash and grab” attacks on retailers. Worse, the money made reselling those stolen goods often supports something more sinister, according to Andy Ellen, executive director of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association.

“These items are often being used to fund other unsavory activities like human trafficking or opioids,” he said. “It’s feeding into these other crimes.”

The new law creates a new Class F felony for a person who conspires with someone else to steal $50,000 or more in property from one or more retail stores over a 90-day period, “with the intent to sell that retail property for monetary or other gain, and who takes or causes that retail property to be placed in the control of a retail property fence or other person in exchange for consideration.”

Authorities could charge the same felony for someone who conspires with at least two other people “as an organizer, supervisor, financier, leader, or manager to engage for profit in a scheme or course of conduct to effectuate the transfer or sale of property stolen from a merchant.” It carries a potential prison sentence of 10 to 41 months.

If the amount stolen tops $100,000 over a 90-day period, the charge could jump to a Class C felony, which carries a sentence of 44 to 182 months in prison. Those sentenced at the upper end of the scale would spend more than 15 years behind bars.

Another piece of the law goes into effect on January 1, 2023, which regulates high-volume third-party sellers operating on online marketplaces. In the law, high-volume is determined to be $20,000 of gross revenue annually. Sellers at that level must provide a full name, phone number and physical address to the online marketplace or their seller’s account will be suspended.