(CBS) — The price to pay for shoplifting in Cook County has changed.
But as CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, some in law enforcement worry it could actually encourage thieves to break the law.READ MORE: Chicagoans React To President Biden' Plan To Tackle The City's Gun Probem
When caught on video, brazen shoplifting makes headlines, but a good number of these crimes are often committed by one-time offenders for minor amounts.
They end up with a felony record for life, and the paperwork bogs down the system.
“There will be a concerted effort to change policy, but changing culture takes time,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says.
In a letter circulated to law enforcement agencies, her office says it will not approve felony charges unless the stolen property is valued at more than $1,000.
That is despite a statewide felony retail theft threshold of $300.
“The concept of using your discretion in charging is nothing new,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller says when asked about Foxx’s policy.
But he says her coming out with a defined policy is something new and goes beyond streamlining the system.READ MORE: Minooka Community High School District 111 And Stanley Fabian Come To Agreement On Lawsuit
“What she is saying is we don’t need a world full of convicted felons,” Miller says.
Compared with neighboring states, Illinois’ $300 felony threshold is low. In Wisconsin, it’s $500, and in Indiana, $750.
In a statement, Foxx says she’s making the move “to ensure consistency in charging and to prioritize resources.”
Several law enforcement sources tell CBS 2 they worry it sends the message that stealing’s OK. Miller sees it differently.
“It’s not a license to steal because you are removing the felony tag, but you’re not necessarily removing the misdemeanor tag,” he says.
A misdemeanor conviction carries up to a year in jail.
MORE NEWS: Tornado Victims Displaced Having Trouble Finding New Housing In Post Pandemic Era