Pew Report: raising felony theft threshold has no impact on crime rates | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pew Report: raising felony theft threshold has no impact on crime rates

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 5:24 PM

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A new study from Pew Charitable Trusts looks at states that have raised their felony theft thresholds (in other words, increased the value of stolen money or goods that makes a theft a felony as opposed to misdemeanor, leading to longer jail sentences for offenders). "Felony offenses typically carry a penalty of at least a year in state prison, while misdemeanors generally result in probation or less than a year in a locally run jail," the report notes. Since 2001, 30 states have raised the thresholds, massively reducing costs for state budgets.

Critics complained that this would lead to more property crime because offenders wouldn't be deterred if the penalty for smaller thefts was a misdemeanor rather than a felony. 

But after examining crime trends in 23 states that raised their felony theft thresholds between 2001 and 2011, Pew found that this concern did not come to fruition. Raising the felony theft threshold did not lead to more crime:  

Raising the felony theft threshold has no impact on overall property crime or larceny rates.

States that increased their thresholds reported roughly the same average decrease in crime as the 27 states that did not change their theft laws.

The amount of a state’s felony theft threshold—whether it is $500, $1,000, $2,000, or more—is not correlated with its property crime and larceny rates.

That includes Arkansas, where Act 570, passed in 2011, raised the felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,000:

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Lindsey's cover story on prisons last summer notes that the legislature moved for more aggressive sentencing for residential burglary — making two convictions an automatic felony — in the omnibus crime bill passed last year: 

But for every two steps forward, the legislature took at least one step back. It made residential burglary a violent crime as far as habitual offender sentencing goes, which means two convictions for residential burglary* without a weapon would net someone with an otherwise clean record at least five years without parole and a third conviction could earn someone at least 30 years without parole. Life for parolees is already hard — ex-cons routinely have difficulty securing housing and finding work (Gov. Hutchinson said their unemployment rate in Arkansas is 47 percent), on top of the hurdles of adjusting to a world that may have changed substantially since they left for prison. Now, because of the new crime law, they and probationers are subject to search by any law enforcement officer without a warrant. The new act did not reduce sentences for any crimes.

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