America’s shoplifting problem, explained by retail workers and thieves

“While many corporations are frustrated by retail theft, they’re not doing enough to try to solve it.”

“Some amount of shoplifting is always going to happen. “Shrink” — retail-speak for missing inventory that may have been stolen by outside parties or its own workers, damaged, or just plain lost — is inevitable. According to the National Retail Federation, the average shrink rate increased from 1.4 percent in 2021 to 1.6 percent in 2022. Taken as a percentage of sales, that translates to an increase from $93.9 billion to $112.1 billion in losses. That’s a big number — it’s also one that companies could take more steps to bring down, workers say.”

“It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much it would cost companies to really go after the shoplifting problem. Many retailers say that they are spending more to combat retail theft than they have in the past. In its 2022 annual report, Home Depot made note that combating shrink and theft and keeping stores safe requires “operational changes” that could increase costs and make the store experience worse for customers and associates alike. (Nobody likes the whole unlock-the-box-to-buy song and dance.)”

“There’s no strong consensus about what would really work, investment-wise. And loss prevention doesn’t bring in revenue, it’s just an expense. “Corporate offices want to see profit. Marketing brings profits, the buyers bring in profits. Loss prevention, in and of itself, does not bring any profits. We just try to deter loss,” says one loss prevention agent who works at a corporate office for a national retailer. “Loss prevention, typically, is the most underfunded department of any company.””

“Companies can and do try to crack down on theft by locking items up, but unless they really have enough workers to unlock everything, it’s a pickle, business-wise, not to mention an annoyance for customers. “Lock up your whole store and you’ll never lose anything. You’ll also never sell anything,” says Joshua Jacobson, a loss prevention professional in California. “Sales are more important to a company than shopping theft.”
Organized retail crime operations made up of boosters — people who steal the goods — and fences — those who purchase or receive and resell the merchandise — do actually exist, and they are difficult to combat. Stores and police departments can and do build up cases against them and make arrests, but it can be a bit of a game of whack-a-mole.

Most workers say that even when they catch boosters in the act, they blow right past them, and they’re often not allowed to say anything at all for safety reasons. That includes security staff, many of whom aren’t permitted to make physical contact with thieves (some say they want to be allowed to be “hands on,” though you can see where this could start to become a problem on multiple fronts, from liability to safety). Stolen products wind up sold in the open on the street or online on platforms like Amazon and Facebook. In June, the INFORM Consumers Act became law at the federal level, which requires online marketplaces to verify and disclose information on “high-volume third-party sellers” in an attempt to crack down on organized retail crime. It’s not yet clear how much of an impact it’s making.”

“One former booster told me he got into retail theft on a “massive scale” to support a drug habit. (He’s now been sober for over three months and has a regular job.) He described going to Home Depot and Lowe’s dressed relatively nicely — with a collared shirt, maybe a Bluetooth piece in his ear — and asking workers to get him generators or tools down from shelves. He’d put them on a cart, walk out the door, sometimes with a manufactured receipt in his hand, and get into an Uber or Lyft he’d ordered. “The times I was stopped, I never would acknowledge the fact that I’d just been caught,” he says. “If it’s already on the cart, I’m committed.” He’d then sell the items to a local pawnbroker or even to a foreman on a construction site. They had to have figured out what he was up to, handing over a brand-new generator for a fraction of the cost, but they didn’t ask. “They’ve got to be pretty stupid not to know.””

““The professionals, unfortunately, are rarely deterred, and the biggest deterrent to them is having off-duty law enforcement, which is very expensive,” says Prusan, the security and loss prevention consultant. “You can’t catch everybody, no matter who you are.””

Banning Criminal Background Checks Will Lead To More Housing Discrimination, Not Less

“top-down reforms like the one proposed by Pressley and Tlaib would shift more of the risk of housing ex-cons onto landlords. The result is both unjust and counterproductive.
Remember the Obama-era initiative to “ban the box”? Reformers sought to boost the job prospects of persons with criminal records by prohibiting employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories. It was another well-meaning idea, but one that overlooked unintended consequences. Preventing employers from discriminating based on criminal history didn’t remove the desire of some employers to avoid hiring criminals; it just forced them to use poor information. More employers began discriminating against black and Hispanic applicants. Evidence suggests a similar outcome if criminal background checks of tenants are restricted. A study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that when the use of background checks and other information was restricted in that city, racial discrimination in housing increased relative to nearby St. Paul, where no such restrictions were in place.”

The indictment of Hunter Biden isn’t really about gun charges

“The indictment is brief because the underlying situation is quite simple. When Hunter bought the gun, he filled out a form saying he was not a drug user, when in fact he had a serious addiction at that time. Prosecutors assert that this violated three different laws — two false statements laws, and one law banning firearm possession by a drug user.
But the legal and political saga surrounding the indictment is much more complicated. Initially, prosecutors weren’t going to charge Hunter in the gun case at all. They did so only after the lead prosecutor, David Weiss, shifted to a more aggressive posture after a plea deal he’d struck with Hunter’s team fell apart. The question is why, exactly, that plea deal fell apart.

The Hunter Biden investigation has had about as messy a year as could be imagined. In May, two IRS officials involved in the probe went to Congress as whistleblowers to argue that Weiss’s team wasn’t being aggressive enough. In July, Weiss’s team presented their plea deal with Hunter before a judge — who refused to accept it, telling both sides to clarify some of its provisions after a dramatic public hearing.

Then, in August, talks between Weiss’s team and Hunter’s attorneys to finalize that deal collapsed. Hunter’s team has claimed that Weiss tried to belatedly change the deal’s terms on them — offering Hunter much more limited immunity from prosecution — after criticism from Republicans that he wasn’t being tough enough on the president’s son.

Whatever the reason for Weiss’s shift, there’s likely more to come from him. Last month, Weiss, who is the US Attorney for Delaware, requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland grant him special counsel status as well, and Garland agreed. Weiss has suggested in court filings that he intends to charge Hunter with tax crimes as well.”

“The decision to charge here is not because this gun incident suddenly became more serious. It’s because prosecutors have now decided to go after Hunter more aggressively, after the political pressure and the plea deal’s collapse.

There’s nothing unusual about prosecutors charging more crimes after a plea deal falls apart. The mystery here remains why, exactly, the plea deal fell apart. If the main reason is simply that, due to political pressure from Republicans and embarrassment over the IRS officials’ claims, Weiss’s team got cold feet on a deal they’d agreed to — that wouldn’t make them look so great.

If the main reason is instead that, due to confusion or incompetence on his team, he belatedly concluded the initial deal with Hunter had been far too generous — well, that wouldn’t make him look so great either.”

‘Jack Smith Has Made Sure That the System of Laws Still Holds’

“this indictment is on more serious charges — an attack on American democracy. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election amounted to a conspiracy to defraud the United States and led directly to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to

Trump’s Georgia Indictment Raises Familiar Questions of Knowledge and Intent

“the proof beyond a reasonable doubt required for a criminal conviction. Eastman (who is one of Trump’s co-defendants) said Trump had been “made aware” that the claims about ballots cast by dead people, felons, and unregistered voters were “inaccurate.” But even if someone told him the numbers were wrong, and even if Trump was paying attention, it would have been perfectly in character for him to continue believing them.
The federal indictment is filled with examples of information that Trump ignored or rejected because it conflicted with his stolen-election narrative. That stubborn resistance can be interpreted either as evidence of his dishonesty or as evidence of his longstanding tendency to embrace self-flattering delusions and never let them go.”

“At a certain point, as George Mason law professor Ilya Somin suggests, willful blindness to reality is hard to distinguish from deliberate deceit, and this example vividly illustrates that point. But in assessing Trump’s state of mind when he made unsubstantiated claims like these, a jury will have to decide whether there is reasonable doubt as to whether he knew they were false.”

Is it illegal to try to steal a presidential election?

“Is it illegal to try to steal a presidential election?
Special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Donald Trump..holds that the answer is yes. Trump’s attempt to flip the results after the 2020 election, well before the events of January 6, Smith argues, amounted to a criminal conspiracy that violated three federal laws.

But throughout the history of this investigation, many other officials seemed to think the answer was no.

For about a year after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the Justice Department’s attention was overwhelmingly focused on that attack itself, not on Trump’s two-month attempt to change the election results beforehand.

Many of Trump’s pre-January 6 actions that Smith cites in his indictment — such as his lobbying of swing state legislators, his organizing of “alternate” elector slates in key states, and his pressuring of Vice President Mike Pence — unfolded at least partly in plain sight or were reported by journalists at the time.

Throughout most and perhaps all of 2021, none of that seems to have been the focus of an investigation by the Justice Department, and in fact, proposals to investigate them were reportedly rejected by DOJ or FBI officials. There wasn’t a consensus then that these actions were actually criminal — many believed that though Trump’s known conduct may have been unethical and dangerous to democracy, it didn’t necessarily violate specific laws.

Now, though, Smith argues the president and his allies were engaged in a criminal conspiracy. The January 6 attack itself plays a relatively more limited role in Smith’s indictment — the main crime, he’s effectively arguing, was Trump’s whole lengthy effort to overturn Biden’s win.

The question of how and why the DOJ shifted so thoroughly on this topic is complicated, and still may not be fully understood.

But one way to understand the new indictment is that it’s an effort to draw a bright line around Trump’s actions, to make clear that nothing like this should happen again — from him, or anyone else.”

Trump’s defense in the 2020 election case, explained by legal experts

“Altogether, those statements suggest that Trump’s team appears to be currently pursuing three lines of legal defense: that his speech is protected under the First Amendment, that he didn’t order Pence to participate in an illegal scheme to stop the certification of the election results, and that he couldn’t have criminal intent if he didn’t truly understand he had lost.”

“Smith acknowledges in the indictment that Trump had every right under the First Amendment to protest the results of the election, as the former president and his lawyers have claimed. “They don’t want me to speak about a rigged election. They don’t want me to speak about it. I have freedom of speech, the First Amendment,” Trump said Tuesday.
But Smith argues that what Trump wasn’t allowed to do was urge others to form an illegal plan to undermine the results.

The indictment describes that plan as involving a prolonged pressure and influence campaign that targeted state politicians in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Arizona. When no politician would help him overturn the election, the indictment says Trump went on to use “Dishonesty, Fraud, and Deceit” to assemble a slate of unlawful Electoral College electors in seven states, and that he and his allies lied to many electors to get them to go along with the plan. Then, Trump tried to use the powers of the executive branch — those given to the Justice Department and the vice president — to stay in power. Finally, the indictment places at Trump’s feet the violence of January 6 and a plan to stop the certification of the vote.

All of those actions go far beyond simply protesting the results.”

“The question is whether Smith has the evidence”

“Legal experts said that prosecutors may not need to necessarily prove that Trump knew he lost the election, only that he knew he was using possibly unlawful means to reach the end he believed was right: another four years in the White House.

“Even if he believed he had won the election and it had been stolen from him, if he then went out and formulated a plan to prevent the legitimately elected electors of various states from voting and having the results certified, that would probably satisfy the intent standard,” O’Brien said.

Bader said that Smith is likely going to argue that Trump took illegal actions that “transcend what his personal motivation is for engaging in this conduct.” But he’s also likely going to argue that Trump is lying when he says he always believed that the election was stolen from him.”

Will anyone trust these hyper-politicized courts to try Donald Trump?

“In 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death gave Democrats their first chance in a generation to control the Supreme Court — and with it the federal judiciary — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced that no nominee would receive a confirmation hearing until after that year’s presidential election. He claimed that this newly invented rule against election-year confirmations was necessary to ensure that “the American people have a voice in this momentous decision.”
Yet, after McConnell successfully held this seat open until Trump could fill it, Republicans reversed course when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died fewer than two months before the 2020 election that cast Trump out of office. Republicans didn’t just give Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett a confirmation hearing, they raced to confirm her just eight days before the election.”

“Any trial of a former head of state would be a difficult endeavor. Anyone elected to the nation’s highest office is likely to have many loyal supporters throughout the country, who will be skeptical of claims that their political leader is actually a criminal. And, in the United States, any former president will have appointed a significant percentage of the federal judiciary.

And again, Trump’s criminal trials will not be heard under the best of circumstances. Trump may try to rally his supporters to commit acts of violence similar to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Many of Trump’s judges aren’t just unusually conservative, they show little regard for the rule of law. And, in part because the United States has never tried a former president before, Trump’s criminal trials are likely to produce a raft of novel legal questions that can be readily appealed to higher courts — including the hyper-politicized Supreme Court.

On top of all of this, at least one of the former president’s trials will be overseen by Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who has previously behaved like she is a member of Trump’s legal defense team.

It is far from clear, in other words, that the judiciary enjoys enough public trust that it can endure the political strain Trump’s trials will put on its spine — even assuming that every judge who hears one of Trump’s criminal cases acts in good faith.”

“One reason to worry about what appellate judges, including the justices of the Supreme Court, might think about Trump is that criminal trials involving famous criminal defendants often present unusual legal questions that don’t typically arise in other cases. And Trump isn’t just famous, he’s the first former president ever to be indicted. And he’s a current candidate for the presidency.

These unique facts are likely to produce unprecedented legal questions that will need to be resolved by appellate courts. And that gives the justices an unusual amount of ability to sabotage these prosecutions if they chose to do so.”