Since the passage of recent criminal justice reforms, the number of larcenies has been steadily climbing with no solutions in sight.
Claremore Police Department's Deputy Chief Steve Cox said larceny, petit larceny, and larceny from retailers are all on the rise.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report indicated that reported larceny incidents increased 1.6% and that the amount stolen increased to $82,679,222, which is a 5.5% increase. OSBI says this is the second highest dollar total ever recorded over the last 11 years.
They report that overall, Oklahoma retailers saw a 64% increase in the number of thefts and a 53% increase in theft amount.
Officials say the increase is a reaction to State Question 780, which was passed by voters in 2016, which downgraded what was previously a felony offense to a misdemeanor offense.
Cox said he's not surprised by these numbers, and added that in reality the numbers are even higher when factoring in those thefts that are unreported by retailers.
"We've seen big increases," he said. "And a lot of it is from one retailer."
Officer Brian Burnett added, "We will get a call of a larceny in progress and when we get there they hand us a file of five others they've been working on reviewing footage of…That could be two days worth of work for an officer, easy."
Cox said since January, CPD has been to Walmart for a police matter over 500 times.
"We're catching some of these people over and over," Cox said. "All we did is increase the limit, so now they're stealing $900 and know it's a misdemeanor. And it will always be a misdemeanor. It used to be a predicate crime, if you continued the behavior, the punishment would increase. And this reform took that away."
He said there are people making a living stealing from retailers.
"And when you look at these major retailers, they are going to make their profit. They pass it on to the consumer, which means we're all spending more money," Cox said.
Is there a solution?
Cox said from a public safety standpoint, there has to be consequences.
"When we started talking about State Question 780, it was all talk of prison crowding. These were not the people filling prisons. Unfortunately, most criminal behavior is not just one thing, it's not isolated," he said. "There has to be common sense. We can't just change the name of something and think the problem will go away. All we have done is take away the ability for some people to get help.
Sometimes a felony is what wakes people up, they hit rock bottom and make changes…but you're never going to get there if it's a misdemeanor the rest of your life."
He added that this isn't just a Rogers County problem, it's an Oklahoma problem.
"We're the ones paying, all of us, not the ones committing the offense, because it's just a misdemeanor. All we've done is increase the amount being taken from our retailers."