ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With the busiest shopping day of the year just a few weeks away, Albany leaders are pushing Governor Kathy Hochul to sign a new bill that would create an organized retail crime task force. The bill was passed as the state sees a drastic increase in organized retail crime.

The task force would provide more information on retail crime and measures to counter losses across the state with members appointed by Governor Hochul, the state legislature and Attorney General.

“These individuals are bold, they’re brazen, and yes it’s criminal,” Assemblyman John McDonald said. “This is why establishing a task force, it’s intention, is to make sure all of the stakeholders the owners, law enforcement, employees, members of the community are at the table talking to each other.”

The City of Albany is seeing an increase in retail crime. Eric Hawkins, Albany Police Chief, said its having a devastating effect on policing efforts in the city and has caused the department to divert officers from community patrols to the Central Avenue corridor.

“We’ve had some great success with it,” Hawkins said. “It’s worked out, but that is not sustainable. That’s why this legislation that’s being proposed by our Assemblymembers is so important. It’s vital for us, long term, in addressing the needs of the city.”

Leaders are concerned the city could lose stores in the main business districts on Central Avenue, Washington Avenue and Madison Avenue.

“Everybody that lives and works in these neighborhoods works at these stores,” Anthony Capece, Executive Director of the Central District Management Association, said. “If we lose a grocery store, if we lose a big box retailer that provides services to this neighborhood, that’s hundreds of jobs. We don’t need people moving away because there’s no jobs here.” 

Leaders hope the task force will lead to understanding the scope of organized retail theft and solutions to prevent repeat offenders while protecting local businesses.