Are Plastic Bag Bans Responsible for Increase in Shoplifting?


Retail theft has been on the rise since the recession began with an additional increase in the number of middle-class shoplifters. The Daily Caller blames laws that ban plastic bags for the spike in shoplifting across the country.

Shoplifters are apparently stashing stolen items in reusable shopping bags and walking them right out of stores.

In February, Seattle’s KOMO News reported that since Washington enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags, retailers had lost thousands of dollars in merchandise in just eight months.

"Across the United States we have seen these bag bans, and the shoplifting has always had a substantial leap, and so it was not a surprise to us,” said Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, to KOMO.

Reusable bag laws are meant to cut down on pollution, and Washington state instituted the ban in July 2012.

In 2010, Washington, D.C., enforced a similar law. The city has a reusable bag tax promoted under the slogan, “Skip the bag, save the river.”

Craig Muckle, spokesman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission of Washington, D.C., told the Washington City Paper that shoplifting had increased a year after the fee was enacted.

“Since the fee was established last year, we have noticed customers using traditional bags along with less traditional pieces, such as backpacks, to not only transport items from the store, but to carry items throughout the store,” Muckle said.

Washington, D.C., was criticized in Forbes for creating a fee rather than enforcing tougher litter regulation. A number of people against the bag ban say that the bags are unsanitary because they cannot be sure people wash the bags they bring to the grocery, and they do not want raw meats touching other items.

In New York City, having reusable bags is commonplace, although there is no bag ban. Not only is it easier to carry a reusable bag on your shoulder blocks to your home or into the subway, baggers do not question how sanitary the bags are while they load them with groceries. Come to think of it, how can anyone be sure those baggers washed their hands?

Are reusable bags to blame for the uptick in shoplifting or is shoplifting continuing to rise in the wake of the recession and an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent?

Sources: KOMO News, Daily Caller,


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